Use the rules of traditional journalism to ensure you’re on your best behaviour in social media


Social media encourages a sense of glorious informality. But do not let its appearance blind you to the necessity of rules.

Take the issue of confidentiality.

  • Can you Tweet a comment made in a LinkedIn group?
  • Can you write in your blog something that you were told through a Twitter Direct Message?

To find answers, look no further than traditional journalism.  Here the concept of “Chatham House Rules” and “off-the-record” ensure you do not fall out with your network. 

Let me tell you about two recent scenarios.  

Chatham House Rules

One of our  journalists is intending to ask the senior executives of his business sector to join a LinkedIn group. The more open the discussion the more valuable the group. But members will be relaxed only if they know that their identity will be protected. The journalist needs to make clear the rules of the group.

So the journalist asked me last week

“If I set up and lead a LinkedIn group, should I make it clear we are operating under Chatham House Rules?”

Wikipedia defines Chatham House Rules as

When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.

The rules might have been established almost a century ago. But the principle remains just as valid in today’s social media.

So, ask yourself, what are the rules for your group?


My Twitter network stepped in to help me when I thought my blog post had been reproduced without adequate credit or linksPeter Moore contacted me with a solution but he did so through Twitter’s Direct Message.

I wrote about the help in a blog post.

I was just about to publish when it suddenly occurred to me. Peter had not communicated with me through the public conversation that is Twitter but rather through the privacy of a Direct Message. On any traditional journalism basis, his advice was “off the record”.

Wikipedia, again, defines “Off-the-record” as

The information is provided to inform a decision or provide a confidential explanation, not for publication.

Perhaps Peter did not want his name associated with my post.  Like a journalist, I needed to check I had permission before using his name. I did so through another Direct Message. He said yes. A simple check had protected a relationship in my network. 

Do you have any rules from old media that help protect your relationships in social media?

If you think your followers/community on Twitter would be interested in this post, show them your value by reTweeting it to them!

Photo credit: markhillary

This entry was posted in New Media, Social media and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Use the rules of traditional journalism to ensure you’re on your best behaviour in social media

  1. peter wilson says:

    Excellent article and some very good pieces of advice.


  2. Pingback: Footprints (05.03.09) | Chris Deary

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