The Ohio Department of Natural Resources realizes the advantages of the Internet and Social Media tools in sharing information with the public. ODNR also understands the importance of employees joining in and helping shape online conversations and providing information through interactive social media channels. This method of interacting can help employees build stronger, more successful relationships with the public and our constituents.
As with all technologies, there are challenges inherent to their use. In order to address these challenges the following guidelines have been created to help our employees use social media tools both in and out of the office in aid of the Department and its mission. ODNR expects all who participate in social media on behalf of ODNR to understand and follow these guidelines. This policy is not intended to be all encompassing. As technologies change, the application of this policy will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
- Be accurate. Before posting content or responding to comments, ensure that the information or response is accurate. Accuracy is critical, because content on social media platforms is extremely visible and can be replicated in multiple locations within minutes.
- Correct mistakes. If a mistake or inaccuracy is found, correct the mistake and communicate its subsequent correction clearly and quickly.
- Be considerate. Ensure that all communication is professional, respectful and factual. Remember that all content represents ODNR.
- Misrepresentation. Only employees who are authorized to speak on behalf of their respective divisions and/or areas of expertise should do so. Concealing or misrepresenting one’s name or affiliation to mask unauthorized, fraudulent, irresponsible or offensive behavior in electronic communications is strictly prohibited.
- Protect sensitive or personal information. The Department is entrusted with a variety of sensitive and personal information. When sharing content on social media platforms, do not share confidential or personal information. If there is a question as to whether the information is appropriate, consult with the Office of Communications or Legal Services.
- Avoid advertisements, sponsorships and endorsements. When possible, avoid advertisements, endorsements or sponsorships on social media platforms. Context-sensitive ads may appear on some platforms that do not reflect the views or positions of ODNR.
- Respect copyrights and trademarks. When posting content do not infringe upon copyright or trademark protections.
- Use state email addresses and strong passwords. State email addresses should be used to confirm to users that the content provided is official. Personal email accounts should not be used for official state agency communications through social media platforms. Strong passwords (letters, numbers, etc.) will reduce possible security breaches.
All content represents the State of Ohio and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Unacceptable usage of social media platforms includes content which violates—or supports/encourages the violation of—local, state and federal law. Content which solicits money for or supports political causes is strictly prohibited. All content must be factual, credible, professional and useful to Ohio’s citizens.
Use the guidelines below to manage the appropriateness of social media content. Also, please include a disclosure link which explains that ODNR reserves the right to delete or block the following types of content:
- Vulgar or offensive language
- Content (or a user) that promotes, fosters or perpetuates discrimination on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, gender, marital status, status with regard to public assistance, national origin, physical or mental disability, genetic testing or sexual orientation
- Content that advocates illegal activity
- Promotion of particular goods and services
- Content which supports or opposes political campaigns or ballot measures
- Infringement upon copyrights or trademarks
- Information that may compromise the safety or security of the public or public systems
Division Social Networking Guidelines
ODNR divisions are encouraged to engage in social media, but participation may not be appropriate for every division. The decision to utilize social media technology should be made at the appropriate level for each division or program and should take into consideration the division’s mission, objectives, capabilities and potential benefits.
If a division chooses to use social media tools, implementation should be managed in conjunction with the Office of Communications to help ensure there is a coordinated effort for all ODNR social media sites and posts. Communications staff is available to help divisions develop and utilize a strategic process for selecting social media platforms as well as incorporating social media into communications plans.
Social media is intended to be very accessible and interactive. In order for social media platforms to remain relevant, content must remain current. Participation requires a significant commitment to ensure effective and sustained engagement. Divisions should establish a management process to release and retire content, as well as monitor user comments if enabled.
Divisions which choose to engage in social media communications should designate a Social Media Representative. This employee will coordinate all social media activity within their respective division and serve as a liaison to the Office of Communications. Their role should include determining if content is appropriate, disseminating corrections and ensuring that all social media platforms remain current and up-to-date. If your division or program wants to use social media to promote ODNR or if you have an interest in posting information, please contact your division’s Social Media Representative to discuss. Only authorized participants should contribute and represent the division/agency.
The following is a list of issues to consider regarding implementation of social media communications:
- Branding. It is important that all ODNR-related social media platforms keep a consistent look and feel. Division sites must include appropriate visuals (logos, images, etc.) and be approved by the Office of Communications.
- Use common sense. Do not post any content that would not be appropriate in other forms of media. Apply the same rules to social media platforms applied to traditional forms of communications, such as emails, press releases and Web sites.
- Correct misinformation. It is important that divisions correct misinformation disseminated by employees or external users. ODNR employees should identify themselves and correct the mistake with respect and factual information. Most users won’t mind being corrected and will most likely distribute the correction.
- Do not violate confidentiality rules. Know what information can be shared with the public. Do not violate the state’s privacy, confidentiality or legal guidelines. Never comment on anything related to legal matters, litigation or any parties the state may be in litigation with, without appropriate approval.
- Public records. Divisions should be aware that any content posted on social media platforms could be considered a public record, and therefore original content must be retained in accordance with the appropriate state and agency record retention schedules.
Representing the Department
Social media provides opportunities for relationship building and engagement with the public. It is important to remember that social media can blur the lines of “on duty” and “off duty.” When an employee self-identifies as, or is otherwise reasonably understood or represented to be an ODNR employee on a social media platform they should consider their behavior to be a reflection of the Department and the state at all times. Employees are advised that all ODNR-related content offered on social media platforms, either on work or personal time, may be evaluated for a reasonable connection to the mission and function of the Department. Any content offered that is found to be contrary to the mission of the Department, harm, or bring disrepute to the Department may be grounds for discipline.
It is imperative that employees involved in social media activities adhere to all guidelines presented here. Division chiefs will ultimately be held accountable for all content disseminated by their division’s staff.
The following are some additional guidelines for employees related to the blurring of personal and professional content sharing:
- Public servants are held to a higher standard of behavior and there is generally no clear line between work and personal life. Always be honest and respectful in both capacities.
- Use the guidelines outlined in this policy to determine what content is appropriate to disseminate. If you are unsure, it is always best to seek approval from your supervisor or the Social Media Representative for your division.
- Unless you have prior approval, you are not authorized to speak on behalf of the Department, nor represent that you do. Employees will be held accountable for misrepresenting the department on the Internet, even if it occurs on personal time.
- Refrain from commenting on the work of colleagues in this or other organizations that are outside of your field of expertise. When commenting on your area of expertise, always disclose your professional credentials.
- When on state time, refrain from on-line activities which do not bring value to your program, division and Department. Follow the same guidelines for social media use as you would for personal phone calls, emails and Internet usage.
- When you post to outside networks, consider adding a disclaimer to your post that your views do not necessarily represent the Department’s views.
Privacy and Security
As with any type of communication, there is a certain degree of risk associated with participation on social media platforms. Just as privacy and security are carefully accounted for and monitored on Department Web sites and personally identifiable information is not shared through traditional communication mediums, such as press releases, the same approach applies to social media engagement.
When sharing content on social media platforms, make sure it is public content and not confidential, critical, or personally identifiable information. Ohio IT Policy ITP-B.11, “Data Classification,” outlines the various data classification labels that each agency already has in place. Ohio Revised Code Chapter 1347 also provides guidance on what is considered personally identifiable information.