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(Realistic) Personal Branding for Young Professionals: Social Media

In this digital age, it’s important to have a consistent, professional online presence. As a young person in the workforce, I know how prevalent social media use is. However, many people are unaware that an inappropriate post, tweet or photo online could get them in trouble or cost them a job. Especially in the public relations and journalism-related world (but also in most other fields of employment), use of social media is visible to an employer, colleagues and everyone else.

Especially because sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, blogs and other social websites are so commonly used by young people, it is absolutely necessary to be aware of what kind of image your social media accounts project. This impression, as well as how people perceive you, is your personal brand. Therefore, it is vital to present a professional and polished – but still personal and interesting – personal brand online. Cultivating your image can be difficult; it requires planning and restraint.

REMOVE PAST CONTENT

The first step to making your social media presence professional and consistent involves removing past content. If there are any Facebook posts about partying, tweets mocking a celebrity or Instagram photos of you looking particularly unprofessional, you should remove that content. You might even want to consider deleting an account entirely and starting a new one. Your goal is to only have visible content that you would be comfortable with a prospective employer seeing.

 

IDENTIFY YOUR FOCUS

The next step is to identify what type of content you want associated with yourself. Sometimes this means that you will focus on one topic. This is up to your personal preferences, but you may want to consider what your areas of interest are. For example, are you an expert on anything? Maybe you are particularly knowledgeable about eco-friendly technology, informed about local politics or passionate about your city’s culture. Choose a few areas of interest or expertise and create content on social media that is consistent with those topics. This does not mean that you must exclusively post about one topic, but if you have a focus your content will be more cohesive across all social media platforms, and your personal brand will be memorable.

 

FURTHER STEPS

Any social media content should follow common-sense rules of professionalism. Realistically, however, you also want to showcase your personality and maintain a balance between personal and professional content. This means that you can (and should) also post personal anecdotes, pictures and opinions as long as that content is not something an employer would be uncomfortable seeing.

To maintain that balance, you may want to consider setting up multiple social media accounts. For example, if you are a technology-related PR professional but you also want to post pictures of your dinner every day or of a wild weekend party on Instagram, create an additional account for that purpose. Create a username or url that doesn’t include identifying information and keep that account separate from any of your professional social media accounts.

Other important advice is fairly common-sense: always proofread your material before you post it, and try to make sure your content is relevant and timely. Additionally, don’t be afraid to promote yourself! Link to your Pinterest profile from your Facebook page, include your Twitter handle in your email signature and create a YouTube video that relates to a new blog post.

When you connect all your social media accounts and post related and good-quality material consistent with your chosen image, your personal brand will be professional and memorable.

 

 

ADDITIONAL READING

These articles from Forbes – one that focuses on offline tactics and one with a digital emphasis – are relevant. For more information about using specific sites and other methods such as business cards, read this article from Mashable.

 
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Posted by on August 10, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

UO Portfolio Review Process

My last few terms at the University of Oregon were very busy, and I would like to share a short blog I wrote for my public relations capstone class. This class, the final course in my major sequence, culminated in a portfolio presentation. Each student created a professional portfolio filled with diverse pieces they had crafted, then presented this portfolio in a very formal manner to a panel of public relations professionals. This process was meant to give us presentation and interview experience, as well as providing the opportunity to get valuable feedback from professionals in the field.

The short blog I created details the weeks leading up to my portfolio review and includes advice to students who will go through the process in the future. A link to the blog is posted below, and I hope it may be a good resource to my peers who have questions about professional portfolios or the presentation process.

http://prportfolioreview.wordpress.com/

 

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Posted by on August 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Employees Using Social Media: Threat or Opportunity?

Last term in my social media class, we were asked to write blog posts about an issue that interested us. I was assigned to post a blog entry during the unit on social media policies, and I researched the problems and benefits surrounding social media use by company employees. Because their work is such a large part of their everyday lives, many employees share information about their jobs or employers over social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook or their personal blogs. Due to the nature of the Internet, this information can be widely viewed.

It is true that social media use by employees can represent a potential threat if they expose company secrets or sensitive information, but I believe there can also be benefits of this social media use. These threats or opportunities will vary depending on the company, so it is important that each company or organization take the time to evaluate their employee social media use and make a set of social media guidelines for their workers. Below is the post I wrote for class, which was originally posted on the class blog.

