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Balancing the scales of Justice – @mentalhealthcop

Balancing the scales of Justice – @mentalhealthcop

🕔20.Feb 2014

There has been much uproar about West Midlands Police’s decision to suspend @mentalhealthcop as a result of their twitter posts complaining about budget cuts as it was against their social media policy. The social media public seemed to be enraged that the organisation could do this, but let’s have a practical look at the responsibilities of the organisation and the impact of official communication channels.

Yes, Twitter is a medium that allows freedom of speech and people are able to say what they like (within their employer’s policies), but these tweets came from an account bearing the official crest of West Midlands Police. Every post that is issued bearing the name of the organisation or that contains the badge of the force is deemed by the public to be official and is therefore the corporate line of the organisation.

@mentalhealthcop with West Midland's Police logo

This isn’t big brother acting out of turn, this is about consistency of message, which is so important in building trust between the organisation and the public. If someone tweets on an official account, that account is judged to contain messages that represent the official policy and voice of the organisation as much as if it had issued a press release.

OK this might be only a 140 character press release, but it can have the same impact and do the same damage. Think HMV and the damage that was done when live tweeting during a staff consultation about the business being put into administration came from the official HMV account and tweeted out to customers.  

Unfortunately in this instance the West Midlands Police communications team are taking flack for implementing its policy and for protecting its reputation. This highlights just how much of a tightrope organisations, especially those in the public sector, have to negotiate when planning and implementing their social media policies – and indeed how they respond to inevitable breaches.

Organisations need to ensure that their employees understand the boundaries and the corporate stance specifically relating to key issues. Regular briefings, internal updates and sharing best practice can all aid with the overall education within the organisation. Where issues could cause financial penalties, highly relevant for regulated markets, or could harm public trust then filters can be applied so that any content can be reviewed before being made live.

James LeavesleyJames Leavesley is CEO of Crowd Control HQ. Crowd Control HQ is a Birmingham based social media risk management and monitoring platform. James Leavesley tweets from @leavesj, where he tweets in his personal capacity – naturally. 

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