Comments from a recent reader have made me think a little bit more about how I post as a management consultant. I suppose that these are some of the factors that I consider (a bit of a work in progress although some things are just plain legal requirements without flexibility):
- Confidentiality agreements - As do many other employed people, I have to abide by these as signed with former employers and clients. It is not unusual for the survivability of confidentiality clauses to last more than five years or even indefinitely.
- Client name confidentiality - For some management consulting firms, confidentiality is strict enough that you cannot even mention the names of client companies you work for, let alone what type of work you are doing from them. Many consulting firms also have prohibited trading lists for its management consultants (i.e., you cannot trade in the stocks of client companies because you often have inside information as a management consultant).
- Sensitive current project - Cases where client may be aware of consultant's blog and may contrue everything on blog to be about them when I don't want them to ("you're so vain, I bet you think this song is about you ..."). May stay away from certain subjects, disguise people, places, and company, plus delay from blogging for many months or even years.
- Casual conversations with people not familiar with either blogs or me - This is to respect people's privacy. I don't think all bloggers follow this process, but I try to get someone's permission to use information in a blog before using it. Even after getting permission, I may use references (like people's titles) as a shortcut to set the business context (e.g., GM's have profit and loss responsibility, VP's don't generally have profit and loss but have oversight over functional area). Using titles to guesstimate/gauge span of control, purchase authority, etc. is a bit of a black art though as someone may need to take additional context from the size of company (e.g., start-up versus Fortune 100), industry company is in, and geography (e.g., I frequently have to clarify titles when working with my German contacts).
- Information embargoed at request of provider until a specific date - I try to honor these even if I am not required to.
- If none of the above items govern the situation, then when in doubt as to whether one should be specific or less-specific in a business context - either don't blog about or disguise it very well using some of the things I've mentioned above.