With podcasting entering the mainstream and podcast production tools becoming so easy to come by, it’s natural for people to start talking about their companies in their podcasts. Without clear podcast guidelines, you might find yourself accidentally offending key customers or giving away company secrets. At the same time, smart companies realize that podcasting critical information and insight to clients and customers is an effective way to grow business.

IBM set a positive example for the business community in 2005 when it posted official podcast guidelines for its employees. IBM emphasized the ways that its employees could use podcasts to learn about new technology while spreading the news about innovations at their organization. From the standpoint of being a responsible corporate citizen, IBM recommends that its employees participate actively in the podcasting communities, within the parameters of their podcast guidelines.

First, IBM reminds its workers not to divulge any confidential material. While that podcast guideline sounds like it should go without saying, employees working on secret and sensitive projects for long periods of time might inadvertently let slip a key piece of data. Obviously, any breach of security could put IBM and its clients, which include the Federal Government, at serious risk. Therefore, in its podcast guidelines, IBM reminds workers to treat podcasts like any conversation that they might have about the company outside company walls.

Second, IBM encourages employees in its podcast guidelines to review the way in which they present information. IBM specifically recommends that podcasting employees develop original voices, while stating clearly that their opinions are not necessarily the opinions of their employer. IBM’s podcast guidelines also advise podcasters to think about whether the material they want to present would make for an enjoyable podcast. Long lists of data, for example, would be better off presented as web pages or as downloads, whereas podcasts excel at highlighting eager, enlightened conversation.

Finally, IBM’s podcast guidelines raise the bar for podcast producers by encouraging high production value while placing podcasts on the same level as other media requests. IBM requests that employees treat requests to appear on other people’s podcasts as the same as requests for interviews on television or radio stations. Podcast guidelines at IBM recommend advising communications managers about external podcast appearances, so employees can get clear guidance on what to say and how to say it.

IBM’s podcast guidelines offer an excellent model to companies of all sizes that are concerned about how their employees can and should participate in podcasts.