Manage your online reputation

I’ve only just got around to the Crowdsourcing request to provide my thoughts on what digital natives (ie those brought up in an online world) should do – or not do – in respect of their online reputation management.

There’s already a lot of good advice from others tagged to provide their views – and as Podcamp Boston (the stimulus for the request) takes place today, I’m a bit late with my two-pennies worth.

But, it is a good topic to consider – especially for those starting out on their careers in PR, who haven’t yet thought about how much digital dirt they’ve accumulated and increasingly the role of an online footprint when job hunting etc.  So, my 3 pieces of advice are:

1. Create a (resumé ) – I posted on this in April and still believe it is something that has not been given sufficient focus.  Rather than relying on your profile in social networking sites or elsewhere to present yourself, a dedicated home profile would be a more professional approach.  This can, of course, offer links to other places that you “live” online – which you need to ensure are suitable for public viewing (by that I mean by potential and existing employers).

2. Treat yourself as a PR client – linking back to a post from May on creating ““, I recommend undertaking a personal SWOT analysis and managing yourself as a “brand“.  One idea is to establish personal “brand icons” – aspects of our personality, behaviour or interests that act as symbols to our personal identity and enable us to stand out from others.

3. Manage your network – take care in respect of the connections you have online.  Are you proud to be associated with everyone who is a friend in Facebook or who appears in a Flickr photograph with you?  We are often judged by the company we keep, so you should ensure that you are in good company.  This doesn’t mean being superficial in trying to look well connected, but about carefully cultivating good relationships – on and offline.  The “little black book” is still a vital accessory to any competent PR practitioner.  Also seeking out effective mentors who can give you good counsel is a key skill.  Ensure anyone who has ever met you will view the encounter positively – and enhance your word of mouth credibility.  Be a good contact, generous in your support and grateful for advice.

Even though being online is a lot of fun, we do need to take care of the trail we leave behind us.  Rather than this being something that will come back and haunt us at some point, we should view a digital reputation as an asset to be nurtured, a way of ensuring we are easy to locate online and something that presents a positive impression.

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Heather Yaxley

Heather Yaxley is passionate about PR - teaching the CIPR qualifications, lecturing part-time at Bournemouth University and running the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA). I'm undertaking a PhD looking at Career Strategies in PR. I love sharing ideas and knowledge - connecting news and views by blogging on public relations and educational developments, especially relating to accelerated and active learning. I'm also a published author, qualified trainer and experienced consultant.

14 thoughts on “Manage your online reputation”

  1. Heather, I’ve been planning on commenting on Catherine Arrow’s most recent post on PR Conversations, “Where next for professional associations?” (Toni got a comment in ahead of me, which covered off some things I’d been mulling over, so now I’m rethinking the direction.)

    As you know, one of the areas Cathy explored was whether social networking platforms were replacing the need for a formal public relations-dedicated association membership. I’m (hopefully) going to come back with a comment about the value (or not) of membership from a different perspective (value in the marketplace, not so much value to the individual), but in the process I started thinking about whether there was a more formal, career use for social media.

    LinkedIn is one obvious example of cultivating an ongoing, online CV. It also demonstrates to anyone interested the size and variety of your circle of colleagues/acquaintances, presumably mainly related to your career or defining interests. I doubt there are many individuals who include questionable (or thoughtless) material on their LinkedIn profile. Or with whom they link up, for that matter. So, LinkedIn may not be terribly exciting, but I think it serves as a useful and credible platform to manage (nay, shape) your online reputation.

    So, back to the PR Conversations post. I was thinking that almost anybody who belongs to a professional or trade/industry association *would* include that information on their paper/electronic CV and presumably their LinkedIn or other business-oriented online profiles.

    Now how about a social networking platform like Facebook? Are any active users now incorporating their social media affiliations into their formal CV? If yes, what information does it include–numbers/types of friends, which Facebook groups they belong to, how using it has lent itself to business networking, not just socializing, etc.?

    It might have possibilities, particularly for a company that bases most of its business on the Internet, or is in technology or is a start-up, etc.

    Then, again, as more and more mid- to large-sized companies attempt to define employee-usage policies (both office hours and after-work) of social networking platforms, potential new hires applying to a company that has limited or banned SM usage may actually find themselves at a disadvantage if they make it known at the front end that social networking is an integral part of their daily life.

    That’s a form of online reputation management, too, don’t you think? Knowing whether indicating where, when and how much time you spend in various online environments is going to help or hinder your career and online reputation.

  2. Judy – I think there is some merit in using LinkedIn, although I have to say that I’ve never found it interesting enough my profile there to develop as an online resource. Wouldn’t it also require those who are looking for more info to be LinkedIn too.

    As you say, you can’t imagine anyone sensibly detailing their Facebook connections on a job application – although there do seem to be some people who feel it is important to be seen to be on Facebook.

    PR Week in UK recently ran a feature on who has Facebook friends in the PR world. It all seemed a bit desperate to me.

  3. I’ve been on LinkedIn for close to five years, so I’m not sure how much information is accessible to people who aren’t in there. I was under the impression that your public profile and the size (if not the names) of your network was visible to all.

    LinkedIn also inquires periodically (on the site) as to whether I know such-and-such individual, and whether I’d like to hook up. It’s quite innocuous, on the right sidebar. And the names offered up do change, or at least rotate. I actually did send an invite to someone recently as a result of the prompt, as we both work in the same sector (associations) and have had casual correspondence in the past.

    LinkedIn is as little or as much of you make of it. I know several people who find the “Q&A from your network” section quite useful, either as a participant or as a reader. It is a fairly passive platform, but as you indicate, that level of commitment suits me more than a “desperate” quest for Facebook friends.

  4. Can I add a legal slant?

    DO:
    1) Speak your mind, clearly and confidently; the exchange of ideas is what makes this entire endeavour exciting.
    2) Choose where you speak. Don’t go to the “Save the Seals” blog (to borrow an example from above) and talk about clubbing them. Deliberate confrontations are unnecessary and lead to unfruitful conflict.
    3) Use your real identity wherever possible. It keeps you honest, and achieves the ultimate goal of relationship-building.

    DO NOT:
    1) Libel individuals, especially with information you cannot independently corroborate. Ad hominem attacks are distasteful, but they can also result in suits.
    2) Spread hate speech. This may also be precluded by law under legislation currently under review. But beyond that, it’s simply an anti-social approach to dialogue. Temper your critiques by creating a deeper and more nuanced perspective of groups or beliefs you disagree with.
    3) Plagiarize. Provide attributions for ideas wherever possible, and at the very least, hyperlink to them. Direct quotes should always be sourced. There’s no point in developing a fraudulent reputation for originality.

  5. nice tips…
    i like your post and i like what judi post to specially
    “Now how about a social networking platform like Facebook? Are any active users now incorporating their social media affiliations into their formal CV?”

    because facebook is a good place for a start… is easy to use, simple, and easy to promote….
    BTW easy to index in google… hehehe

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