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Casper the Ghost would be a great PR pro: He’s Transparent!

January 26, 2009

I was chatting with some people last week about transparency, and what type of people we add on certain social networks – for LinkedIn, professional contacts, for Facebook, some tend to leave it more personal because of pictures that might be posted, things friends might write, etc. 

Here’s my take: Shouldn’t it be the same across the board?

Paul Matson, a PR senior student, put it best to me: “If anything, I think Facebook should be an asset to someone’s reputation.”

When things are private, people jump to all sorts of conclusions. That’s just how our society is – and in a field such as public relations, shouldn’t we be open and communicate with each other? I mean, the fact that I list one of my favorite movies as Tombstone always sparks conversation with members, or when I worked with agency, clients. It made them feel more at ease because I wasn’t just a PR person putting on a show for them. Why not make you’re about me something related to PR? “Being in the field of PR has transpired into my personal life because I like meeting new people, and getting to know their story” is a great way to show someone how passionate you are about this field. A friend has a great quote under her favorite quotes: “If I was down to my last dollar, I’d spend it on PR.” -Bill Gates. Right there is another great example of making your Facebook profile an asset to who you are.

Also, your interests show the type of person you are. If you have current events as an interest, a client will know that you like to keep up with the news, and there is a starting point in a conversation if you are talking about clips and coverage.  

Do we really want to be the PR people that are always stereotyped: The one that puts on the fake act and “spins” at all means necessary? If you show that certain level of transparency, I am certain that the trust will be there much easier than it would if you came off fake. Embrace who you are – those are your strengths. Use those strengths in your professional life. People ask me all the time why I have such an easy time communicating and making people feel at ease – it’s simple. Be yourself and open. For associations, it’s a great way to make the line between the National office and local chapters work together, because they know they can relate to you in some way. You’re being real.

Once you enter the professional world and leave college, clean up your facebook profile. You’ve grown up and interests have changed. If they haven’t, you aren’t ready for the real world. 

So, let’s get real and transparent.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. January 26, 2009 2:03 pm

    Lauren –

    Thanks for a well written and thought out post! I couldn’t agree with you more about “tranparency”…within social media and as a PR professional. Although certainly a novice, I continue to advise others when entering the social media space to be themselves as these platforms will amplify your personality. I suppose if you’re a jerk…you’ll be a bigger jerk within social media:).

    Saddly, I’ve come across many companies that won’t allow their employees to “friend” or “follow” their clients. Although many are entry-level weighted organizations, I still think transparency is the best route to take with clients & especially the media.

    Thanks for your post & I look forward to reading many more!

    -Matt

  2. January 26, 2009 2:05 pm

    This is a really good point Lauren. I tend to keep my Facebook friends a little bit closer to the vest. It’s not that I have any embarrassing photos or friends (and frankly, I have no shame), so I’m not sure why. It might be that more of my longtime friends are on it, and I want to spare them all the other noise. Good food for thought…

  3. January 26, 2009 2:20 pm

    “Once you enter the professional world and leave college, clean up your facebook profile. You’ve grown up and interests have changed. If they haven’t, you aren’t ready for the real world. ”

    You’re absolutely right. I’ve noticed that some of my friends have changed their name on Facebook to FirstName MiddleName and eliminated their last name. What good does that do? You will still come up in a search for your full name and that tells potential employers that you have something to hide.

    Tom O’Keefe
    @tomokeefe1

  4. January 26, 2009 2:35 pm

    I think there’s a fine line between transparency and too much information.

    I agree that your “self” should always come through, but at times it’s easier said than done if you’re an employee. Some brands have very specific ways that they allow their people to portray themselves online – others are more open.

    In an ideal world we’d all be happy to just “let it all hang out” – sadly, it’s not an ideal world. Not yet, anyway… 😉

  5. January 28, 2009 5:58 am

    After the follow I had to poke around a bit. This is a great post. I think a level of transparency is certainly more worthy of trust.

    I try to be who I am (highly opinionated) while frosting in (you have me thinking cupcakes) a certain amount of political correctness that I choose to follow.

    If I abide by a code of that nature, I never really worry about the fine line of “too much information.”

  6. January 28, 2009 1:14 pm

    Packerslounge,

    That is the perfect analogy. You don’t have to change completely who you are, because people tend to adopt a “dinner party” attitude when they do that. It’s not real, and you will have a hard time having conversation with clients, members or even just random people.

    Lauren

  7. January 28, 2009 1:18 pm

    Hey Matt,

    Great point about entry level people not being able to follow clients. I think senior management feels uneasy about it, because a.) they might not understand social media and b.) they spend sometimes years building relationships, and most of the time it takes a 20 something entry level very little time to build a relationship. People give Gen Y a hard time, but I think the way our parents raised us, we tend to be much more of a conversationallist.

    Tom – Great point about people changing their names. I think some people underestimate the smarts of their employers – just because they might be “older” doesn’t mean they don’t know the tools of the trade.

    Danny – That is the other side of the argument that I can completely respect and agree with at some level. Thank you for the fresh perspective – I think we sometimes can fall prey to the corporate brand, and I just keep having visuals of fembots because of that.

  8. February 1, 2009 3:40 am

    Lauren,

    I struggle with this, and right now my Facebook profile is pretty private. Part of it is because I really want it to be a place where I connect with my actual friends, and not just casual or random acquaintances that I don’t know very well. I feel awkward about people I haven’t seen in 15 years “friending” me – I haven’t stayed in touch and don’t really feel the need to start just because Facebook came along!