 

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Let’s consider a situation where a company bans its employees from expressing opinions or sharing information online about their work. This could be a decision based on sensitive information, as previously seen in the U.S. Marine Corps, or simply due to concerns about employees posting unflattering or critical statements online.

It is true that a single tweet, blog post or status update about the employer or brand could potentially derail the goodwill the public feels toward an organization, but is it necessary to ban workers from talking about their organization?

I would argue that, in many situations, a worker participating in an online conversation about their employer would be an opportunity for the brand to grow and become more influential in an online setting.

Everyone has an equal chance to be influential in social media. This means an average employee, when interacting with peers online, could be seen as a trusted brand ambassador. This could be a great benefit, because it gives the public many more chances to interact with the company and gain information.

In fact, the “average” workers in the company may be even more influential than a CEO or communications director, because they are normal people and their opinions may be more trusted by the public.

However, it also means that more people are sharing their opinions, which are not always complimentary.

This is when the company needs to make a decision about its employees’ social media use and company-wide policies regarding that use. The following steps provide a general guide for the decision-making process and implementation of a social media policy:

1. Determine whether it is necessary to limit employee use of social media to talk about the organization. Is the industry sensitive in terms of privacy? Does employee freedom outweigh privacy concerns? Would it be beneficial to have employees interacting with potential customers in an online setting?

2. Make a set of guidelines regarding employee social media use. These should involve ethical considerations such as transparency, authenticity of information and honesty of opinion.

3. Ensure that employees know the rules. An excellent example of this step is the Victoria, Australia Department of Justice social media policy video. Check it out here!

4. Have a strategy in place to handle a difficult situation, in case a disgruntled employee defies the rules.

With the increased prevalence of social media, it is almost inevitable that organizations will have to deal with employees posting work-related information online. Where is the line between freedom and security? Is social media use by employees a threat or an opportunity? What do you think about these issues?

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Updates

Hello again, blogosphere!

I have a few updates from the summer. Although I did not update this blog during the summer vacation from school, rest assured that I am back in the swing of classes, and new posts will follow soon!

In June, I was contacted by a Ragan.com employee, who requested permission that my post on ethical corporate ghost tweeting be reprinted on the Ragan blog. Here is the resulting post on Ragan.com.

Additional thoughts on ghost tweeting

I encourage readers to look through the comments on the Ragan post; some of the commenters provide further insight into the ethics of ghost tweeting.

Over the summer I worked at a small telecommunications business. I had the opportunity to set up social media accounts (on Twitter and Facebook) for the company. When I set up the Twitter account, I had to explain to the company owner why full disclosure of tweets is necessary. I discussed with her the options, and recommended that her full name and title be included in the Twitter bio, since she planned to be the primary tweeter.

Although her full name and title would be ideal, she did not wish to include her last name or specific title. Therefore, I must concede that every situation is different.

Ultimately, she and I agreed it would be sufficient to include in the Twitter bio “tweets by Susan, owner.” This illustrates the difficulties some PR professionals must encounter in their work. There is a thin line between insisting on full disclosure from a boss and infringing on that boss’s authority.

I would like to revisit this issue in a future blog post.

Do my readers have any additional thoughts on ghost tweeting?

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Twitter as a Benefit to the PR Industry

Twitter has a bad reputation – many users post tweets about useless or overly personal information. However, Twitter is a useful public relations tool.

In PRSA’s Public Relations Journal, Angelica Evans, Jane Twomey and Scott Talan examine the importance of the microblogging site in their article, Twitter as a Public Relations Tool. The authors interviewed a dozen executive-level PR professionals to determine the value of Twitter as part of a social media strategy. I highly recommend that anyone with an interest in Twitter and PR read this article.

VALUE OF TWITTER

The Internet has become a main means for information flow. It has displaced newspapers and radio as a source for news. In addition, Twitter is increasingly used as a means to learn about and report breaking news. More than ever, people turn to Twitter for firsthand accounts of news, as well as reviews of items and opinions of brands.

According to the authors of the article, “The relationship between a firm and its client is very important, and the relationship between that client and its target publics is paramount.” Twitter encourages two-way conversations between an organization and its audience, which is a main goal of public relations.

INTERVIEW OF PR EXECUTIVES

While I recommend reading the entire article, I will summarize the key points.

