Should every company have a social media editorial policy after Daytona?

The controversy over the supposed censorship of fan videos taken at the Daytona International Speedway has raised some important questions that organizations using social platforms to build networks of loyal fans need to consider.  If you don’t know what happened you can read my post here that provides more details.

As somebody that has worked as a journalist, in the broadcast rights department of a major network and a PR person, there are five questions raised by the NASCAR debacle:

  • Who owns rights of videos shot at event venues when they don’t show content covered by broadcast rights agreements or a sport’s governing body?
  • Does anybody with a smartphone become a citizen journalist when something like this happens – and content becomes reporting, rather than an attempt to capture copyrighted content for commercial sharing.
  • At what point do videos cross the line from journalism to being content that breaches third-party copyrights?
  • What is a brand’s social editorial policy on fan videos shared on social platforms?  Should they have a proactive moderation process to ensure quality, but also give them control over the timing that certain content is posted? Should an organization employ a social media editor to make decisions when things like this happen?
  • Should social platforms add an additional message to explain that some videos are being held back temporarily in situations such as the one in Daytona?

The problem for brands is that consumers have become used to sharing content [photographs, audio and video] via social platforms with friends, associates and others with a shared interest.  The perceive any attempt to stop it as censorship and this often reflects negatively on the organization.  When it’s content owned by the user perhaps they have a point – but when it’s content that impacts the perception of a brand shouldn’t the organization have a say in what is, and isn’t posted?  And, when something like Daytona happens, shouldn’t organizations should have a plan to ensure that the dignity of those involved?

The realities are that brands, NASCAR included, will generally encourage fans to share content that helps promote their brand; accidents, such as the one over the weekend, are – thankfully – rare; and most brands are social savvy enough to know that blocking content is not a good idea.  Personally I think NASCAR got it right – albeit the message visitors to YouTube received gave them the wrong impression.

After the weekend I’m guessing a few more brands will be reviewing their social content policies and start to look at what their social editorial policy should be in similar circumstances.  What’s your take on how NASCAR handled the situation?  Does your business have a social editorial policy?

3 Replies to “Should every company have a social media editorial policy after Daytona?”

  1. Good, thought-provoking piece Lyndon! It’s a dilemma for every brand out there – large or small. My quick answer is: an emphatic yes. Transparent and ethical communications are paramount in my mind – not to have a social media editorial policy (top-level at least) would be a huge #fail. And publishing a summary of that policy would be pretty smart. We are soon to be embarking on a social media strategy here for the first time, and both a Policy as well as internal Guidelines/Best Practice document will be produced before activating that strategy.

  2. They shouldn’t restrict if they were a good brand. Clearly these accidents are few and far between, and crowd power has a way of making the ‘brands’ fix what went wrong. Closing the doors to citizen reporters also closes the doors to fans, and also closing the doors to the real news.

    1. Thanks Stephen – I agree that things shouldn’t be restricted purely because it may be damaging to the brand. I also don’t think that this was an attempt by NASCAR to censor fan videos – more an attempt to manage the publication of them to ensure that the families of those injured [or killed] heard from the relevant authority before details were published online.

      I also think that the reason the removed videos has a copyright infringement message was because the only way to get a video taken down is with a DMCA takedown notice. I think it’s time that there was another form that enabled brands to stop publication of content temporarily in cases of accidents like this. Do you think that if a message had said, ‘this video is being held until the family members of those involved have been contacted’ [or words to that effect] the reaction may be different to the cries of ‘censorship’?

      Or do you fundamentally disagree with any kind of brand interference with fan videos? Do you think that the real-time internet has created a situation where access to content is more important than protecting the dignity of people in them?

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