Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Political, religious and sexually suggestive taglines in Association email

Ben Martin's post relays discussion of association policy about whether or not employees should be able to add personal political or religious comments in a tagline with their association email. Says provides self-expression by staff and members get to know them as real people. Gives example of association allowing favorite quotes in a tagline along with association info.

I'd have to vote no on complete freedom of expression in association email taglines ... not just for employees but any representative of an association - including volunteer leaders. Reasons:

1. Associations often take political positions. Authorized political positions would be fine to include, but not personal political opinions. Would give members and the public the impression the association has a position on a political issue they may not have. Employees and officers should not be able to contradict or appear to create political positions using association's name.

2. Having religious quotes or positions next to the association's name in email is going to relay "this is the association's position too". Certain religious positions can be political positions.

Post didn't mention sexually suggestive taglines. Employees may not realize what appears to be "innocent fun" (e.g., suggestive messages on clothing or tagline quotes) can quickly turn into a huge legal problem for the association; in addition to being demeaning to many who view it.

Allowing favorite quotes with taglines easily accommodates a large volume of potential topics .... while providing reasonable concern about allowing religion, sex and politics among choices. Even "Yankees Suck" can't be the tag-line (even if favorite quote of an employee), where "Go Sox" could ....

Don't associations have enough liability?--
Like this post? Subscribe by RSS or email.


Anonymous said...

For the record, Ben's doesn't seem to be advocating political- or religious-themed taglines; we wouldn't allow that at VAR. He's simply saying our policy here at VAR is to allow for some self-expression, within reason and good taste. My favorite tagline (good taste aside): "I've never killed a man, but I've read a few obituaries with great pleasure." (Clarance Darrow)

Ben Martin, CAE said...

I think the fear of lawyers is getting to your better senses, Cindy.

Cindy Butts said...

Scott, you and I have the same position on this. Referenced post says debate started on ASAE listserve with quote of an association telling employees they cannot include personal political and religious comments in taglines. That's clearly what my post is about (see headline). My post indicates I believe it's fine to use random quotes on OTHER topics. I like quotes in taglines.
Yes Ben, protecting my association from legal action is part of both my job description and good sense.

Ben Martin, CAE said...

I personally see potential legal action from email taglines to be microscopic, especially if you hire people with common sense. One of the mixed results of the CAE program is that it instills the fear of legal action in its candidates. I see assn execs miss out on opportunity and expend extra effort because they drive 1000 miles around risk, rather than make a slight swerve around it.

Cindy Butts said...

Prepare to roll your eyes Ben: I found the legal freak-out sections of CAE exam study to be the most professionally valuable part of the info. The credentialing sections least valuable to me, by far. Separately, these days subpoenas include email and hard drives - so haven't found association email risk diminishing.

Ben Martin, CAE said...

*rolling eyes*