Being Your Own PR Person in the Online Era

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You have the degree. You have the skills and qualifications. Do you also have an online presence that will land (and keep) the job?

You may have worked with Fortune 500 companies, but you are always your most important client. After all – if you can’t represent yourself, others won’t want you to represent them.

Keep reading for five essential tips about being your own advocate in the digital age.

Remember: the Internet is a public place.

It sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised by how many people forget this. If you’d be embarrassed by strangers witnessing poor behavior in person, don’t post your crazy antics on YouTube. What may have garnered laughter from friends might not amuse the office, or even your clients. Keep this in mind for profile pictures, too. Your Facebook profile picture can be more personal, but shouldn’t incriminate you for doing something you wouldn’t bring up at the water cooler.

Don’t post too much.

Whether you’re in charge of your company’s social media, or seeking a PR job, posting too much can actually hurt you. Not only will firing status updates and links turn off those who already follow you, it’ll give the impression that you never leave the computer to do anything else. We all know people who share every single Foursquare check-in and camera phone picture, but you shouldn’t be one of them. Can’t disconnect? Try using a service like Last.fm. You’ll still be letting people know more about you, but invasive over-share won’t be an issue.

Don’t post too little.

You may have guessed by now that you must walk a fine line with your online updates. While you don’t want to post constantly, you don’t want to neglect your networks, either. Where incessant updates make people wonder if you ever leave the computer, infrequent updates make them wonder if you ever use it. Set a number of daily updates based on your follower size (or Klout score), and keep them appropriate and industry-relevant. Have trouble talking on the spot? Create a list of posts you can pull from. Don’t forget to lighten up and add a little humor now and then; nobody wants to work with a robot (well, most people don’t).

Be wary of the screenshot.

Simply put, the delete button isn’t as effective as you may think. Say you make a comment that you find witty and clever, but it’s received as horribly offensive by your audience. You start receiving fierce backlash, so you remove it from your profile. Unfortunately, it’s not gone forever. The right amount of negative attention will increase the likelihood of someone capturing your mistake with a screenshot. Take fashion designer Kenneth Cole’s PR disaster earlier this year, for example. A message intended to be a clever marketing tactic ended up launching a public attack on the designer’s social responsibility. Though the message is no longer on Kenneth Cole’s page, the screenshot lives on as evidence.

Skip the name change (and make sure you understand privacy settings).

It seems that the new trend for young professionals is to change their names on Facebook to something else – usually their first and middle names instead of their first and last names. Users think, “If my boss is searching for John Doe, and I’m listed as John Michael, they’ll never find me!” Unfortunately, most of these people use the same email address on their resumes for Facebook registration. A simple search by email address will uncover you, and inconsistencies with your name may lead others wondering what you’re trying to hide. By default, your privacy settings on Facebook are set to allow everyone see you (and your status updates in search results). Make sure you adjust your account to minimize unwanted attention.

There are mixed views on whether it’s fair to use social media as a professional assessment, but for safe measure it’s best to assume that your contacts are watching you. The old expression “better safe than sorry” couldn’t be more true in a time where all it takes is one click to create buzz.

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