The authors of the journal article interviewed a dozen public relations executives from PR firms and asked them three main questions:

1) What do public relations executives think about the current use of Twitter?

According to the authors of the article, “Industry leaders in public relations view Twitter as a valuable asset to their daily practice.” Twitter allows micro-targeting of messages to certain communities, facilitates one-on-one conversations with customers, and allows the PR practitioner to listen to conversations and engage the audience in conversation when necessary. All PR executives surveyed stated that Twitter is a valuable part of their daily practice.

However, there are negative aspects to Twitter. Due to the quantity of information posted to Twitter, it can be challenging to sift through the tweets to find relevant conversations. In addition, organizations must be willing to devote a good deal of staff time to maintain Twitter accounts.

2) How are public relations executives using Twitter in contemporary public relations campaigns, and what are the costs associated with the application?

Overwhelmingly, the public relations executives surveyed stated that Twitter is only successful when it is part of an overall communications strategy. Twitter should serve as one piece of a larger campaign. The main use of Twitter is to communicate with a key audience.

However, many of the executives surveyed noted a tension between the cost and benefit of Twitter in PR campaigns. As mentioned in the previous question, proper use of Twitter requires staff to spend time sifting through large numbers of tweets. Since it is difficult to determine the financial benefit of Twitter to a company, it can be complicated to justify paying employees to maintain the Twitter account, even though social media is a key part of a PR strategy.

3) What do public relations executives see as the future of Twitter in public relations in these campaigns?

Many of the PR executives agreed that microblogging is here to stay. Short, instant communications (exemplified by Twitter) will continue to be important. One professional added that Twitter is not “a one size fits all solution and there are some companies for whom it may not be as relevant, but any organization with a consumer face will likely adopt it.”

Twitter allows companies to create relationships with their customers and to interact with them in real-time. An added benefit of Twitter is that it offers an opportunity for media professionals to contact PR practitioners for story ideas and information. Twitter may be the only social media outlet that offers this benefit to the PR industry.

EVALUATION

The interview process revealed that Twitter is generally seen as a valuable public relations tool. What surprised me, personally, was the emphasis that Twitter should only be used as one part of a successful PR strategy.

Even though Twitter may not be the most vital tool at a PR practitioner’s disposal, the microblogging site provides many benefits to the PR industry. I am interested to see what other advantages will develop in the future.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Facebook Campaign: Milk-Bone

In my public relations class last week, we had the opportunity to watch and evaluate several videos of PR campaigns on Facebook. Facebook is an effective way to reach millions of consumers.

There is a great site called Facebook Studio that showcases campaigns from companies such as Skittles and Coca-Cola and shows how those companies used Facebook as a platform to implement unique campaigns.

 

 

MILK-BONE CAMPAIGN

One of the most exceptional Facebook campaigns was about Milk-Bone, a brand of dog treats that donates a percentage of its profits to train service dogs and place them with people who need assistance from service animals. The “It’s Good to Give” campaign from Milk-Bone used Facebook to share the story of a service dog named Noble. Through the Facebook fan page, fans were able to follow Noble as he grew from a puppy learning to walk on a leash to a fully trained service dog.

Milk-Bone posted pictures of Noble along with his progress as he grew and learned. Milk-Bone encouraged active participation and conversation among the audience, which soon became personally invested in Noble’s story.

This campaign was successful because it employed emotional appeal and encouraged active participation among its audience, while still maintaining focus on the brand.

The audience posted pictures and conversed on the “It’s Good to Give” Milk-Bone Facebook page during the Noble campaign.

EMOTIONAL APPEAL

Part of the reason this campaign was so successful is because Milk-Bone appealed to the audience on an emotional level. For many people, there are few things cuter than a puppy. Milk-Bone combined adorable puppy pictures with a feel-good story about helping humans. The audience became invested in Noble’s story on a personal level, and some felt that the dog was part of their own family.

ACTIVE PARTICIPATION

Another element that added to the success of the campaign is the active participation of the audience. Facebook users could “like” the page to earn special rewards for Noble. Many consumers used the page to share stories of their own pets or to converse with each other and build community. They became truly involved in Noble’s story.

Milk-Bone could have continued to simply post pictures on its Facebook page. Because the audience was so involved in Noble’s story, Milk-Bone harnessed that support and produced television commercials and a PBS documentary about the campaign.

