Sidepodcast // All for F1 and F1 for all

Sporting social guidelines // ESPN have mapped out the way broadcasters should behave online

Published by Christine

Bringing sport to the fans these days involves more than just rewriting a press release. There are plenty of ways to engage with your readers/viewers as more and more social networks appear online. However, with great reach comes great responsibility, and I've been intrigued by some of the rules reporters and broadcasters are given to abide by.

ESPN recently published a updated list Social Networking guidelines on their blog Front Row - a site that gives readers an insight into what happens behind the scenes at the company.

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Maintaining credibility

The guidelines apply to all ESPN staff - talent and reporters - not just those involved in motorsport. Most of the items are simple common sense, such as keeping internal business confidential, and thinking before you retweet, but there are a couple of paragraphs that jumped out at me.

Firstly, "do not break news on Twitter." This makes perfect sense, of course, that whilst the company want to engage with fans, they also want the priority to be the website. So, in this case, there should be no "something has happened, more to come!" tweets. We definitely see these in the F1 world. I wonder if it makes that much of a difference. Prefacing your story before it is published will gain attention faster, and perhaps people will stick around longer hoping to read it before they have to go and do whatever is next on their task list. But, equally, it could be seen as a spoiler, with the headline giving away the story and negating any need to visit the long form article.

The other item that caught my attention was "Prior to engaging in any form of social networking dealing with sports, you must receive permission from your supervisor." So even if you are a tennis reporter and you just want to randomly tweet about golf, you have to check first. Equally, the section disallows a sports reporter from having their own blog, presumably wanting to keep all their writing talent within the ESPN brand.

Changing faces

For me, it is fascinating to see how big companies deal with the ever changing face of the internet. Ferrari already lost themselves Christine's Rankings points when it emerged that they had specifically banned their drivers from using Twitter.

Conversely, Rubens Barrichello has a hefty presence on Twitter, recently breaking the one million followers barrier. He regularly updates on what sponsor events he is doing, thanks people for their support, and generally comes across as an all round good guy.

Tweeting can be a powerful resource, for breaking news, for quashing rumours, for spreading the word, but equally, it can easily get people into trouble. Having guidelines is a sensible idea, although it's important they don't go too far and stop the free speech that such microblogging encourages.