Visiting the blog of Amazon.com’s Chief Technology Officer, Werner Vogels, to read his account of a presentation at Amazon by Naked Conversations authors Shel Israel and Robert Scoble (some very interesting commentaries about that – link at Memeorandum), I spotted the clearest employee blog disclaimer I’ve yet seen.
This got me thinking about the still-continuing debate from last weekend about blogger credibility versus authority where making it clear in what capacity the blogger writes on his or her blog – personal opinion or reflecting a company view – is something I don’t think anyone in that debate would disagree with.
So here’s Vogel’s disclaimer:
This is a personal weblog. That means that the opinions voiced here are purely personal and they do not in any way represent the opinions, experiences or directions of my employer Amazon.com. If you take any of the statements on this weblog and use it as an official statement by Amazon.com you are knowingly misleading your audience. For official statements by Amazon.com visit the Amazon.com Virtual Media Room.
If I do write something worth referencing, and you feel strongly about the need to reference my affiliation, you should also mention in your reference that this is my personal weblog: “Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon.com, mentions on his personal weblog that the Seahawks have a good shot at the Superbowl this year”.
If you can not play by these simple rules, please do not reference this weblog at all.
While precise wording may differ from company to company – and many employee blogs I see do have something like the first two sentences that are in Vogel’s statement – I’d say any employee of any company who blogs in public ought to have such a clear and complete disclaimer as this one. Avoidance of doubt.
Conversely, if that blogger is writing in some official or authoritative capacity, then he or she would reflect that in the appropriate wording.
Assuming a statement such as the above is legally watertight (so a company’s legal counsel would need to be consulted), then it seems very simple to me.
Very clear language in that disclaimer to these eyes as well.
An observation and suggestion, though … the disclaimer seems only to appear at the very bottom of the main blog page. If you click through the monthly archives or are on a permalink page, you won’t see the disclaimer at all. It would be quite easy to land on Werner’s blog without coming through the main page when following links from other bloggers, in which case case you’re going to miss the disclaimer completely.
Maybe Werner could turn that disclaimer into an archived post, and then configure his blog to link to it from the sidebar, or from a navigation or footer menu. Ahh, the benefits of the K2 theme on WordPress.
The wording is good, but I couldn’t find it when I first visited the blog. Took a good 20 seconds and three page views until I saw it at the bottom of his home page. It should be more prominent, and on every page.
Interestingly, one of the people commenting on Werner’s Naked Conversations post also has a good disclaimer on his blog. And it’s prominent. He works for Business Objects, but his authority to speak on the company’s behalf is clearly spelled out at the top of his blog.
‘Spotting it’ was a good choice of phrase, Dominic, as it was just by chance I saw it. It certainly isn’t prominent; it seems to appear only at the foot of the blog’s home page as you mention, Bryan. I don’t think it has to be on every page, just somewhere easily-findable, eg, in a sidebar or in the ‘about the author’ page. He doesn’t have one of those, by the way. And if I Google him, I can’t find any bio, just Amazon results on books he’s written.
That example you mention, Dominic, is also a very good one. Clear and easy to see the author’s position in relation to who he is as a blogger and as an employee of a company.