    I feel like I can use my LinkedIn profile and Twitter account to express my experiences, interests and personality, but that Facebook is a more intimate space that I’m not quite willing yet to open up to the world.

    @amymengel

  9. February 1, 2009 5:40 pm

    Amy,

    This is a great point, and something that I completely agree with on the other side of the “argument.” It’s something I struggled with when I first graduated – trying to find that balance between who I am, and the person I was in the professional world. After awhile, I knew they were the same person.

    Being in-house PR now, though, I know that I need to have a certain level of transparency, not only for our membership but to enhance the person I am in the office. Sure, it’s scary. But that balance of transparency and who you are will come to frutation in time. I promise.

    Great comment!

  10. August 7, 2009 8:30 am

    Hi Lauren,

    First – very insightful and very true. A lot of people feel this way. But, as you well know, I disagree 🙂

    I don’t have anything to hide, but I’ll tell you why my Facebook is private…in more detail than that was in my blog post on the use of Facebook.

    I’ve been on Facebook since 2004 and I lived my entire college life on it…literally. There are a lot of pictures of my sorority sisters and I, good friends, family etc., Things that are meant for those people and no one else. There are “notes” on our lives, “groups” on geeky quirks … and maybe just a tad too much “Harry Potter indulgence” on there as well…to my friends, and people who know me – well, that’s just Sasha. To anyone else, first reaction – wow, she’s a Potterhead, likes pink …maybe she’s a little out there…

    I was never, and still am not, the type of wild, party girl – so it’s not like I have anything like that on my Facebook. I don’t do drugs, never tried them and therefore, don’t have to worry about those types of photos either.

    However, I associate Facebook with my personal life, not my professional one. All of a sudden, when Facebook opened up to the entire world, I just couldn’t just make the switch. I also refused to make the switch. I wrote them and complained about the new layout, and how much I hated that it was opened up too.

    Imagine, being a part of a network, that was private, and personal and familiar…it was limited to people “just like you” – 18-24 at the start, mostly, all college students from across the same 15-30 schools. You couldn’t join without a legitimate “.edu” email address from a legitimate university on their “list.”

    Back in 2004 and even until early 2006 I had an open Facebook profile.

    I wasn’t scared of stalkers, I wasn’t scared of people seeing me w/ my family or friends. Nothing like that. Then Facebook opened to high school students and I started getting messages from 15 year-old boys telling me how hot I was etc., So I put up a privacy setting on my Facebook in order to combat the horny teenagers.

    Well, Facebook then opened to the entire world, and I received messages from people I didn’t know, people who only saw my photo and had access to my friends list, etc., The comments and messages were definitely more suggestive than the 15 year-old boys and at that point, I made the decision to cut it off at the knees. I completely hid my Facebook. I have a vanity URL, but it doesn’t work unless you are “friends” with me. I appear in the search results, but on the third page or later. You’ll likely see my other cousins first…if you can spell my last name properly.

    I don’t really have anyone on a Limited Profile either – because the people I’m FB “friends” with – well, I don’t care if they see pictures of my 2 year-old baby cousin, or a family photo, or me with my sorority sisters three years ago for Halloween etc., There is a certain level of trust there.

    That’s the thing – if you’ve been on Facebook as long as I have, and utilized it the way it was meant to be used – more so than likely, you would have changed over time too. Most of my friends have, actually.

    I believe in professional transparency, but I believe in personal privacy as well.

    I know cases of people who use their first and middle names only on Facebook, instead of a last name; this way potential recruiters, employers and college admissions counselors can’t find them. These are people who have been on Facebook since 2004 and 2005….like me. Most of those people, that I know, who do this too, as from University of Florida where I went to school for undergrad.

    It’s kind of like this, “been there, done that, now let’s move on and hold on to what it was” attitude.

    At some point we all just want a little ambiguity.

    🙂 Best wishes,
    Sasha

  11. August 7, 2009 8:35 am

    Great comment – but to your point, I’ve been on Facebook since 2004 as well. The only part that the North Texas Network/DFW Network can see is my profile information and my status updates.

    I never had any bad pictures on there, but I only want my friends have access to that. The posts to my wall shouldn’t be public either, or anyone’s concern from a professional standpoint. Are they bad? No. But everyone shouldn’t have access to my friends if my friends haven’t had a say in it. Information about me? Sure. What I’m doing? Sure. It’s just like making my Twitter public.

    Once I graduated, I realized a certain level of transparency is needed in my field. I cleaned my profile of goofy quotes that might have been relevant in college, but not so much anymore.

    Transparency isn’t giving all your information 100 percent out there. It’s selective, IMO. 🙂

    great points, as always, S.

  12. August 7, 2009 8:46 am

    Hey Lauren,

    I agree with you there. I too, cleaned up my profile of the goofy quotes, excessive applications etc.,

    But I still kept it private. That’s why my Twitter is public and my blog is too…I encourage people to connect with me that way. LinkedIn too – I don’t mind, I encourage that too.

    In terms of FB, I just can’t…not yet anyway.

    You’re definitely right about friends though – I mean, I can’t allow other people to have access to their photos without them saying ‘yes.’ Etc., That makes perfect sense.

    I don’t know…it’s just one of those things. Although, I am considering utilizing the “limited profile” feature.

    It’s funny, some people visit my page and they’re like “wow, 1400 friends sash?!” and then ask me if I’m sure it’s private. Haha, I assure you that it is. At least 1000 of those 1400 belong to the UF network…and we met while I was doing extracurriculars at Florida!

    Sx.

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