(screen shot from Gillian's website www.gillianneild.co.uk)
Last week we were lucky enough to receive a Guest Lecture from Gillian Neild. According to her personal website, www.gillianneild.co.uk, Gillian is “a communications, PR, marketing and events professional with around 18 years experience in the public, central government and private sectors including heritage, retail and full service agencies. She is currently Head of Communications, PR and Marketing in an NHS trust.”
Gillian came in to talk to us about her recently completed MSc at Leeds Beckett, entitled “Public Sector Beware: how it is has become too easy to broadcast our private thoughts in the public sphere using social media”
Gillian spoke to us about the findings of her research, focusing on guidelines that are, or should be, in place for public sector professionals using social media in a professional and personal capacity and also touching on the volumes of people in the public sector who have been sacked or disciplined for misusing social media.
Using FOI requests, and a ridiculous amount of time I imagine, Gillian studied social media policies from across the UK to research what makes for a good policy and what recommendations she has for the public sector. Shockingly, she discovered that 455 police members, 597 council members and 1035 NHS workers have been sacked or disciplines for misusing social media.
The lecture stirred up a few thoughts for me, having worked in the public sector in a secondary school; I was perhaps not that shocked to hear that so many people had faced consequences for their questionable update choices.
We’ve all heard the horror stories, courtesy mostly of the Daily Mail, of the NHS workers writing despicable things about their patients or the Police Officer bad mouthing their beat but how serious is this? In my opinion, everyone is entitled to a “bad day” but surely, for the people that hold a position of trust, be it a nurse, teacher or police officer – what they think is very important. If a teacher is talking about how much she hates children on a Facebook post, or a Police Officer is retweeing a racist joke – surely this is a conflict of interests. Yes, everyone is entitled to an opinion, but if these opinions are specific to your job role, or cause work place prejudice – then what happens then? Surely this goes above “inappropriate social media use.” A disclaimer on your profile claiming these are “not the thoughts of your organisation” doesn’t really justify your racist, abusive, hateful thoughts!
Gillian also spoke of the need for separate social media accounts for personal and professional use – do you think this is necessary?
It’s a given that prospective employers are checking out candidates on social media – but as of now I haven’t felt the need to properly separate my accounts. My Facebook is naturally private and it is mostly friends and family with whom I share personal thoughts/events with, whereas my twitter, I try to keep a little more professional and University/PR focused. I like to think that my thoughts and musings are mostly inoffensive and appropriate and so even the more personal things I share on twitter shouldn’t scare off my next potential boss!
Gillian touched on a key point of the need to continue to educate people on how to use social media. Particularly, no offense intended, the older generation who were not brought up online and on social media. Making sure people know how to fully privatise their Facebook, what “sharing” really means and who can see the content they post online is definitely important.
I don’t think people/companies should be scared of social media, yes it comes with risk, but the conversation is being had whether you are there or not – the best thing you can do is get in there and try to steer it, control it and contribute. But Gillian’s research highlights the work that needs to be done to avoid self-inflicted social media crisis’ and make sure employees are all on the same page!
You can find out more about Gillian’s work on her website or via the hashtag: