If you have ever been through media training, one thing you come away with is the indisputable fact that nothing is ever “off the record.” You might request that it be, but that doesn’t mean that your audience, or your eavesdroppers, are compelled to comply with your wishes. “Off the record” has gone the way of the 3-martini lunch. We may not like it, but we have no choice but to deal with it.
It used to be that there was an identifiable media machine that determined what was communicated and what was withheld. They determined the news, and they made the rules. Those days are long gone. The advent of social media has democratized influence of individuals and taken away significant power from traditional media. In the digital world, off the record does not exist, and the record can never be erased.
What you say, write, post, share, like, or tweet is all recorded and available for public consumption, ad infinitum. As you think through the direction you wish to steer your career, it is important to be mindful of this. A simple, “off the cuff” comment can do immeasurable damage to your personal brand. At the same time, your social media activity can enhance, advance, and improve your brand as well.
Have a strategy.
It’s important to have a personal social media strategy. I don’t mean that you need to map out a formal tactical and strategic plan. What I mean is that you need to think about your end goal, and work back from there. If your end goal is to position yourself as an expert in your industry, you want to ensure that your social media activity supports that. Think about what social sites you want to be active on, and in which subgroups (as in the case of LinkedIn), and most importantly, you want to think—critically—about what you want to say. And by that, I don’t mean merely the words that you choose, but also what you want to communicate.
Once you have defined your strategy, stick to it. Resist the urge to get drawn into ugly battles of words online. Restrain yourself by focusing on the outcome you wish to achieve. Think before you click “post,” and evaluate whether or not what you’re posting will help improve your brand, or if it will detract from it.
The bottom line.
Assume that what you say or write is being memorialized, and proceed with care. Think about the context of your personal brand before you offer your opinions.