A Twitter covenant in consulting contracts?

I was recently speaking with colleagues at @clinovations about ideas in open leadership that I gleaned from reading @CharlineLi ‘s latest book of the same name and one I like is the one about creating covenants with people that indicate “trade-offs and exchanges of power.”

This blog could be said to be a result of such covenants, which were based on informal conversations with organizations I work and have worked with about sharing what I see and hear in working with them.

How could a modern consulting organization integrate this idea into their work, to scale the informal conversation that happens in a different way each time, to more of an expectation that both parties (client and consultant) can share?

In my experience the informal covenant has worked fine – organizations that I profile typically enjoy having their work on behalf of the people they serve highlighted, and they also let me know what the boundaries of openness are. In the consulting relationship, there are also advantages for the client that is learning/experimenting with social media. Often, the consultant will be able to test and lead in this area “on behalf of,” so the client can see the reaction, a very reasonable approach in protecting one’s brand.

Of course, if conditions are ambiguous, I recommend not sharing another’s story and focusing on your/my own. The challenge of the informal covenant is that it depends on the skills of the individual people involved in creating it – in the short term, not an issue, in the long term, what are the missed opportunities for more firms and leaders to learn about being open (in the @charleneli way, not the “tell everyone everything” way)?

Such a covenant might take the form of a paragraph outlining what may be shared during the course of contract work in the social media space, which could include everything from the fact that the consultant is working with the client (good for both the consultant and client especially if either or both are influencers in their networks, the example of @VirginAmerica recently accessing these networks in their Toronto expansion is relevant) to mentions of milestones accomplished or benefits realized from the work. A covenant that involves trade-offs also can specify what is not to be shared or who the consultant should work with to manage social media mentions.

I am not an attorney and I do not write consulting contracts so I am not clear on whether putting something like this in one reduces degrees of freedom – maybe the information conversation is the one that needs to happen while we undergo generational change in how we communicate with each other.

It’s of course understood that confidentiality will always be required for legal, regulatory, or other reasons, so confidentiality statements might travel together in the future in work agreements.

Thoughts? Especially from the “client” and “consulting” community – what informal conversations have you had about sharing your work with each other in the social media space? What has been the give and take? Pitfalls? In the future would you entertain a covenant in your work agreements? What would you have it say?

Maybe an organization out there has already done this – if so, please share!

With thanks to the @clinovations team, including @trenorwilliams , @anitasamarth , @lygeia for modeling the capacity to ask and listen to visionary questions….

Ted Eytan, MD