Social Media Guidelines

Diocese of Rochester
Blogging, social networking and e-media protocol

This protocol has been written as a result of the exponential growth in use of e-media including blogs, social networking sites, web-based email services and text messaging. It is deliberately all-encompassing and readers must be aware that the document refers to all electronic means of communications including text messaging and the distribution of images.

All communication, including social media, is covered by libel law.  If any person is in doubt and seeks further clarification on any point, they should contact a member of the communications department at the Diocesan Office in Rochester.

If you are looking for some guidance on how to communicate appropriately with young people online please find some guidance here


Social media platforms are fundamentally changing the way clergy and paid employees work and engage with each other, clients and partners. Social media is interactive, conversational and open-ended.

The Diocese of Rochester is exploring how online discourse through social networking can empower the clergy and paid employees of the Diocese of Rochester as global professionals, innovators and citizens. These individual interactions represent a new model: not mass communications, but masses of communicators. Through these interactions, the Diocese of Rochester’s greatest asset, the expertise of its clergy and paid employees can be shared with the wider world.

Social media is faster, cheaper and arguably more widely available than traditional media and our understanding of confidentiality, responsibility and Christian witness must remain the same.

It is very much in the interest of the Diocese of Rochester and arguably the wider Church to be aware of and participate in this sphere of information, interaction and idea exchange.

The Diocese of Rochester regards blogs and other forms of online discourse as primarily a form of communication and relationship among individuals. When the Diocese wishes to communicate publicly as an entity, whether internally or externally, we have a well established means to do so. Only those officially designated by the Diocese of Rochester or the Bishop of Rochester have the authorization to speak on behalf of the Diocese.

The Diocese of Rochester trusts and expects paid employees and members of the clergy alike to exercise personal responsibility whenever they participate in social media. This includes not violating the trust of those with whom they are engaging.

Neither paid employees nor clergy should use these media for covert marketing or public relations.

If you have any confusion about whether you ought to publish something online, please either refer to this document or ask the Communications department (01634 560000) or email

The Church of England has also developed a Digital Charter to encourage positive engagement by people of faith - and of none - in the digital world


Diocesan Policy
If you comment on any aspect of the work of the Church of England or Diocese of Rochester or any policy issue for the Church of England or Diocese of Rochester, you must clearly identify yourself as either a member of the Church of England clergy in the Diocese of Rochester or a paid employee of the Diocese of Rochester in your postings or blog site(s). Please include a disclaimer that the views are your own and not those of the Church of England or the Diocese of Rochester.

Should the comment be about a hobby or non-work related topic then clearly there is no potential for professional bias coming into play and hopefully no conflict of interest.
The same is also true of leaving comments on other blogs. If it is a subject related to the Church of England or the Diocese of Rochester then the person posting their comment must identify themselves and their connection with the Church of England or the Diocese. In these matters transparency is everything because it can be potentially damaging if an employee is discovered trying to pull the wool over the eyes of others. The impact on the reputation of the Church of England or the Diocese of Rochester can be equally damaging.

Paid employees including members of the clergy who deliberately fail to take the Diocesan Policy in to account may face disciplinary measures. A number of current CDM issues in other Dioceses relate to the apparent abuse of communications media.

Please be clear about who you are.  When discussing topics relevant to the Church of England or the Diocese of Rochester, you must use your real name. If you have a vested interest in something you are discussing, be the first to point it out. Protect yourself and your privacy. What you publish will be around for a long time, so consider the content carefully and also be judicious in disclosing personal details.

The lines between public and private, personal and professional are blurred in online social networks. By virtue of identifying yourself as an employee of the Diocese or a member of the clergy, within a social network, you are now connected to your colleagues and the global Christian community. You should ensure that content associated with you is consistent with your work and the Christian values of love, tolerance and forgiveness.

