Episode 119: February 18, 2011
by Lisa B. Marshall and Whitney Punchak
Last year I was interviewing candidates for a public relations internship. Since it was public relations, I wanted to review how the candidates were representing themselves on the web. I discovered that several thousand websites had picked up on an article and photo that one particular candidate had submitted to her local paper. Normally, that would be a good thing, but in her case, it was a disaster.
Why You Need to Manage Your Online Presence
So, here’s the story. Cathy (not her real name) had visited Germany. When reviewing her photos, she noticed an odd image in one of them. It appeared as if there was a strange “mothman” flying in the sky. (Upon very careful inspection, it looked like a super blurry close-up image of an insect that just happened to be caught in the photo at exactly the right place to look like a “mothman”) At the urging of her uncle, who thought it was funny, she submitted the picture to her local paper, in a section called “What is this?”
The image and accompanying article also ran online and unfortunately, many of the UFO sighting website sites and paranormal forums picked up on the story and ran with it. She was quoted in the stories, at times, out of context. And let’s just say, the stories didn’t represent her well—especially since Cathy was studying public relations!
She was mortified when I told her what I had found (she had had no idea this had happened). In fact, she was so upset, that she proceeded to change her professional name so that she would no longer be associated with all those web posts. She changed her email, her online profiles, everything.
Since she was young, she could still do that. However, the moral of the story (and today’s quick and dirty tip) is—even if you aren’t actively participating in social media, your customers are, you prospective employers are, and your competition definitely is.
How to Manage Your Online Presence
Perhaps more importantly, it doesn’t matter if you are a student, small business owner, an educator, a project manager, retail worker, manager or c-level professional, today, all of us need to regularly and comprehensively review our web presence (including stuff that we didn’t create).
In addition, if you or your organization has been participating in social media, it’s an especially good idea to take a step back--at least four times a year (if not weekly or even daily) to see if you (or your company) are being represented the way you’d like to be represented.
In this two-part program we’ll discuss my social media review checklist to help you manage your online presence.
Online Presence Tip #1: Keep It Clean
First, is it clean? Are all of your posts G or PG rated? Don’t post derogatory comments, images of wild nights out, or anything that could harm your reputation. Basically, don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your boss or your mom to see. Oh, and don’t forget that you aren’t the only one with a mobile device. Someone else might take a snap when you’re unaware of it and post it. So you need to be regularly monitoring whether others are posting inappropriate images of you, your company, or your products.
Online Presence Tip #2: Mind your Spelling and Grammar
Have you checked and rechecked your spelling and grammar? There are few mistakes more embarrassing than simple spelling or grammar errors (especially if you’ve touted your excellent writing skills or careful attention to detail). Simple spelling and grammar errors can lead to a perception of incompetence.
Just this past week I was again interviewing an intern, this time for online marketing. She had pointed me to her blog. I found several spelling and grammar mistakes. I personally didn’t care, but many other people consider spelling and grammar mistakes a big deal and discount or even eliminate from the running those candidates who make these errors. So be sure you have your posts edited. And if English isn’t your first language (and your posts are in English), invest in professional editing services.
Online Presence Tip #3: Keep It Professional
Are your posts professional? Just this past week, I read a post from someone I know who is currently job searching. The post pointed out an injustice in her field of study and was more like a rant--and worse, she didn’t offer any alternative solutions to the problem.
I wrote her the following note:
“If I had been the hiring manager, I would have immediately dropped you from consideration. Not because you didn’t like what was happening, but because you didn’t offer a solution. I have no problem when someone says ‘this sucks’--but the next breath better be, ‘and here are two or three alternative approaches that might work better for the following supporting reasons.’ The idea is that an exceptional professional not only identifies things to improve but also offers creative, innovation solutions.”
Since she hadn’t asked for my feedback, I was happy that she took my note in the spirit it was intended -- to help her. She ultimately decided to update her post with some alternative suggestions. What’s the moral of the story? Always communicate professionally. Also, realize that sometimes it takes a set of fresh eyes to recognize the tone or impact of words.
So there you have it, the first 3 items on my social media review checklist. How did you do against the first three criteria? Is your professional work PG or G rated? Have you had your grammar and spelling checked by another person? Are you always professional in your posts? Are you certain? Come back next time to hear the rest of my online presence checklist.
This is, The Public Speaker, Lisa B. Marshall, passionate about communication, your success is my business. Thanks to Whitney Punchak for helping to write this one. (And just to be very clear, “Cathy” is not Whitney.)
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