Readers of this website are familiar with my thoughts concerning recent in-fighting between the University of Kansas football and men’s basketball teams. In a post last week I mentioned that KU would benefit by developing and implementing a social media policy for its student athletes to follow. A document outlining acceptable online behavior for Jayhawk student athletes – and consequences for unacceptable behavior – would help avoid some of the ugly PR we witnessed last week.
Discussing the issue with my friend Jacinta, we came up with some ideas for an athletic department to consider when creating a social media policy:
- Create a social media mission statement. It doesn’t have to be overly complicated or dense. Keep it simple. For example:
The purpose of the social media policy is to promote the interests of the student athlete, while protecting his/her image and that of the University.
- Define unacceptable online behavior across social media platforms. As important, outline consequences for behaving in an inappropriate manner.
Use of abusive language, ethnic slurs, sexual harrassment, personal insults, and obscenities will not be tolerated. Any student-athlete using this kind of language is subject to disciplinary action by the athletic department or coaching staff.
- Reiterate that text and photos posted on the Internet are available to fans, the athletic department, and even future employers. Help them to consider the consequences of their actions within social media and adopt a more thoughtful approach.
- Create a crisis-response document. Work on steering eyes to university-controlled content. Make the document available on the athletic department’s website, as well as other online outposts.
Lastly, it’s incredibly important that administrators, coaching staff, and assistants fully understand the policy and enforce it when necessary. A document with no teeth is a waste of time.
A student athlete’s behavior on the internet is a reflection of the university brand. Ultimately, he/she is responsible for projecting a positive image of that brand. A strong social media policy can help create a wiser approach to social media for student athletes – and save a lot of headaches for the PR department. We thought these ideas would be a good start.
Online communication is moving fast and a lot of schools are having a hard time keeping up. Merely “periodically checking Facebook updates” is no longer good enough. Outside of sports, many progressive companies have already drafted official social media policies for employees to follow. It’s time for college athletics to get with the program.
Arkansas Does Have Internet Policy For Athletes (Arkansasbusiness.com)
Oklahoma adds Internet code of conduct (ESPN.com)
Implement Social Media Guidelines, Now (BrianSolis.com)
10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy (Mashable)
Intel Social Media Guidelines (official Intel website)
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