Panelist: Use Social Media to Build Engaging Compliance Program

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By Yin Wilczek

June 3 — Companies should view social media as an opportunity to promote their compliance programs, a compliance professional said June 1.

Lisa Stewart Hughes, vice president, corporate compliance at NBC Universal/Telemundo, suggested that interactive media may be one way to engage millennials.

What matters to this new generation of employees is quite different “from what mattered to employees in the past,” Hughes told a compliance conference. “They don't really get” the notion of complying with a static policy that comes top-down from the corporate headquarters.

Among other differences, millennials generally expect interactivity and innovation, and have a “totally different concept” of privacy, Hughes added. “They want to participate in the conversation.”

Hughes spoke at a social media panel at the Practising Law Institute's Corporate Compliance and Ethics Institute.

Business Use 

According to statistics cited during the panel, a 2013/2014 Proskauer Rose LLP survey found that 90 percent of organizations now use social media for business purposes. In addition, 80 percent have implemented social media policies. Of the businesses that have implemented social media policies, half of them updated the policies in the last year, according to the survey.

The survey further found that employers increasingly are taking precautions against certain risks associated with social media, such as the misuse of confidential information.

Moreover, Hughes warned that there are some challenges to using social media to advance compliance. For one, while social media may be employed to feature case studies, companies must be careful not to tread on confidentiality requirements or privacy rights, she said. In addition, social media is most effective when targeted at the right audience and at the right time, she said.

Hughes suggested, among other ideas, that compliance departments consider using:

• internal social networking sites to post articles, policies, case studies and employee comments;

• Web chats to post questions, case studies, tell stories in a format that allows for employee interaction, and to host live chats with business leaders or compliance personnel;

• webinars, videos or podcasts to train or supplement training;

• blogs to showcase real life stories and examples; and

• text messaging to create awareness around policies or campaigns, or to allow employees to air concerns.

 

Updating Policies 

Co-panelist Katharine Parker, a partner in Proskauer Rose's New York office, also had several recommendations for companies that want to update their social media policies and procedures. To avoid running afoul of the National Labor Relations Board, employers should tailor their social media policies as narrowly as they can to address the targeted concerns, she said.

The NLRB has been cracking down on employer agreements it considers restrictive of employees' rights. The board earlier this year issued guidance on what employer rules it considers overbroad and “facially” illegal.

Given the NLRB's recent focus and broad interpretations, there may be some areas that can't be tailored to the board's satisfaction, Parker said. In that situation, companies must decide whether they're comfortable risking attention from the NLRB, she said.

Parker suggested three strategies for employers that are tailoring their social media policies:

• when imposing restrictions, cite relevant regulatory rules, such as Securities and Exchange Commission requirements on broker-dealer communications or Federal Trade Commission rules on endorsements;

• rely on common and long-standing industry customs, such as journalistic integrity and expectations of neutral reporting; and

• if using broad language, include examples of prohibited conduct to lessen the risk that employees will interpret the policy as interfering with protected communications.

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Yin Wilczek in Washington at ywilczek@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ryan Tuck at rtuck@bna.com

The Proskauer Rose survey is available at http://www.proskauer.com/files/uploads/social-media-in-the-workplace-2014.pdf.