FOCUS ON THE BRAND

The Facebook campaign maintained focus on the brand and its mission.

During PR campaigns, sometimes the audience loses sight of the brand. In this case, it would have been easy for consumers to focus on Noble and not realize that the point of the campaign was to increase the purchase of Milk-Bone products. However, I believe that Milk-Bone was able to emphasize the brand and connect it with the humanitarian cause of providing aid to humans. The Milk-Bone logo was prominent on the Facebook page and in many of the pictures.

EVALUATION

According to the Facebook Studio page, the “It’s Good to Give” Milk-Bone campaign featuring Noble earned 6.3 million impressions through its Facebook fan page and more than a billion media impressions. As a result of the campaign, donations, volunteer applications and service dog requests rose to record levels.

The Facebook campaign is still active now, and the audience can follow the stories of three young dogs, Grizzly, Star and Presley, as they are trained and placed with human companions. The Facebook fan page currently has approximately 162,000 fans.

This Facebook campaign is an excellent example of a successful social media strategy, and I hope that in the future we will see many more effective uses of Facebook like the Milk-Bone campaign.

 
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Posted by on May 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Corporate Ghost Tweeting: Is it Ethical?

Ghost tweeting is when the Twitter account of one person, such as the CEO of a company, is updated by another person, such as a public relations practitioner, under the guise of that first person. This is a common practice, since CEOs tend to be too busy to write their own speeches, blog posts and tweets. However, it raises a few questions: Is it ethical to ghost tweet for a CEO or company Twitter account without identifying yourself? To what extent should the author of the tweets be identified?

Should the author’s identity be disclosed?

I believe it is best for companies to be as transparent as possible. This includes identifying exactly who updates the corporate Twitter account or who tweets for the CEO. The audience deserves to know where the content comes from and what that person’s agenda is. Identification of a ghost tweeter may increase credibility of the company and trust between the corporation and its audience.

Furthermore, it is impossible to write something completely objectively. The author will always put some of his or her own bias into the writing. Even though the ghost tweeter may be completely familiar with the CEO’s point of view, the author has the power to choose how to phrase a statement and what information to include in a tweet.

How much information should be disclosed?

As an example, let’s consider the Twitter account of a company called SuperCompany. This example is hypothetical. SuperCompany does not exist  –  I made it up.

SuperCompany CEO Sally Smith is busy and does not have time to update her Twitter account. She enlists the help of the company’s PR department to manage the Twitter feed. From the PR professional’s standpoint, what would be the best description to write on the Twitter account homepage? We can agree that disclosure of identity is important on Twitter, but how far do we need to go?

Here are three options for the Twitter account description of SuperCompany:

  • Official Twitter account of SuperCompany CEO Sally Smith
  • Official Twitter account of SuperCompany CEO Sally Smith, written by employees
  • Official Twitter account of SuperCompany CEO Sally Smith, written by SuperCompany Public Relations Executive Tom Johnson

Which option would be best? The first option lacks full disclosure of identity, since it leads the audience to believe Smith manages her own tweets. The second acknowledges that Smith does not handle her Twitter stream, but does the description contain enough information to be considered sufficiently transparent?

The third option has the most information – it tells the audience not only that the account is not authored by Smith but also that Tom Johnson is the true author. Is this the best option, since it has the most information?

I believe that the third option is the only truly acceptable one. Twitter should be used to promote conversation between a company and its audience, and that audience deserves to know exactly whom they are conversing with. If the CEO does not write his or her own tweets, the identity and affiliation of the true author should be revealed.

An ethical gray area

Corporate ghost tweeting, the practice of leading the audience to falsely believe that a CEO authors his or her own tweets, falls under the gray area between ethical and unethical. While I believe ghost tweeting is misleading and therefore unethical, this is a complex issue that has many angles.

For more information about these ethical dilemmas, check out this post by Todd Defren from SHIFT Communications about tweeting under someone else’s name. Tom Woolf at Woolf Media provides more insight into the issue of ghost tweeting in this blog post.

What do you think, readers? If you managed the Twitter account for a corporation, would you insist on full disclosure of your identity, or would you be content to ghost tweet under the name of a CEO?

 
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Posted by on May 16, 2011 in Uncategorized