I was reading an interesting article at the New York Times (The Corporate Blog Is Catching On) about CEOs and corporate executives who blog. I have had a few readers ask me how I determine what is or is not appropriate to write in my blog as a venture capitalist. Here is a quick-and-dirty list of what I think are best practices and a few thoughts on how these rules will evolve.
A friend of mine, Tim Oren, has written a nice set of guidelines that he uses when deciding what is and is not appropriate to blog.
If you think you have too much inside information about a given topic, it is probably not wise to write about said topic in great detail. -I meet regularly with a lot of enterprise software companies, particularly those in the information security space. As a result, I don’t write about that particular space because maintaining access to companies in that space requires that they feel their private information stays private. It is far easier for me to choose not to write about that particular space than it is to slice and dice what is and is not private.
If what you are writing could be prejudicial to your firm or portfolio companies, consider whether or not you should post it to your blog. I try to pay very close attention to the topics that I choose to write and the viewpoints that I espouse on my blog. Despite the fact that many bloggers go to great lengths to separate their views from the views of their firm, the natural tendency is for readers to associate the views of the individual with the views of the firm. Like it or not, a blog is for public consumption and some readers will attribute the views of the author with the views of the firm.
These are just the two simple rules that I use for blogging. To date, little attention has been paid to what blogging could mean in terms of fair disclosure and legal liability. I predict that lawyers will get involved in regulating corporate blogs in the next 12-18 months because one (or even both) of the following incidents will occur and get national press:
The disgruntled blogger – There will be an incident where a disgruntled employee uses his/her blog to post company proprietary information or disclose sensitive financial information. Unlike the highly-publicized emails that have floated around the web, the fact that this breach occurs on a blog will greatly increase the rate at which it is consumed and cross-referenced.
The loose-lipped CEO – There will be a well-meaning CEO or senior executive who will make an inappropriate disclosure of some sort on his/her blog. Blogs will then be treated like any other senior executive communication for most litigation-sensitive companies.
If you have any thoughts on blog ethics, I would love to hear them.