Guest blog entry: Managing your online image in a world where embarrassment trumps substance

Goff PublicHello everyone!  Today’s blog entry comes courtesy of my friends at Goff Public out of Minnesota.  They gave a fantastic presentation some months back, and I appreciate their willingness to do an entry.  It’s a great one too.  Read on!


Goff Public recently had the pleasure of presenting a session about online image management to a group of about 150 legislators and legislative staff from across the country at the National Council of State Legislators summit in Minneapolis.

The level of engagement we received during and after the presentation made it clear to us that online image management among public officials is increasingly on people’s radars. With websites like Politwoops capturing every tweet a politician has ever deleted, the WayBackMachine allowing users to view how websites used to look, and public officials’ online slip-ups increasingly used in negative campaigning and by the news media, online image management is as important as it has ever been.

The falling standards of journalism provide even more reason to be vigilant. (See a former congresswoman being cut off in favor of breaking news on Justin Bieber.) It has become clear: Embarrassment trumps substance in today’s media environment.

Top 10 ways to manage your online image

  1. Develop goals for your online image

The first step is to define success.  Decide the goals you want your online image to achieve, focusing on accuracy and positivity.

  1. Conduct a comprehensive online image audit

Scour the Internet – including Google searches, news websites, official legislative sites, campaign sites, social media platforms, and the all-important Wikipedia – to thoroughly understand the status of your current online image.

  1. Measure your presence against your goals

Does your online presence reflect your goals? Is the information about you online current, accurate, positive, and not embarrassing?

  1. Mitigate and rebuild

If your online image is not what you want it to be, mitigate the damage and rebuild. Change the items that are within your control by building relationships with reporters to help influence future content, discussing social media strategy and standards with your staff, and setting up Google or TalkWalker alerts for yourself. The most important thing you can do to rebuild and redefine your image is to start creating the type of content that you want your image to reflect.

  1. Think before you act

Do not tweet/post/speak/act when you are angry. Do not post anything after midnight – the majority of your audience is sleeping at that time, and you will probably calm down after a night’s rest. Also, alcohol and Twitter do not mix. Always ask yourself:  Does what I’m about to write support my core messages, and does it advance my goals? If the answer is no, don’t do it.

  1. Get active

The most important way to build an online image is to be active online. Develop a social media calendar and post regular, relevant and charismatic updates. The most effective posts make people chuckle or feel relatable.

  1. Manage your time wisely

There is a place for extensive policy debate, and Twitter is usually not that place. Always be aware of your return on investment. Are you getting enough value out of your social media presence to justify the time you are spending on it?

  1. When you are in public, assume you are being recorded

Legislators are so often surrounded by cameras that they sometimes forget. Floor sessions are often recorded, opposition trackers are at many media events, and of course nearly everyone has a smartphone. So, when you are in public, assume you are on camera and act accordingly.

  1. Keep your audience in mind

Your constituents are your top priority. E-mail responses to constituents – even responses to e-mail blasts – should be in your own voice and incorporate your core messages.

  1. Utilize the Internet as an opportunity

Remember 15 years ago when the only way to get your messages out was to purchase an advertisement or try to get your name in a news story?  The advent of the Internet and everything it brought with it has created an endless array of platforms from which you can broadcast your messages instantly. It is a powerful tool; use it wisely.

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