Blogs  / April 11, 2016

5 Tips for Taking Ownership of Your Online Persona

by Rebekah Iliff

We’ve already discussed headshot no-nos, and given our field, I’m guessing you’re well aware of the power of positive and negative publicity. But are you applying your PR and communications smarts to your own personal brand, in addition to those of your clients?

2014-Deirdre PicTo take a deep dive into the importance of owning your online reputation, I interviewed author, speaker, and CEO of Pure Performance Communications Deirdre Breakenridge to compile a list of tips and considerations for maintaining and monitoring your online persona.

Although, this may seem rudimentary for some of you, these guidelines could be the reminders you need to keep your web words buttoned up and your good reputation locked down. Deirdre shares, “When it comes to your online commentary, you want the right mixture of authenticity and polish.” Let’s see what else she has to say.

#1 – When it comes to sharing: if in doubt, don’t.

Take the grandma test or the billboard test. If your grandmother would be embarrassed by something you’re sharing, or if you’d be mortified to see that comment in big, bold letters on a billboard above the highway by your home, hold your horses.

Deirdre advises, “We all have a digital footprint and we add to it every time we share a video or comment on something online.” Think about the responses you’re soliciting and how others may perceive your words.

#2 – Monitor your mentions.

Since your digital footprint is a compilation of what you post or share and what others post or share about you, play a proactive role in your personal brand management. Deirdre comments, “You have this canvas where you can paint a picture of yourself and who you want to be. If you don’t care about personal branding, it’s like handing over that paintbrush.”

If you’re monitoring your mentions, then you’ll be able to see if something spins out of control and you’ll be able to veer conversations back onto the pathway of your choosing. Deirdre shares, “You can’t control everything that everyone says about you, but you can work to correct it if there is misinformation about you out there.”

#3 – If you mess up, take accountability.

If you mess up and post a photo of you sloppily taking shots of whiskey with a client or you post something inappropriately politically charged on a friend’s wall and it upsets them, take responsibility and fix it. Remove the photo, apologize if you’ve offended someone, and/or explain what you really meant but didn’t do a good job of articulating.

Deirdre adds, “When you take on a role, and whether your info is public or private, you might make a mistake and you’ll have to take accountability for it if you do. If you insult someone or if something comes out the wrong way, don’t be absent. Say that you’re sorry and address the situation. Be there to make it better.”

#4 – ‘Anonymous’ is no longer anonymous.

Buy every college student you know Erik Qualman’s book What Happens on Campus Stays on YouTube, which examines the implications of being a human amongst today’s digital landscape. Everyone from students to Periscoping retirees should have an understanding of what constitutes unlawful use of digital devices, including the reality that you can be held accountable for anything from threatening to cause injury to someone (even if communicated in a joking manner) to terroristic threats based on what’s been shared on social media.

Deirdre, whom is also a mom / stepmom of four college students, says, “There’s a reason why Qualman wrote that book. Many students think they can be anonymous on Yik Yak, but that’s not true. Even if you post something anonymously, it’s not anonymous and it can be traced.” (FYI: Last month, Yik Yak changed its anonymity settings to allow its users to connect more closely and genuinely.)

In addition, and despite popular belief, ephemeral content doesn’t disappear completely either. Deirdre adds, “Even on Snapchat, someone can take a screenshot of what you share. When you put it out there, there’s a way to tie it to you.”

#5 – Practice what you preach.

If you claim the title “Communications Professional” then you better practice what you preach. Your online communication style will be under a special kind of scrutiny give that you’re the one who is supposed to set the bar high. Deirdre says, “You have to make sure you’re doing what you’re advising your own executives and clients to do.” Simply put, sommeliers must know their wine.

Here are a few extra action items that will help you keep a watchful eye on your online persona:

  • Set up a Google Alert for your name.  
  • Google yourself every few months to review articles, images, and videos related to you.
  • Adjust your Facebook settings so that you must approve posts before they appear on our Timeline.
  • Secure all social media handles associated with your name even if you don’t plan on using them.  
  • Use Mention to monitor your personal brand. It lets you see what people are saying about you online and through social media, all in one place.

Deirdre adds, “When it comes to your personal brand, it’s not just who you are but who you want to be.” Add Deirdre’s latest book, Social Media and Public Relations: Eight New Practices for the PR Professional to your GoodReads and consider her the little angel on your shoulder the next time you’re tempted to tweet something (even sort of) mean.

Thanks, (author) Rebekah! Meet another bright mind behind the scenes at Onclusive…