U. S. Professionals Are Being Deemed GUILTY BY ASSOCIATION

Business computer screen - online team

As a trend spotting Public Relations expert, I have spent the past decade educating professionals on everything from “How To Write A Press Release”, “Social PR” and “Basic Reach Management” and beyond.

The swiftly changing communications landscape has made it an exciting time for professionals in many ways and for many different reasons.

When I first started writing articles for the Real Estate Industry, they tended to cover basic communication techniques that used technology as the most effective delivery vehicle for a particular message.  As my confidence grew and my contact database expanded I started getting requests for quotes as a Social PR expert in various industry magazines and online news mediums.

This was an extremely exciting time for me as it gave me a level of confidence in myself that I had never experienced.  Granted, a lot of the self doubt I had was my was my way of protecting myself against criticism and discrimination. Remember, I had always been led to believe that my being gay would keep certain doors closed to me as I worked tirelessly to advance my career.  Boy was that WRONG!  I reached a point where I no longer cared what people thought of me and I found myself coming out of the closet for the second time in my life.

After the first profile was written about me by REAL Trends (whom at the time was the 3rd most influential media firm for the Real Estate Industry) I started getting phone calls from other industry professionals, even those working at competing firms.  While thrilled that I was being sought out as a contact and peer, it was at this point that I realized I should pay attention to whom I associate myself.  A bit snooty I’ll admit, but it would prove to be one of the best decisions I ever made….. professionally that is.  I say decision, yet I can’t recall putting much thought into it.  It simply seemed instinctive.

Shortly after my profile by REAL Trends, I was attending the yearly management conference for Dominion Homes Media (formerly known as Harmon Media Group) as Director of Trade Shows, Events and Promotions.  During the 4 day conference a number of very exciting things happened to me that showcased the relationships I had made professionally and the impact those relationships had on our entire industry.  For those of you that aren’t too familiar with base structuring of large marketing departments, my team was responsible for not only bringing attention to all of our individual products and brands (357 magazine titles, technology and advertising products etc.) but also showcasing the 14 Divisional Brands that represented the various companies, Harmon Homes, Homes.com, Advanced Access, Distinctive Homes etc., owned by Dominion Homes Media under a single umbrella brand…..DOMINION HOMES MEDIA.  This was no easy task and I relied on all of my contacts, team members and sales associates to make this happen.

The first exciting thing to happen was that during the Conference Key Note, the guest speaker, that whom I can’t recall his name now (which should be etched in my memory for life instead of the compliment he was about to deliver), stopped in the middle of his speech about brand recognition and asked whom was responsible for the new umbrella branding being represented across the country at industry conferences.  I was stunned at first and slowly raised my hand at this unprecedented call of attention to myself.  I mean, let’s face it, my job was to bring attention to and strengthen our companies brands.  It certainly wasn’t to be making a name for myself.  As I raised my hand I looked around the room at my peers, boss and upper management and every head was turned in my direction.  Obviously, even those in the company I didn’t really know were aware of who I was and what my role in the company was.  The speaker followed the gazes of those in the room until he reached me and proceeded to tell the group

“In my 20+ years of experience in this industry, I have never seen a more seamless and understandable branding campaign executed to the extent that you have accomplished.  You have set a new bar for excellence that all real estate brands should be striving to meet.”

The second thrilling occurrence at that conference was that during the Opening Night Reception, I was called over to a large group of company executives by Ernie Blood, the President of Dominion Homes Media at the time.  Now Ernie and I had been working together on basic brand strategy for a few months at this point, which irked my big boss Dave Mangold to no end.  I think Dave felt threatened by the direct access that Ernie had granted me.  But anyway, back to my point.  I was congratulated and had so many hands shoved at me that it became a whirl wind of “Way To Go’s”.  And in the midst of this someone asked “How have you made the high level media contacts that you have?” I simply replied, “by picking up the phone and calling them.”  Every single person in that group fell silent and became at a loss for words. What’s important here is that we had just entered the era of Web 2.0 and most people had yet to see the potential for access it granted.  Suddenly there were ways around the gate keepers that granted direct access to a multitude of professionals.

My point for telling you all of this is that whether you like it or not, people judge you by the company you keep.  This has always been the case in business for executives.  Now we are seeing this to be true for any level of professional.  I think every major media outlet has run a story in the past year or two about the information being compiled by social media sites and Apps.  In the beginning the general thought was that this information was be used for Advertising Targeting.  But it goes much further than that.

Since the debut of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ I have cautioned clients and friends about whom they follow or befriend on social media sites.  At first it was because you want to be sure that nothing will appear on your wall, timeline or news feed from another person that could end up being detrimental to you, your career or reputation.  Now an unexpected peruser of social media profiles has emerged….the Human Resources Rep.  Not only are they looking at what you post and how you may be representing past or current employers, but whom you have allowed yourself to be associated with.  Apparently, larger companies with bigger budgets can (or soon will be able to) even purchase profile breakdowns directly from Facebook and other social media sites.

Tip:  If you DO NOT want that information to be made available for purchase, YOU MUST have a private account on Facebook.  That is the only way you will be able to protect your right to privacy. 

All of a sudden the tables are turned and are again in the favor of the potential employer.  For years now HR Departments and potential new bosses have only been able to ask certain things.  They have also had their hands tied when it comes to talking about a past employee’s performance and character.  But with most professionals opening the doors to their social profiles to the public, it only takes a few minutes or scanning to determine a number of important factors:

  • Are they the type to bash their employer or talk about the bad day they had?
  • Do they speak with respect or is it all cursing and negativity?
  • Do they share relevant news stories to their position or industry?
  • What type of people do they associate with?
  • Do they post inappropriate photos?

and the list goes on, but you get the idea.  So for all of you professionals out there, pay extremely close attention to how you represent yourself, whom you engage with and whether you would hire someone with a similar profile to yours.

Michael Harris – Arzon

The Simplistic Professional



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