ESPN Limiting Employees To Social Networking Guidelines

Posted Aug 7, 2009

Sports news company ESPN seems to be spending a great deal of time reporting how athletes are getting in trouble over the use of Twitter.  Now the sports news company has decided to limit how their own employees use social media.   Ric Bucher, an ESPN writer that covers the National Basketball Association sent out the following tweet after learning about the guidelines: ?The hammer just came down, tweeps: ESPN memo prohibiting tweeting info unless it serves ESPN.?

ESPN spokesman Chris LaPlace said that the company has been in the social networking space for quite some time and wants to be careful about what kind of message is sent out. If ESPN employees want to discuss sports on social networks like Facebook or Twitter, they will need permission from their supervisor. Talk about sucking the fun out of discussing sports.

Below are the social media guidelines for ESPN employees:

These guidelines apply to all ESPN employees who participate in any form of personal social networking. If you are an ESPN talent, or reporter engaged with social media, please also refer to those additional guidelines.

ESPN understands that employees may maintain or contribute to personal blogs, message boards, conversation pages and other forms of social media (such as Facebook and Twitter) outside of their job function and may periodically post information about their job or ESPN’s activities on these outlets. If an employee posts ESPN or job-related information, they are required to exercise good judgment, abide by ESPN policy, and take the following into consideration.

ESPN employees are obligated to be aware of and comply with any applicable provisions set forth in ESPN’s Employee Handbook and The Walt Disney Company’s Standards of Business Conduct. Employees may not disclose confidential or proprietary company information or similar information of third parties who have shared such information with ESPN. ESPN’s intellectual property, logos, trademarks, and copyrights may not be used in any manner.

If an employee is engaging on external social media platforms personally, they should not use the company’s name in their identity (e.g. username, “handle” or screen name), nor should they speak as a representative of the company. If a media inquiry is generated, please direct it to the Communications Department.

If you are an ESPN talent, reporter, writer, producer, editor or other editorial decision maker or a public-facing ESPN employee, you are reminded that when you participate in public blogs or discussion activities, you are representing ESPN just as you would in any other public forum or medium, and you should exercise discretion, thoughtfulness and respect for your colleagues, business associates and our fans. All posted content is subject to review in accordance with, ESPN’s employee policies and editorial guidelines.

ESPN’s Values expressly state that care and respect for employees and each other will always be at the heart of our operations and that we are passionately committed to teamwork. Employees are responsible for acting in a manner that is consistent with our company Values. To that end, employees are expected to be courteous, respectful, and thoughtful about how other employees may be affected by postings. Incomplete, inaccurate, inappropriate, threatening, harassing or poorly worded postings may be harmful to other employees, damage employee relationships, undermine ESPN’s effort to encourage teamwork, violate ESPN policy or harm the Company, which may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. Employees bear full responsibility for the material they post on personal blogs or other social media.

For purposes of this policy, a “personal blog” or “social media” includes personal websites and all forms of on-line community activities such as on-line social networks, message boards, conversation pages, and chat rooms. If you have any questions regarding this policy and its application, please contact either your manager or the Human Resources Department

“My guess is I can still tweet about my vacation/car shopping, etc. Which I will do, if I can. But the informal NBA talk is prob in jeopardy,” added Bucher in his follow-up tweet.

ESPN isn’t the only agency that banned people from using Twitter freely. Many of the coaches in the NFL along with the U.S. Marines Corp have been proactive in banning Twitter.

What’s next ESPN? Are you going to tell your journalists not to talk about sports in bars and happy hours without supervisor permission? I can understand why the U.S. Department of Defense wants to block Twitter (potential viruses entering government networks), but a sports agency… C’mon really?