For quite some time, I’ve been working on a family tree. As the family’s history buff, I was the logical choice and it’s been a lot of fun. For the longest time, I searched for a photograph of a Canadian Navy corvette that my father served on during World War II. It was a small ship that never did anything particularly noteworthy except go back and forth across the Atlantic… therefore no pictures.
A short time ago, I had another serious look on the Internet to see if a photo might now be available. I was excited to find a link to an aerial photo of the ship. I looked at the photo and was thrilled to be able to add it to the family history. There was a link to a second photo. It was taken in the mess of the ship, and it reminded me of my father’s description of what it had been like. A link to a third photo was available, and in fascination I followed the link and found a photo of my father having a coffee in the mess of a small ship on the North Atlantic in 1943. I was speechless and reflected on how different our lives had been.
What does this have to do with reputation management? We live in the Information Age…, a totally new paradigm. If you post a photo to Facebook, or make a political comment in a newspaper, you must assume that information is FOREVER available. If you choose to run for office someday, you can rest assured that your ill-advised comment from 10 years previously will be instantly available to researchers. That crazy night out in Daytona may seem funny in your last year of residency…, it won’t be nearly so amusing when you’re being considered for tenure.
We tend to not recommend Twitter to our clients. Twitter is a terrific social media tool, but it’s fraught with the danger of making a comment in the heat of the moment. It’s also terribly difficult to say anything of professional merit in 140 characters or less.
The bottom line is that the first step in reputation management on the web is to control and consider your own Internet presence very carefully. Do not write in anger, and if you want to express an opinion, consider whether it is an opinion that you will continue to hold.
You should have an Internet presence, and the more complete that presence is, the more likely that a searcher will come upon the information that you posted to the Net. Be certain that it reflects who you would like to be known as.
And here’s the picture. He’s the 3rd guy from the right.