By Elizabeth Mansfield
A junior from Trinity University, studying abroad, met movie actor Vince Vaughn in Budapest. They wound up having drinks and talking until the sun came up. She was so excited, she e-mailed all the details to 22 of her sorority sisters.
It was the e-mail read around the world. Her
full name and photo, along with everything she had written, was picked
up by online magazines, celebrity gossip blogs (short for Web logs) and
Web sites all over.
It’s a silly, trivial story, but
there’s a lesson in it for all of us.
Every single time you send an e-mail, post on a blog, comment
on a Web
site, participate in a forum or use a listserv, you are creating a
public image of yourself (and your business or employer). Communicating
something about yourself (or your business) to the public is
marketing—in this case, image marketing.
And once you hit send, there is no turning back. No matter
confidentiality verbiage you include at the bottom, top or middle of
that e-mail, there is absolutely nothing to prevent the receiver from
forwarding it to billions of his or her closest friends.
professionals love the “viral” marketing
the Internet to spread buzz like wildfire, but hate that those same
capabilities have cost a lot of people jobs and reputations. Take care
how you “market” yourself on the Internet, and
take care of your business, too.
What did you just say?
I have a blog (www.askelizabeth.typepad.com).
It’s all about
O&P. I try to stick to marketing-related topics, but now and
will use the blog as a platform to air my personal views on such things
as prosthetic parity efforts or O&P insurance
obviously, I think there’s nothing wrong with letting your
personality and your opinions come through in online postings. However,
remember that because everything posted online is available to the
public, everything posted on the Web is, by default, marketing. What
you write in the heat of the moment can create either a positive or
negative image of yourself and your company.
For example, I recently
read a blog posting by an O&P resident discussing her potential
a certain salary. If I were an employer, I might make assumptions about
her professionalism from what she probably felt was an innocent blog
entry. If I were a patient or a referral source, what kind of effect
would her posting have on me?
What someone else writes can have the same effect, either on
privacy or your reputation. That same day I read a blog posting by the
mother of a little girl in Maryland who wears a prosthesis. The Health
Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) will keep you from
mentioning patients’ personal information, but with one click
could read this little girl’s entire medical history and see
picture. The particular posting I read didn’t mention her
prosthetist by name—but others could have.
How did I become aware of these things? I receive e-mailed
on everything that has to do with O&P. I
didn’t even have to look for them. They came right to my
If you’d like to protect yourself from inadvertent
Internet marketing, here are three things you can do:
- Check your sense of “Netiquette”
by searching for yourself on Google. Google your
business, too. See what comes up. You may find old postings that
you’d be embarrassed to have customers read.
- Set up a Google
alert on your business. If anyone posts anything about your business,
Google will alert you and you can respond if necessary.
- Establish an electronic usage policy that addresses
employee use of
e-mail, the Internet, and software. Here are some sites you may want to
visit as you do so:
|The following information is
adapted from the book Netiquette, written
by Virginia Shea. It is available online at
If you abide by the rules of Netiquette, you have a wonderful
opportunity to establish or enhance your reputation. Search engines are
crawling the Internet constantly, looking for content and feeding that
to millions of people.
But you can’t just sit back and expect that
you’ll reap the
benefits by being passive. If you want to take advantage of good
Internet marketing, update your Web site frequently. Or set up your own
blog (at Web sites such as typepad.com or blogspot.com)
or lens (a Web
site where you catalog personal recommendations, such as the ones at
That way, you can be in control when it comes to
feeding the search engine crawlers.
Yourself…on the Web
|There are over one billion
Internet users around the world. Even if you
have never been online, chances are you’re mentioned, listed,
blogged about on the Web. Find mentions of yourself at these sites.
You have the potential to do more damage to yourself with your own
e-mails and postings than anyone can do to you, because
written it yourself. It might not be the e-mail read around the world,
but it might just be the e-mail read around all of O&P.
is a marketing consultant with Outsource Marketing Solutions LLC in
Hartford, Conn. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.