Social Networking Guidelines

  1. Be a good ambassador for Christ, the Church and your part in it.
  2. Know and follow the existing Diocese of Rochester Child Protection Policy.  This includes the transmission and publication if images of young people.
  3. Users are personally responsible for the content they publish on-line, whether in a blog, social computing site or any other form of user-generated media. Be mindful that what you publish will be public for an indefinite period of time. Protect your privacy and take care to understand a site's terms of service.
  4. Identify yourself by name and, when relevant, role in the Diocese of Rochester . If you discuss the Diocese of Rochester of wider Church of England, you must make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of The Church of England, the Bishop of Rochester or the Diocese of Rochester.
  5. If you publish content online relevant to the Diocese of Rochester or the Church of England in your personal capacity, use a disclaimer like: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent the views of the Diocese of Rochester, the Bishop of Rochester or the Church of England.”
  6. Respect copyright.
  7. Respect libel and defamation laws.
  8. Never provide details of confidential matters or the performance of groups such as the Bishop’s Council or Diocesan Synod.
  9. Do not cite or reference individuals without their approval. If you are telling a story about a third party, ask yourself, “is this my story to tell?”
  10. When you do make a reference, link back to the source. Don't publish anything that might allow inferences to be drawn which could embarrass or damage an individual.
  11. Respect your audience. Don't use ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity, or engage in any conduct that would not be acceptable in a Christian environment or Church of England work place.
  12. Don't pick fights!
  13. Be the first to correct your own mistakes.
  14. Try to add value. Provide worthwhile information and perspective. The Church of England is best represented by its people and what you publish may reflect on not only the Church but also Christianity.
  15. Don't use Diocesan or Church of England logos or trademarks unless approved to do so.  If you do use them, please obtain the correct permissions and follow brand guidelines.
  16. Blogs may carry a title referring to the individual posting on the site for example, Jenny Wren, Vicar of St Mary’s but they may not carry a title utilising the name of the parish Church, for example, “The St Mary’s, little non-such blog.”  The former makes it clear that the opinions belong to one individual whilst the latter sounds as though this is the official position of the entire congregation.
  17. Social media entries may well attract wider media interest in you as an individual. Proceed with caution and remember that you are responsible for your on-line activities.

The blurring of the boundary between public and private is probably more of a concern to older generations than the younger.  Younger people have grown-up in an environment of on-line sharing, where they may well publish moans and groans about teachers, parents, friends or the workplace on a social networking site. In the past, these things may have been restricted to a private conversation and best practice demands that complaints about the workplace be managed by line-managers.  Whilst one group may struggle to understand why private information is being shared so publicly, the other may regard it as normal.  This may create tensions which will need understanding, especially with groups such as Youth Workers.

Respecting confidentiality should not be problematic in this new area. The existence of social media does not change the Church’s understanding of confidentiality. Within the life of the Church, there are private or closed meetings, private conversations and confidential matters. All involved have a right to expect others will respect that confidentiality.  Breaking confidentiality in social media is as wrong as it would be in any other context. If a confidence is broken, it can spread via social networking with alarming speed and will be impossible to retract.  It may be prudent therefore, to ensure those attending sensitive meetings or briefings understand the restrictions placed upon the sharing of that information.

The core purpose of meetings such as Diocesan Synod or Bishop’s Council is to reach decisions for the benefit of the Church and its wider mission. All participants in meetings owe it to the participants to give proper attention to the matters at hand as a matter of courtesy, be open to views presented by others and be open to God. Participants should not be preoccupied by anything else, such as engaging in social media. A natural break in proceedings offers those who must, the opportunity to re-engage with the wider world via social networks.

Friends and followers
Social networking sites are often based around the idea of “friends” or “followers”.  Depending on the privacy settings selected, postings can be viewed by a select audience or by the world! Some people have high friendship or follower figures as a goal, and they may therefore, befriend others who in real life would not be actual friends. It is very important for users to consider the capacity in which they respond. If the response is a professional one, responding via the social networking site may not be the most appropriate course of action. It may be better to arrange a professional interview to deal with the issue.

Use a disclaimer
Whenever you publish content to any form of digital media, make it clear that what you say there is representative of your views and opinions and not necessarily the views and opinions of the Church of England or the Diocese of Rochester. For example, in your own blog, the following standard disclaimer should be prominently displayed: "The postings on this site are my own and don't necessarily represent the views of the Diocese of Rochester, Bishop of Rochester or Church of England. If a site does not afford you enough space to include this full disclaimer, you should use your best judgment to position your comments appropriately.

Copyright and the law
Respect copyright. For the protection of others and well as yourself, it is critical that you show proper respect for the laws governing copyright and fair use of copyrighted material owned by others, including the Church of England’s own copyrights and brands. This includes material from other Diocesan websites. You should never quote more than short excerpts of someone else's work. It is good general blogging practice to link to others' work.

Defamation is a civil matter and the law in England currently states that each time a web page is viewed, it becomes a published entity. Anyone defamed has 12 months from that point to bring an action.

In libel cases, the defendant has to prove that their comments were justified. The plaintiff only has to prove that their reputation was damaged.

Good humour
Humour can be a very important part of any conversation. Face to face, visual clues help determine the humour, but on-line, these cues are missing and a joke may be easily mis-interpreted. Make sure it is clear if you are joking and remember that it is not acceptable to pass off intentionally offensive remarks as, “only a joke”. Humour is great but may not be used to exclude, bully or offend.

Use your best judgment
Remember that there are always consequences to what you publish. If you're about to publish something that makes you even the slightest bit uncomfortable, review the suggestions above and think about why that is. If you're still unsure, and it is related to Church matters, please discuss it with your line manager or Archdeacon. Ultimately, however, you have sole responsibility for what you post on your blog or publish in any form of online social media.

Don't forget your day job
You should make sure that your online activities do not interfere with your job or commitments to the wider Church community.

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