Last month a top EU court ruled that Google must amend some search results at the request of people in a test case of the "right to be forgotten". In 2012 the European Commission proposed a law giving people the "right to be forgotten” online. It would require search engines to edit some searches to make them compliant with the European directive on the protection of personal data. In its ruling, a Luxembourg Court said people had the right to request that information be removed if it appeared to be "inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant".
Of course the question for debate will always be what defines ‘inadequate, irrelevant or no longer relevant’.
So while the debate on search engines being ‘censored’ rages on, take a moment to consider how you can take best care of your online reputation.
Four ways to protect your online presence when job hunting
Who are you in the virtual world? Even the most modest amongst us will probably admit to Googling ourselves from time to time. If you are a John Clark or a Sarah Smith you are perhaps disappointed when 58,800 results pop up, none of them resembling you. But how important is the online profile of school leaders, their staff and pupils. This ‘can of worms’ is certainly worth considering when entering the job market.
Gone are the days of your CV being the extent of your representations. Governors and recruitment agencies will undertake extensive reviews of candidates’ online information. So your CV might well look good but how about your online reputation?
1. Social Media - Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all rank highly in Google searches:
Beware the pitfalls of a CV that does not match your LinkedIn page. When entering the job market ensure your information is up to date, accurate and professional.
Don’t fail to lock down your Facebook account appropriately, where your comedy selfies, family beach snaps and potentially inappropriate friends’ comments could be on display. If you are not sure how to, ask a teenager. Be aware of the companies or pages that you ‘like’ as your image will often be viewed on those companies homepages.
If you are a keen Tweeter, either in your professional or private life, consider carefully your comments. Perhaps a diligent marketing manager might be busy Tweeting on your behalf, so ensure that they really are talking the talk that you desire.
If a picture tells a 1000 words, then consider the power of film online. Be diligent with YouTube videos and even your professional school clips. They will be under scrutiny.
2. Tomorrow’s fish and chip paper? – Local and national press
No, not any more. The quotes you have given newspapers for articles, will also all be online on the newspapers’ websites. More increasingly, reporters will also ask for the opportunity to make a short video for your film quote. If you are keen to appear, ask for the questions beforehand for time to prepare your comment.
3. The world of comments, blogs and ratings – keep an eye on your school’s profile online
Some school advice websites are now giving parents that chance to review schools. Keep an eye (or ask your marketing manager to), on these types of sites. Beware the parent with an axe to grind. Deal directly with any complaints or negative comments by offering a private opportunity for a resolution, where possible avoid entering a debate online. Devise a 'response tree' to help the SLT or SMT to decide when to respond and how to. A scale of response is best, ranging from minor comments which could be best ignored to serious ones which need a considered approach and response.
4. Known for the wrong reasons? – how to better your reputation through PR
If there is a story online that you feel misrepresents you, raise this with your recruitment agency representative so that there are no surprises further along the interview process. Furthermore, remember that the best way to manage your online reputation is by generating positive search results that will rank as highly as possible in a search and so send anything negative down the list of Google’s search results. Writing articles for the sector or contributing to online debates is a positive way to enhance your online reputation.
Online living, be it during work or socially, needs to be carefully monitored for all those leading a professional life. For most school leaders they are rarely off duty, they live and breathe their communities. The internet still remains a wonderful platform for the promotion of our schools, providing countless opportunities for our communities and for championing education. So to that end, it isn’t all bad news. For school leaders embarking on the journey of securing a new position, this issue of managing personal PR, both on and off-line, is increasingly significant.