Friday, June 3, 2011

Social Media and Corporate Conflict

As writers we create that much needed platform by blogging. We write about our stories, the process of writing and our lives. But what happens when our personal life of writing crosses over the boundaries of our company. 

We want exposure, but at what price?

This week I posted a commentary about an airline accident on Flight To Success. This accident could have been a scene in my aviation thriller, Flight For Control. We had quite the forum discussing “what” happened and “why” this plane fell out of the sky. Then I received "the" call.

My Chief Pilot made me remove this discussion because he said that it went high up in the company and I was “violating" their social media policy. Apparently a newspaper may publish it, and in our policy we’re not allowed to talk to the media. But I never gave them permission! I didn’t speak to any reporters! Do newspapers have the right to take and print our written words off our blogs?

My airline has been reading my blog and enabling me to continue to write. They like the support and positive community image I’m creating for them. But then I found a skeleton under the ocean, and was sent a gag order. I pulled that post after it circled the globe from blog to blog, and now I’m contemplating this social media world and the rights of our employers. Actually our rights. Beyond our rights, our responsibilities to the safety of an industry if we should find a snag.

We write for many reasons. To entertain, inform, educate, and communicate. This situation has made me think— what if you discovered something that was going on in your industry, that happens to be within your genre, and could potentially lead to multiple deaths and you hold the key to informing, educating and communicating. And it fits so nicely on your blog… of course this is what you write about. Wouldn't you? But writing about it leaves you open to losing your job and your career.

What are the boundaries, and perhaps ethics, of the “gag” order? As writers, should we risk the repercussions and write about it anyway? How much of our personal life should be ours and not owned by the corporate world? What happens when my novel gets published and they don’t like what they read?

Sometimes truth is scarier than fiction.

How do you deal with the ethical conflict between social media, your life and that of your day job? The boundaries are fuzzy lines.  

Enjoy the Journey!

~ Karlene


  1. That's a really tough one Karlene. It reminds me of the Erin Brockovich story. If it fits into our genre, writing, and social media it's tough not to talk about it but we risk a lot. I guess we just have to decide what we're willing to risk to bring out the truth. That's when an anonymous online presence would come in very handy!

  2. Ah! This all comes down to a question of what image are YOU wanting to put out there. Some bloggers vent about their bosses, other about their kids, their agents... yeah. Are you comfortable ruffling feathers? Do you like reporting what happened? Are you ready for a thosand reporters to link to your site? (oh man, that would be cool.)

    As long as you don't right out slander someone, it is your blog, have fun with it, but at the end of the day, it is YOUR blog. Make sure it reflects you.

    Really, that's how I see. But what the hell do I know, I'm just an idiot with a blog. hehe.

    okay, I see blogger is ticked at me, so if I don't show up, it's Tanya from Life's like that over at

  3. I don't agree with having to take it down, but granted, I don't know your companies specific media policy. You made the comment, not as a company employee, but as a pilot with experience in the specific airplane involved in the incident.

    The issue can arise that since you mention who you currently fly for on your blog, (the tagline as well as in your bio and I'm sure other places) they could argue that you are representing yourself as an employee in your blog. I did quickly glance around your site and didn't see any specification that 'your comments, posts, ideas, etc. are yours alone and do no represent those of your employer.' You should include that somewhere (visible) eventually if you keep your employment visible.

    During my experiences with the NASATweetup and following NASA employees on Twitter, I had seen instances where some were informed to watch what they post on their personal accounts. Even though they were their personal accounts, the fact that they specifically associated themselves with NASA in their bios, etc. they were representing the organization.

    If you look at my blog, and specifically the 'about me' page with my bio, I never name my employers (granted, the financial services industry is heavily regulated and I don't want to step on any toes if I mention ANYTHING financial). I do it so that people can't associate me and my comments with a specific company. Granted, I probably SHOULD include the disclaimer I recommended earlier as well somewhere. ;)

    Either way, it's too bad the post had to be removed. It was WELL written, and, IMHO, one of the better explanations and analysis of that tragic incident.

    Have you had a talk with your chief pilot (and maybe HR, or whoever handles that media policy) about HOW you could post something like that and keep it within the boundaries of the policy?

  4. Thanks Heather! You are so right. I loved Erin! And I've found a way to work with the system. Courage... picking battles... being alive to do the right thing... being in the position to help-- all play a factor. Thanks for your comment!

  5. Thanks Tanya... just jumped over to your blog. Fabulous! Okay... so I, too, am just an idiot with a blog. lol

    I wish it were so easy to say it's mine. The thing is, I really work hard to support... and I didn't think I would ruffle feathers with the discussion. But it sure opened my eyes.

    I truly believe we have a fiduciary responsibility to the company. Funny when we judge what could help, verses hurt, on such an opposite spectrum. Thanks so much for your comment!!! Today my blog is safe. :)

  6. Ok. Hopefully, the THIRD times the charm. I've been trying to post all day and for whatever reason kept running into network issues just as I would hit the submit button. Grrrr.

    Wow! That is harsh. I admit, I was one of those that forwarded you post to others as well. As the only aviation focused person in my "world" I'm always looking for ways to help educate my circle. I'm a firm believer that more education is the only way to influence critical thinking thereby reducing irrational fears.
    As a former government employee, I understand your employer's ideology in light of the new world of "liquid responsibilities" we live in, however I find it a shame that the corporate world is able to invade and manage employee's personal lives and forms of personal expression. I commend you for sharing both the original story and the censorship. I do hope a disclaimer will be enough for your book. I am looking forward to reading it. I agree with Andrew as well, but I'd also add, that before you publish the book, maybe you should check with a lawyer with a focus on literary works just to make sure your book is covered as that will "hopefully" be a "for profit" venture.

  7. Thanks Andrew. I was told I can post "generic" posts. So, that will suffice, for now.
    Define: Generic. :)

    Also... excellent idea on the "opinions my own." I did that yesterday... top of the page.

    This is a fascinating topic. Social media gone wild and being caged by our employers.

    Thank you so much for the great comment!

  8. You've made an impact, Karlene. The accident is an important topic, and, as you point out, it's also important to be supportive of the industry. Great suggestion from Andrew about stating a disclaimer on the blog. I thought your post was valuable, something that is worth knowing about.

  9. Supovadea, thank you so much for the great comment. Yes, the an attorney might be a good thing to use. Education is the answer. We don't want to run. But if they kill us, then we're not effective. So... there must be a way. Thanks for your words of wisdom!

  10. Thanks so much Linda. It is important to increase safety. Oh...and my disclaimer is up. Will that be enough? Not sure.
    Have a wonderful weekend!

  11. Wow Karlene,

    That is one tough situation to find yourself in. I'm sorry that it happened to you because I know what a sweet and honest person you are. I hope you never are put in that situation again.

    I guess I would handle it the same way you did. As tactful as possible.