SOURCE: The General Counsel LLC

January 31, 2007 11:10 ET

Should You Really Write That in a Corporate Blog? Legal Guidelines for Company-Sanctioned Blogs

The General Counsel LLC Recommends That Corporate America Update Its Internet and Electronic Communications Policies to Give Employees Guidelines on Writing Company-Approved Blogs That Enhance Brand Reputation and Minimize Risk

NEWPORT BEACH, CA -- (MARKET WIRE) -- January 31, 2007 -- Are blogs a benefit or a risk to your company's reputation? Corporate marketers agree that blogging is an effective and direct way to build a meaningful dialogue with customers and other stakeholders. However, general counsels and other legal experts warn that corporate blogs can expose companies to risks, such as loss of productivity and trade-secret leakage.

The General Counsel LLC, an outsourced legal solutions firm dedicated to providing emerging growth and midsize companies with in-house legal counsel services, offers company executives ways to use blogging as a means to improve company reputation without inviting a host of legal troubles.

Blogosphere Is Replacing Madison Avenue

Today, more than 57 million blogs comprise the blogosphere, according to Technorati. Earlier this decade, many companies dismissed blogs as corporate communications vehicles. Today, companies are realizing that their customers -- both consumers and business professionals -- are turning away from traditional advertising in favor of gathering information from the blogosphere. The result: Many companies are joining in on conversations through corporate-sanctioned blogs. Socialtext estimates that eight percent of FORTUNE 500 companies publish blogs.

"As an employer, you have to ask whether the benefits of permitting employee blogging outweigh the substantial legal risks and the possible drain on productivity," said Charles Savoni, principal, The General Counsel. "The legal implications include possible outflow of confidential/proprietary information and/or trade secrets; defamation and libel; and copyright and trademark issues. Companies must decide whether blogging is part of their corporate strategy, and then draft policies to give clear direction."

No Blogs Allowed

Despite the trend, significant numbers of employers continue to resist this path, concluding that the drain on productivity and the legal risks are too great for their organizations.

If you are one of these employers, The General Counsel suggests adopting a formal prohibition of blogging during company time using company resources. Savoni recommends: "A review of your employee handbook and your Internet and electronic communications policy would be in order. You can revise or amend the handbook and policy accordingly to prohibit such blogging."

Bloggers Unite

More and more employers are embracing the communications trend and watching tangible business value be created from employee blogging. These employers encourage blogging on company time, using the company's own electronic communications property.

If you are an employer that has determined corporate blogging is useful, The General Counsel recommends establishing a blogging policy. "The policy should set forth guidelines explaining to employees potential liabilities and reminding them of their duty to safeguard confidential information," Savoni said.

In developing your blogging policy, The General Counsel recommends that companies provide its employees:

-- Examples illustrating sound judgment and permissible content

-- Samples showing poor judgment and ineligible content to show contrast

-- A reminder that their duty of loyalty to their employer still applies

-- A disclaimer advising that violation of blogging policy may result in discipline, including possible immediate termination

New Blog Shares The General Counsel's Knowledge

The General Counsel is embracing the blogosphere, too, and launched its first blog in December 2006. According to founder and Managing Principal Stuart Blake, he and his fellow principals will share their views and perspectives about in-house legal solutions as well as the issues and responsibilities of C-level executives and general counsels.

"We'll comment on developments in the news affecting legal and compliance issues for emerging and mid-sized companies and give C-level executives and general counsels practical ways to address the many legal and business issues that growing companies face," Blake said.

Accomplished legal blogger, Denise Howell, who launched her Bag and Baggage blog in 2001, advised The General Counsel on the development and use of its blog.

Get Expert Advice

For information on drafting your company's blogging policy or updating your Internet and electronic communications handbook, contact The General Counsel at or 949-709-5527. As an outsourced model, The General Counsel places a general-counsel level attorney directly with you to provide legal services for everyday business matters as well as highly specialized services for more complex issues.

About The General Counsel LLC

The General Counsel LLC is an outsourced legal solutions firm dedicated to providing emerging-growth and midsize companies with in-house general counsel services. Many companies face complex business and legal matters but lack the resources to employ full-time legal expertise to handle them. The General Counsel offers a solution to this challenge through outsourced legal services designed to deliver dedicated, part-time in-house general counsel services to companies with no legal staff. The General Counsel also offers targeted assistance to supplement the existing legal staffs of large companies. Visit The General Counsel online at

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