Legal Guide Spells Out Social Media’s Risks, Benefits

June 9, 2011 — A new White Paper by the law firm Reed Smith demonstrates that the perils of social media go well beyond waiting for guidance from the FDA. The guide, free to employees of 4As agencies and other supporters of the Coalition for Healthcare Communication, can be downloaded using the link below.

“Okay, so it may be more than you ever wanted to know,” said Coalition Executive Director John Kamp. “Download it anyway, scan it, and keep it handy when the inevitable questions arise. If you don’t have a company policy, use this White Paper to help you create one now to avoid trouble for you and your clients.”

“Network Interference: A Legal Guide to the Commercial Risks and Rewards of the Social Media Phenomenon” does not focus on FDA regulation but on the broader array of  legal matters that might arise with advertising and marketing; commercial litigation; data privacy and security; employment practices; government contracts and investigations; insurance recovery, litigation, evidence and privilege; product liability; securities; and trademarks.

The White Paper’s introduction warns that

what used to be discussed or communicated in private now is often public, with “All of it memorialized in discoverable form. All of it available to millions with the simple press of ‘post.’”

In the advertising and marketing chapter, Reed Smith authors note that while there are many benefits to social media communications, “it’s critical to understand and navigate the legal minefields that are both dynamic and evolving as the media evolves.” Topics in this section include brand awareness (branded pages, promotions and contests) and brand interaction (bloggers, customer service/feedback, user-generated content), as well as talent compensation.

In this chapter’s “Bottom Line—What You Need to Do” sidebar, the authors state that regardless of the level of a company’s social media participation, all companies should have policies in place and that every employee should understand them. Among other uses, the policy should enable companies and their clients to “be prepared to respond to negative comments made about the company and/or its brands.”

Download the full Social Media Legal Guide here.