Managing your “Visibility” – A Lesson in Privacy

It’s a strange day when we as webpreneurs have to consider our privacy philosophies.

Certain professions have always had to deal with the “invasion of privacy” aspects of their jobs: politicians, actors, autors, big time business people etc. But they had time, usually, to develop their philosophies. Few actors made it big in their first movie. Few politicians’ first jobs were POTUS right out of the box. So they had time to develop a philsophy or methodology for how they would orchestrate their personal and public lives – and just how much they would allow those lives to blur.

I grew up in a town of less than 10,000 people. Everyone knew everyone — both good and bad – and we all knew each other’s business — again both good and bad.  If the local business man did something out of character: said something at the church barbecue, got into an argument with a customer, pulled over by the police – we all knew because it was “out of character” for who  he/she was.

In marketing terms, we would use the word “brand” here – what was happening in the person’s personal life was not congruent with the “brand” of who we knew that person to be as a business person.

Fast forward 30-40 years. Today, that same small town “branding” that invariably happens — good or bad — now happens all the time on the web and at the speed of light.

Today, the privacy boundary lines are much harder to keep clear, and the opportunity to develop a philsophy has shrunk. As many high school students and graduating college seniors are finding out – they’ve been building their “brands” online for a long time and not even realizing it – and are now paying the price of employers thinking twice about hiring them based on what they are seeing on Facebook.

Branding isn’t just a fancy corporate marketing exercise, as many think. It’s a marketing function based on the firm’s (or person’s) CORE VALUES of who that firm is, who it wants to be and how it wants to be seen in the market place.

So examining WHO YOU ARE, is critical. How would you want people to describe you? Then how do those words manifest themselves in what kinds of actions that you can take on the web? And then how much of your personal life, that exhibits those characteristics, do you WANT to share? The fluidity between work and life, family and pubic is also tough. How to walk that line between people knowing who you are (being able to relate to you) and yet keeping some boundaries, is a challenge.

For example, early in my college teaching career I had both my kids. My students, who knew I was also doing my doctorate at the time, now also got to see me wrestle with impending family life (along with my expanding girth).

I was embarrassed. I had, as a corporate professional, always drawn a very heavy iron curtain between work and life. Now – I had no choice – my students knew I had babies at home, was doing my own homework, and juggling a job.  At work, those outside “distractions” would have been massive liabilities that could be used against me in later career moves.

But an old university professor /department chair pulled me aside.  She said “Don’t you get it? Half of your classroom is made up of young women. Young women who are asking themselves the question “Can I have it all?” They’re watching YOU — the only young faculty member they might have – and watching you juggle it. They want to know YOU – how you do it – what your struggles are, how you be a mom and a great teacher all  at the same time. They want to see someone else can do it because so many of them have been told it can’t be done.”

So, while I do draw a line; I do not share absolutely everything going on in every moment of my life; and while my Facebook and Twitter photos DO show my kids – it’s the classic studio shot I’ve also used on Christmas cards or displayed in my office for about 4 years. Rarely do I ever post ANY other photos of me or the kids at all.

But I’ve also learned to at least take a step back and ask “Is my discomfort for sharing and getting “too personal” an opportunity to teach or share?” People learn from people – human beings they can relate to. Social media has exploded into an internet wild fire because, for all our independence, we’re all still a bunch of individuals craving connection, needing support, and the reassurance that “it’s not just me.”

Action Steps: Develop your own privacy philosophy

  • Consider your own personal boundaries – how much do you want to share? If you have family or friends you might be sharing about, discuss your ideas about your privacy philosophy.
  • What characteristics would you like to have associated with you or your business? Are there examples or situations where stories from your personal life might help illustrate those? How do you feel about that?

There you  have it. Class dismissed. No homework but the initiative you take to take Connie’s amazing guidelines and implement them. The only grades left in life – the number of 0’s on your paychecks and the support from your family and friends. 😉


Category: Branding, Self Promotion

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