A Fun Little Surprise on Gourmet.com

I'm part of the BlogHer network, which is collaborating with Gourmet Live. I was asked by them to suggest the best restaurant in San Diego to hold a party -- which would appear on gourmet.com. My write up is one of 10 around the country just published and now live on the site. Take a look to see what I recommended. And if you have any of your own suggestions, please leave a comment.

Road Trip

Road Trip

Creating Social Media Policy or Shutting Down Engagement?

Recently, the Washington Post issued social media guidelines to its staff and they've caused some controversy, thanks to the long list of "can't do's" that some see as stymying the kind of conversation in which journalists need to be engaged. It's not just media companies that are looking at how to manage the Tower of Babel some feel social media has wrought upon their businesses. Organizations of all kinds seem to be of two minds about the nitty gritty of public engagement, and feel they need to draw the line somewhere. So, we're beginning to see a surge of policy development around how employees can interact online and how organizations engage with the outside world on platforms like Twitter.

Personally, I don't have a problem with this if the resulting policy encourages creative engagement but ensures that the business is protected, that employees use good sense and everyone behaves with mutual respect. A website that's currently circulating is Social Media Governance, which has a database of over 100 social media policies from organizations ranging from municipalities to health care organizations, from the U.S. Navy and Air Force to tech companies to museums. This database is growing and is instructive for organizations considering implementing their own social media policies.

I was surprised to find I liked Wal-Mart's brief and direct approach to Twitter. They recognize that many of their associates may have their own Twitter accounts but identify the official Wal-Mart accounts. The best line is this: "We won’t reply to off topic @replies. Personal attacks and foul language = FAIL. Adding to the discussion = WIN." Do you really need more than that to let people know your philosophy?

But what about internal policies? I like the approach Shift Communications takes with their employees and contractors. Again, it's simple and to the point: Be respectful, be transparent, be diplomatic, have the facts, stick to your area of expertise.  Even the State of Delaware, for all its governmental, bureaucratic jargon and formatting, has it right. They reiterate their ethical stance, the need to be transparent, and, of course, that they must protect confidentiality within the system. They also go one step further and commit to correcting information later found to be in error.

Compare these to Sentara's Social Media Policy. Here's one where the lawyers were clearly let loose. If any spelled-out policy were to have a chilling effect, this would be it. Yes, they're a health-care organization but here we have so much dense legalese, the glazed over eyes have no way to take in anything other than "keep out!" "You must adhere," You are prohibited," "You will not violate..." My favorite? "Sentara/OptimaHealth reserves the right to monitor, prohibit, restrict, block, suspend, terminate, delete, or discontinue your access to any Sentara/OptimaHealth Social Media Site, at any time, without notice and for any reason and in its sole discretion." Clearly, someone doesn't quite get the spirit of social media. And it just gets worse.

So, to those managers who feel compelled to develop a clear social media policy for employees and outside participants on their sites, go forth. Be clear that employees must not compromise protected information, that they must be transparent, respectful, and courteous, and talk only about what they know (having to do with the organization). That they must follow basic stated organizational guidelines already a part of your culture. If you open up a blog or other social media on your site to the public, you should state your position as well. People should respect the rules when they're in your home. But, be judicious and try to avoid a defensive heavy hand. You're trying to encourage engagement and idea sharing, not send people running.

Capitalist Pig Virus?

I've got more information from my friend Paula McDonald about the background of the start of this virus. She lives in Puerto Escondido, a coastal fishing village in southern Mexico. San Diegans know her as a longtime writer and photographer who covered Baja from Rosarito. Smithfield is the largest hog producer in the world with 40,000 pigs in cramped pens on site at the La Gloria, Veracruz site near Jalapa (Xalapa) where the first Swine Flu case started. That first case, btw, is the kid you see on all the U.S. newscasts now known as Patient One or Swine One or whatever they're calling him. About five years old and interviewed these last three days about as often as Elian Gonzalez.

Those Smithfield pigs produce 800,000 kilos of pig meat annually in La Gloria. Evidently, the pig excrement problem is beyond imagination. It's kept in giant in-ground vats, like swimming pools, covered with plastic tarps. (And then what do they do with it?) Smithfield was fined in 1984 in the U.S. for water contamination, and opened the Mexican site about 15 minutes after the NAFTA Treaty was signed.

The investigative reporters down here are nosing around into allegations that local officials have been paid off to issue certificates of compliance with local clean water regulations...etc. and look the other way. And, the governor of Veracruz, to this very minute, is claiming this child was the only case of Swine Flu in the state, even though hundreds of people in La Gloria got sick in February, were treated with anti-virus medications quietly by Smithfield, and then spread it to Mexico City and the world. As I said the other night, if Smithfield had reported it immediately to the World Health Organization or even to the Mexican health authorities, we wouldn't be facing the possibilities of a pandemic.

Oh, btw, the governor of Veracruz is up for reelection in a very tough fight. He can't admit that his state totally blew it by also not catching or reporting this or he's dead meat in the campaign. Hmmm...bad analogy.

This just in from my buddy in Boston:

>>>I, too, had heard about the multinational pork corporation polluting the epicenter town (from a friend who suggested we call it Capitalist Pig Virus).

Capitalist Pig Virus!

Anyway, that's the news from the south. Mexico City is all blue masks and empty streets. Only one mask in town here, in our funny surfer town where all that seems to matter is whether surf's up or not. That's my friend, a local hotel owner, who when I last saw her was standing on the street barefoot, yelling at her straying poodle mutt and wearing it on her head like a New Year's hat.

Welcome to GoldenWriting

Hi, I'm Caron Golden. I'm a longtime freelance writer, food blogger and radio host based in San Diego. I've written for a variety of traditional publications, like the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune, as well as websites like SDNN.com (where I'm a food columnist) and culinate.com. I also do a lot of work for corporations and other organizations--everything from ghost writing articles and speeches for top executives to website copy and brochures. And, of course, whatever else a client might want. Generally, I've worked in the areas of food, technology, general business and travel, but I've also been known to write on health care, home building and real estate, sustainability and biotechnology. In other words, I'm a quick learner and have a wide range of interests.

Please let me know how I can help you.