This page discusses practices for speaking for or about the IETF. How we should we represent IETF opinion when asked about it, or writing about it in blogs, panels, presentations, and statements made by IETF persons or groups including IETF persons.
This page is primarily intended to serve as a guideline for IETF and IAB chairs, but applies equally well to ADs speaking about their areas, working group chairs speaking about their group, and so on.
As a general rule, speaking about the IETF, IAB, WG, ... topics and opinions is useful. Example: an IAB member speaking about IAB position on how IANA transition should happen.
Speaking about facts, how things work at the IETF, what we are working on, what is going on, is OK. Example: We have a working group work on a particular problem.
For other things, the best approach to establish an official (IETF, IAB, WG, …) position on the topic, and explain that. Example: speaking about the IAB position on IANA transition in various forums.
For opinions not falling under items 2 or 3 above, clearly label the statement as an opinion. Example: The IETF has not discussed … My personal opinion is that ...
Acquiring some feedback from the group (e.g., IESG) before saying something is recommended. Example: here are my slides for the upcoming presentation.
There are situations where it is not possible to acquire feedback beforehand (reporters, panel discussions, questions from the audience). Use your judgment. Categorising what you say according to items 2 through 4 above may be useful.
Use judgment when participating in any statements from groups that you are a member of. Example: I* statements.
Note: There are a number of pitfalls here. First, statements get interpreted in surprising ways, so even a factual statement can create other perceptions. Make sure you know what the likely perceptions and interpretations will be. Second, peer and timing pressure may create a feeling that there is a need to participate some activity, but you should judge the situation. Third, even informal discussion in private e-mail can and sometimes has come to public light. Be careful what you say in any communication situation - avoid saying things that you would have trouble seeing printed on the New York Times next day
If you need to talk about a topic where you are not the primary responsible IETF person, coordinate with the one who is. Example: Check with the relevant WG chair/responsible AD, or check with IETF/IAB chairs about ongoing negotiations or IETF-wide matters.
If you know in advance that you will need to speak to the media, it is advisable to get media training, commonly available for senior employees from your employers.
Any statement that's made public is likely to be misinterpreted by some, and any statement made to the press is likely to be misquoted, badly summarized, and/or taken out of context... so craft what you say carefully, and be especially watchful of a statement that depends too much on the rest of the context, and that might seem inflammatory if taken by itself. Determine what the message is that you want to convey, and stick to that without feeling the pressure to answer all questions that may be asked.
IETF and IAB chairs have found it useful to summarise to their boards or to the IETF lists what they have said in some public context. For instance, what they said to reporters in an interview. This helps transparency, and can provide a more direct source for the IETF community on what was said. (One way of providing this transparency is also to run interviews based on already developed opinions that were previously posted to the community.) This practice is recommended.
If you are approached (in person or online) to speak to the media about an IETF issue, you should never feel compelled to respond immediately and can refer inquiries to: email@example.com. (Email to that address gets responses w/in 24 hours.) Experienced reporters understand that requests are often routed through media relations personnel for coordination.
If there is a media opportunity the warrants immediate reply, you are encouraged to send email after the fact to firstname.lastname@example.org with the person’s name, the publication or outlet, the general topics of conversation and any issues or concerns raised by the interaction. That will allow monitoring for publication, and follow-up in case any elaboration, clarification or correction is warranted.
If you are consistently speaking to the media, or have advance notice that you will likely be speaking to the media about issues related to the IETF, it is advisable to get media training, commonly available for senior employees from your employers. You are also encouraged to contact email@example.com to inquire about options for this.