On Your Permanent Record: The Importance of Managing Your Digital Legacy

When visiting the pristine Galapagos islands, the guides warn you to “Take nothing (but photos); leave nothing (but footprints).” It’s clear why: Photos will provide the memories; footprints will not make a permanent impact on the precious environment.

However, when it comes to your digital footprint — the impression you make with photos, postings, tweets, sharing, etc.– it is anything but fleeting.

In fact, The New York Times recently wrote about people’s digital after-life — a presence that lasts long after they’ve shuffled off their mortal coil.

Personally, we’ve had Facebook friends who’ve passed only to re-appear periodically on the “Reconnect with” rotation of the site. Often, the person’s Facebook page, Twitter feed or blog become a makeshift digital memorial for mourners to share memories and notes of sympathy for the loss. We’ve also stumbled upon links to wedding websites (replete with images and musings) for someone who, sadly, is no longer with us.

Disconcerting? Maybe, but this seeming life-after-death underscores the importance of how we manage our digital profile in the here and now. Here are some simple rules of thumb to make sure your life and legacy are well represented online:

1. Educate yourself. According to a poll by Mashable, over 45 percent of HR people are now actively reviewing candidates’ social media profiles prior to extending the offer. Having too small of a presence could be as detrimental as being over-exposed. Not all online opportunities are created equally.  Be clear about what you want to accomplish and the people with whom you want to connect to determine the right vehicles for your social media profile.  For example, some professions consider LinkedIn is the site of choice. For others, it may be more effective to be up and running on Twitter.   However, if being online is simply a way to find out what family and friends (or old flames) are up to, Facebook (or its more intimate upstart Path) tend to be the select sites du jour.

2. Edit yourself. Kanye West is a cautionary tale — the good things you say and do can often be obscured by flippant, nonsensical or plain ridiculous comments. Putting it in “real people” terms, think before hitting “post” or “send.” Equate your status to an expensive billboard in Times Square; don’t just throw any old thing up there. And, don’t just shoot out an off-the-cuff missive in the heat of a moment. A seemingly innocuous but snarky comment about your breakfast, work or a friend could have long-term effects on your career, relationships or reputation.


3. Check yourself. Whether you’re writing an email or an important document, we encourage people to employ the “second set of eyes” rule. By asking someone else to review a written missive for tone or typos, you can save yourself hours of stress or embarrassment. Or, if you don’t have an eagle-eye editor at your disposal, try hitting the pause button before sending. Draft the note or document and put it aside for a few hours — even a day. When you come back, read it out loud to ensure that it a) reads well and b) that your intention/tone comes across appropriately. If it does, it probably means that what you’re putting out into the digital realm is something that you’ll be okay representing you, even after you’re gone.

4. Protect yourself. While the trend towards collaboration and crowd-sourcing is commonplace, it is also important to make sure your ideas and information are protected. How do you know what’s already out there?  Run a search on yourself and keep alerts for when your name and likeness come up.  Moving forward, monitor your security settings on a regular basis, encrypt information that is particularly sensitive and be judicious about sharing highly detailed personal information (especially via location-based sites such as FourSquare, Yelp and Gowalla) online.

What do you want your digital legacy to be?  Share it with us here, on Facebook or on Twitter (@BestPublicist).

PREPARE FOR A MEETING LIKE YOU’RE PACKING FOR A TRIP

This week, half of the BYOBP duo heads off to fulfill a dream first conceived in 7th Grade Social Studies — to see the Galápagos Islands. Years of pining and planning now hinges on making sure everything that’s needed ends up in the suitcase (and with her on the plane, of course!).

Funny…going through the process mirrors something we learned from a mentor about prepping for an important meeting: Come packing. We wouldn’t dream of heading off to see the Puffins or Blue-Footed Boobies without the right equipment to record the trip or shield us from the elements. The same holds true for meetings: We make sure to come to the table armed with information, knowledge of the topic at hand and fresh ideas to move the conversation along and make our points effectively.

So, how can you make sure you come armed and ready for any meeting, large or small?

Know where you want to go.
It stands to reason: You can’t get to your destination if you don’t know where you want to go.  If you’re hosting the meeting, have an agenda.  There’s nothing we hate more than going to meetings with no agenda — they usually end up accomplishing nothing because no one knows what the end goal was before they arrived.  Being crystal clear about your goals can keep the conversation moving in the right direction.

Use your key messages as your guide.
Key messages are the GPS of your conversation. While you may not have that annoying woman (or, if you prefer, Daria or Darth Vader) commanding you to “TAKE A RIGHT IN 10 FEET,” having thought-out understanding of what you want to say will help prevent you from wandering into dangerous territory. We’re not suggesting that you be stilted; just map out some thoughts so you can speak in the most compelling way about your subject of choice.

Be prepared with options.
Anyone who has ever packed for a trip knows that it’s challenging to say the least. You want to bring the necessary items, but also want to include enough stuff to have some flexibility while away. When “packing” for meetings, be sure to keep a few alternatives or “work arounds” in your back pocket, just in case you need to switch it out mid-meeting. Try to anticipate negative feedback or stumbling blocks and draft some responses to have at the ready.

When it comes to meetings, how do you “pack it in” to prepare? Let us know at Facebook or Twitter (@BestPublicist).