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A sold out audience for IABC Vic’s latest Be Heard event received a masterclass in the new Three R’s when it comes to social media – respect, responsibility, and representation.

More than 70 IABC members and guests gathered to hear Sally Scott, partner at Hall & Wilcox and expert in consumer law, and Danielle Clark, Head of Online and Social Media at Telstra, discuss the legal ramifications and industry approach to social media following the recent Advertising Standards Board ruling and ACC guidance in this area.


Sally commenced proceedings stating that although the law is not keeping pace with the many rapid developments in the social media space, recent rulings and findings are starting to shape some guidance for companies and communication professionals.

Different powers, jurisdictions and approaches across different regulatory bodies is proving challenging for practitioners, with the Advertising Standards Board ruling that companies will be held  responsible (under ASB codes) for all third party content on their own sites, but the ACCC requiring companies to act only on those questionable posts that they become aware of. 


Sally advised that the ACCC is concentrating closely on this issue, and will be issuing guidelines from their perspective soon. However, the ongoing question is what eventual roles the varying self-regulatory, regulatory and legal bodies will play in any eventual governance and compliance requirements.


Danielle opened with some candid insights into Telstra’s social and online media unit and channels – how they are set up, their ways of working, and a number of real stories highlighting the many challenges – and opportunities – Telstra faces in this space.


The floor was then opened to the audience for what was a very engaging and rich sharing of challenges, frustrations and experiences.  Some of the key highlights and learnings to emerge included:

  • Tools and technology can be extremely helpful in monitoring and managing social media, but still have their limitations. Ensuring sufficient people power behind these tools and technology can dramatically increase their effectiveness and reduce risk.
  • While there is great power in monitoring and identifying trends, and feeding this back into the business, even more powerful is having people who really know and understand your community.
  • The personal touch is also crucial in defusing most complaints and rants. It is worth remembering that just because an issue arises on social media, it doesn’t have to be concluded there, and a simple phone conversation may be far more effective. When it comes to crisis management, the sooner you can take the issue offline, the better.
  • The instantaneous nature of social media amplifies many longstanding rules of communications, such as always imagine your response may end up leading the news, and if you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t respond until you do.
  • Ensure robust internal policies and guidelines to help staff manage social media, and that they are included in all compliance training – may help reduce any potential penalties as well as risk.
  • Ensure you have robust policies in place for your sites to help manage persistently vexatious participants, and activist groups that may seek to hijack your site (a growing issue).

Bringing the event to a close, IABC Victoria President Monika Lancucki reflected the mood of the entire room acknowledging that despite the expertise of our speakers and honesty of everyone’s contribution, it felt as we’d barely scratched the surface. 


Many guests stayed behind for over an hour, enjoying the fabulous hospitality provided by Hall & Wilcox and the opportunity to further explore these complex issues with Danielle, Sally and each other.


Our final Be Heard event for 2012 was a tremendous success, with thanks to our guest speakers Sally Scott, partner at Hall & Wilcox and expert in consumer law, and Danielle Clark, Head of Online and Social Media at Telstra, and our very generous hosts Hall & Wilcox. Thanks also to attendees and those who joined the Twitter stream for contributing to a successful event, and we look forward to continuing this conversation into the new year.


You can view some vox pops of what the audience thought of the event via IABC Vic’s YouTube channel, some photos of the event here, and review the Twitter stream via #IABCVic.




Article by Clayton T Ford, Sponsorship Chair, IABC Board