I’m curious what your policy is for public communication among employees of your company, particularly posting on the SvN blog. Can anyone come up with an idea and post it? Are there written guidelines? Spoken guidelines? An approval process?
This interests me because I’ve seen several broken processes for public communication and have better ideas in mind, but would be interested in something that is already implemented and working.
Our policy: Speak up! We want our people to post on SvN, use Twitter, post on the Product Blog, and generally be visible and vocal.
We don’t have an institutionalized approval process. If someone feels like a post may be of questionable content, they can run it past me first, but I don’t require people to run posts past me before they are posted. It’s up to each person to decide if something requires a second look before posting.
When you trust people to make a reasonable decision, they’ll usually make one. When you require everything someone writes to go through an approval process they’ll probably write less and be less interesting. We don’t want people to be afraid to write or afraid to think.
Got a question? Got a question for us about business, design, programming, marketing, or general entrepreneurship? Drop us an email at svn at 37signals dot com. Include [Ask 37signals] in the subject. Thanks!
Chris Joneson 13 May 08
We’ve adopted much the same attitude with out corporate blog (it also contains a lot of product related information). While there are only a few people that are actually interested enough to write and post to the blog those that do aren’t generally hampered by some insane approval process.
We basically know what we should and shouldn’t say and are trusted with speaking on behalf of the company. It’s a great way to engage and empower you employees and co-workers.
Eric Andersonon 13 May 08
After reading your blog for a while I have noticed two things you tend to shy away from. Not sure if you have hard a fast rules about them to your employees or not but you definitely tend to avoid them.
1. Specific numbers for your operations. You have given a few high-level numbers but anything that might reveal the number of paying customers, etc you tend to avoid. This type of policy is probably true of most non-public companies but given how open you are about everything else it is interesting on this topic you tend to shy away. I am guessing it allows you to keep an image of a small, agile, friendly company despite your rapid growth over the last few years.
2. Future developments. You also tend to avoid talking about future products unless the release is coming really soon. I believe you got burned on talking about a product too early before so now you have gone to the opposite corner and reveal almost nothing about upcoming products until the release is almost here.
Obviously these “rules” are very reasonable and understandable but just wanted note what I have observed to be topics that have some sort of policy on them (either written or unwritten).
John Topleyon 13 May 08
Talking of employees using Twitter, Jason how do you explain this tweet from Jamis: http://twitter.com/jamis/statuses/807508389
6 hours into a team meeting?! Get Real! ;-)
MIon 13 May 08
John, keep in mind that we hadn’t gotten together in the same room for 6 months when we met last week. I think we’re entitled to break our own rules about meetings sometimes. :)
JFon 13 May 08
Eric: You’re right, we don’t talk about specific financials and we usually don’t comment on future plans. Those are confidential so we don’t discuss them.
John: A couple times a year we fly everyone in and get everyone together to sit in a room and talk all day. We go over the wins and loses since we last talked. We also discuss some future ideas, debate a few things, and go over the general state of the business.
These full-day get togethers are usually 4-6+ months apart. We recently talked about doing them every quarter.
Matt Radelon 13 May 08
Any kind of approval process on a blog is toxic. I think blogging is one of the few forms of communication where knee-jerk rants and opinions can be favorable. Having to channel these thoughts through any kind of intermediary only serves to deflate the excitement of a post and dilute the message.
Besides, weighing something down with superfluous process just isn’t 37signals’ style. :)
Britton 13 May 08
Having trust as a foundation is key. I’ve worked for companies that have openness as part of their mission statement but when it came to letting employees blog, the trust wasn’t there.
I found it odd because the employees who would blog are the same ones that are going to professional conferences and giving presentations. Blogging is no different from what an employee would say to people at a conference, except that it’s captured for others to see.
DMon 13 May 08
In a small team, if a post/public communication weren’t in good taste, the post would probably never surface.
SvN is all about good conversation in the worlds of entreprenuership/design/technology. Be-it Jason noticing the beauty of simplicity, or David handing an ass spanking debate sparking juicy gossip among the Chicago tech.
I believe the culture and environment of a small business would likely prove too difficult for someone out of character, and it probably wouldn’t work out.
As far as approval goes, I’d say keep a good passionate conversation going with your audience, and nothing should be out of line.
SHon 13 May 08
@John Topley, as Matt said, it’s important to remember that we don’t see each other all the time, like people working in cube farms do. Our “meetings” aren’t full of Excel spreadsheets, conference calls, or PowerPoint presentations. We get together a few times a year to see each other, talk about things in person, and enjoy each other’s company.
What really needs to ‘get real’ here is your definition of the word “meeting”.
Brian Dillardon 13 May 08
A hearty thumbs up to this “public communications policy.” The problem is, any company that’s not a pure-play development shop (or a Google or a Yahoo) is probably going to throw up a multi-layer firewall. They just don’t get it. Even at a company like Microsoft, you just know the IE8 blog is part FUD, part marketing exercise and only somewhat a platform for developers to speak with other developers about the tools they’ve created.
John Topleyon 13 May 08
@MI/JF/SH: I know that you have a distributed team, I was yanking your chain! I appreciate the explanation though. Good to hear that you do know the value of actually getting together in person occasionally.
SHon 13 May 08
Sorry for being all mother hen you there, John. I jumped the gun defending our little meeting and forgot to put my sense of humor goggles on. :)
JFon 13 May 08
FYI, Zappos encourages its employees to use Twitter.
Vicky Hon 13 May 08
An interesting addition to this conversation is when a company ‘has’ an employee that twitters, that individual develops a following (twitter, blog, whatever) and then that employee leaves.
Does the employee take the followers with them?
Are the followers still part of the WOM of the company?
Who owns the content, ect…
P.S. Zappos CEO’s are better twitterers (think that’s a word) then most of the employees.
And they give away shoes. Uber important!
Patrick Sullivan Jr.on 14 May 08
What are you twitter ID’s?
Travis Schmeisseron 14 May 08
We agree with the meetings are toxic outlook, but do the same as you for those long meetings about important matters. We’ve done than once a quarter since the company started and I think it’s still one of the best things we do to keep everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction. We usually spend a lot of time refining our process and talking about next big moves.
Vicky Hon 14 May 08
It’s amazing how much a team can stay in the loop just by CC:ing them on main communications. That is hardly ever used in business by people from organizations.
There is a fear factor almost in sharing, wierd.
Or my favorite is when there’s a meeting w/ a secretary taking notes/minutes, so they have a writeup of the entire meeting, but still don’t modify and push it down within the organization when all the information is already there in a document.
I said “Why don’t you just cut out the pieces that are Management only and distribute”.
Uncommonly easy, but the blind can’t see.
This discussion is closed.