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Today the Blog Council unveils a disclosure toolkit. Before I get into what these checklists are designed to do, a word about what the council is.

It is a volunteer group of companies designed for members to share insights and experience with each other. Period. We participate in monthly conversations to learn from each other about the applications and lessons learned using social media.
We also meet face to face a few times a year. I attended the last workshop in Chicago and helped facilitate a discussion around engaging detractors - something we're all called to do from time to time. What the Blog Council is not is a trade association, or a standards body.
As I stated in a post at Conversation Agent, it is important to me to have a peer group of professionals on the client side just like me. We face similar issues with social media. The group members are personally impressive - each brings a list of accomplishments and a passion for conversation that is valuable to the group. And they are all generous with their time, smart and nice to boot. Many have their own blogs and social media footprint, just like me.
One of the issues we discussed that comes up often is that of disclosure. How can we help companies develop their own set of guidelines on disclosure? What has worked for the companies in the companies already using social media? The checklists that resulted were the outcome of our brainstorm and are meant to be for training purposes.
As well, the tool kit is intended as a constantly evolving body of knowledge on best practices. Clearly, we are all learning continuously thanks also to the feedback of our communities. Anyone involved in social media knows that there is no final way of doing things, just an open and long conversation.
"Blog Council members are leading by example. We're putting this out there to show everyone that disclosure is the right thing to do," said Andy Sernovitz, "Disclosure seems difficult at first, but it is actually easy to do well. We put these checklists together to make it straightforward for any company to figure out how to do the right thing."
After thinking and talking about the name for this group - Blog Council - we decided that it's a keeper. Yes, everyone is aware of the knee jerk reaction that the initial announcement provoked in the blogosphere. Whoever has been there first tends to be quite possessive of how everything is defined. With about two years of blogging and seven plus years of community building with the Fast Company network I still consider myself a newbie. The name is easy to remember even as we apply the learnings and sharing to all sorts of social media. So it stays.
There are plenty of people I should thank for my sticking with this blog and learning about social media. The excellent marketers, idea and branding gurus, context builders, business advisers, communications ninjas, new media evangelists, relationships teachers, and professionals who share their knowledge through publications. An honorable mention also goes to my friends who practice marketing in Italy. You will find all these individuals on my blog roll - a living testament to the kind of talent that is out there.
This group here, the members of the Blog Council, help me differently. They are my control, those who live my reality (or a similar one) day in, day out. There are smart consultant out there, but they do not have a desk inside a corporation like I do. They do not have the business reality I face every day to contend with. Sometimes, what they don't know makes all the difference. That's why I value these peers.
In the end the conversation is not quite about technology at all. It's about people, how we relate to our experiences and working environments. How we show up as human beings. It is my hope that these checklists will help business owners be more prepared to wade into the waters of social media alone or with the help of their agencies.

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Valeria Maltoni helps businesses understand how customers and communities have changed marketing, public relations, and communications - and how to build value in this new environment. As a communicator she specializes in marketing communications, customer dialogue, and brand management. Valeria has come to define modern business as a long and open conversation. Conversation Agent is recognized among the world's top online marketing blogs. Valeria is a Fast Company expert blogger and a contributor to The Blog Herald. She is a co-author of , a groundbreaking ebook collaboration by 103 of today's top marketing writers. Valeria is a frequent public speaker on brand marketing, customer service, and building successful business teams. She publishes in both English and Italian. Educated at the University of Bologna and Villanova University, Valeria combines New World sensibilities with Italian style. She's an active member of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), the American Marketing Association (AMA), the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia (WACA), and the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA).