If I Google you, what will I find? Why you need to take ownership of your professional brand

I used to sit near a prominent executive recruiter who used to say about eight times a day to C-Suite jobseekers: if I Google you, what will I find?

He would often ask this before he asked about their employment history. One day, when curiosity got the better of me, I asked him why he did this and his answer was simple: I don’t want to be caught out.

Years before he had shortlisted a candidate for the top job of a national organisation. He had read the candidate’s CV, called his references, checked him out on LinkedIn and had multiple interviews with him.

He checked out. However, there was a catch.

The bored executive assistant to his client, while fixing the contract to place an offer, thought she would Google the candidate. She found newspaper articles which showed the candidate embroiled in a court case with a former employer for alleged fraud.

I’m sure you can guess what happened next and see why my former colleague would unapologetically lead with this pointed question. A question, I too now ask every new client.

Recently, we were asked to manage the media around the appointment of a new CEO. As we were preparing the media and internal communications around his appointment, we did our usual social media proof check, which we knew any journalist or staff member would do.

We found a poorly executed LinkedIn page, his bio on a few previous employer websites and the third listing – a site selling adult toys of the same name. This was not going to work.

Think I’m overreacting? Every time we pitch a client for a story to our media contacts, we can hear them typing the person’s name in to search engines before we have even finished the pitch.

They are checking them out, checking what stories have been written beforehand, looking at the client’s company website and getting a feel for the person via their online presence. I know I did this when I was working as a reporter.

The reality is decisions are made about you before people meet you. And it comes back to your social proof as a professional.

The fact is, if you don’t take control of your brand, someone else will and they might not have the same objectives as you.

So, what do you do? Here are the first steps to taking control of your brand:

  • Firstly, Google yourself. Go past the first page of results.
  • If you have a common name such as Sarah Morgan, type in key words associated to your profession or location.
  • Look at images. You need to be careful of what images are uploaded of you.
  • Stop using images which are 10 years old.
  • Check the privacy settings of your social media pages. Remember LinkedIn is for work, and the rest is personal. However, remember to use social media to your advantage not the other way around.
  • Don’t put anything in writing unless you’re happy to have it on the front page of The Australian.
  • Update your bio on your company’s website regularly.
  • Spend more time on LinkedIn. Claim your custom url, check your settings and look at what is public. Make sure your ‘About’ section is written in first person. Check your timeline aligns with your career history. Your LinkedIn page will often rank higher than your company profile page when Googled.
  • Own your own assets. Stop relying solely on earned platforms (external platforms such as media outlets). Ensure your tender profiles, website copy and capability statements are aligned. This includes everything connected to your name, including your phone’s voicemail message.
  • Write articles and get them published on your own platforms (website, LinkedIn publisher platform) and where possible on external websites. Be present within your industry – speak and attend events connected to your brand.
  • And lastly, now you are going to laugh, deliver on your promise.

A disgruntled customer, client or staff member will be the first to go to A Current Affair or slam you on social media, before they speak with you. Remember, the average consumer reads 10 online reviews before making a decision.

Now, this doesn’t just apply to you as a business leader, it applies to your company. A disgruntled staff member will quickly name and shame you (personally) on Glassdoor, Seek employer reviews etc.

I have had a few clients contact me to say we need to do something about our company profile as promising job candidates were dropping out of the race as soon as they got shortlisted. It turns out they had Googled the company and did not like the employer reviews or they had called around asking about the company and boss and didn’t like what they heard.

So, if I Google you, what will I find?

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