What would your mother say? Blogging and ethics

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Let's talk about blogging ethics for just a moment. All sorts of unethical practices go on in the blogosphere, and you must be certain to hold yourself and your organization accountable for your actions as a blogger.

For example, organizations such as Wal-Mart have gotten caught using unethical practices on their blogs and have done great harm to their corporate reputations as a result. In the case of Wal-Mart, their PR agency, Edelman, was also implicated in the ethics scandal as reported on Strumpette and other blogs.

I've included some of the issues you need to pay attention to below, as well as an example of each unethical practice. This is not intended to be a comprehensive list, but rather a starting point for you to think about ethics.

Transparency—You should never pretend to be someone you are not. For example, don't use another name to submit a comment on any blog (your own or somebody else’s), and don’t create a blog that talks about your company without disclosing that someone from your company is behind it.

Privacy—Unless you've been given permission, don't blog about something that was disclosed to you. For example, don't post material from an e-mail someone sent you unless you have permission.

Disclosure—It is important to disclose anything that people might consider a conflict of interest in a blog post. For example, if I write in my blog about a product from a company that is one of my consulting clients, I put a sentence at the end disclosing my relationship with the company.

Truthfulness—Don't lie. For example, never make up a customer story just because it makes good blog content.

Credit—You should give credit to bloggers (and other sources) whose material you have used in your blog. For example, don't read a great post on someone else’s blog, take the idea, change a few words, and make it your own. Besides being good ethical practice, links to other bloggers whose ideas you have used helps to introduce them to your blog and they may link to you.

Again, this is not a complete list. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has created an Ethical Guide for Bloggers. I recommend that you read and follow the guidelines. But you should also follow your gut. If sending a post feels funny to you for some reason or makes you uncomfortable, it may be unethical. What would your mother say about that post? If she would tell you it is wrong, it probably is, so don’t send it.

Please do the right thing.