MMU Agency Life – Part 1, Reputation Management

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There can be an arrogance of youth, a confidence that many, particularly in middle age, find irritating, maybe a deep seated sense of jealously and even a resentment of someone younger, fitter and more energetic. That’s before we even get to the volume of ideas spewing forth from their mouths, before routine and procedure had managed to kill off such fabulous enthusiasm in an older workforce.

It was with trepidation, therefore, that I arrived at MMU last week to meet my team of six retail marketing students with whom I will be working for the next year, as part of the MMU Agency Life project.

It’s an odd position for me. I work alone and have done for many years now, building newroomsonline and, truth be told, being a bit paranoid about sharing information with anyone whom I don’t already know and trust.

So how do I acquire trust quickly?

When I graduated and applied for jobs, all the potential employer knew about me was what I’d written on the form. Not so in this day and age.

Tipped off by another company, by the time I met my gang,  I’d done my homework and was armed with a selection of gifts to hammer home how public our lives have become.

If six people are to work with me, then I need to know who they are, how they tick and to establish some ground rules……an hour of reputation management ensued.

“What do you know about me and my business?”

The answers were good, encouraging, well thought out, enthusiastic and funny…..my love affair with all things Spanish is evident! They had done their research.

My turn, then “What do I know about you?”

I presented the first guy with a bottle of Ribena and said, “I believe you’d forgotten how much you like this. You’re quite chilled. I’m surprised that someone of your age has even heard of Bill Hicks…quite impressive.”

We discussed his tastes in music, his aspirations to be a pro skateboarder and to win battle of the rappers.

The remaining five knew what was coming…and if my imagination didn’t deceive me, shrank a bit in their chairs.

I gave one a packet of Skips, others a packet of Thai Chilli Sensations, a bottle of Evian, a sponge for a new car and the last candidate a copy of a magazine….which had nothing to do with anything I’d found out about her, I just thought she should have a gift too.

Online she was locked down. Her Facebook profile completely closed off, and if she had a twitter account, then I couldn’t find it.

She has everyone else at an advantage as a result.

I suspect some of my team were surprised that I’d found them at all, but it’s not so hard when someone uses the first half of their email address as their twitter name. It’s easy to track down Amazon wish lists, blogs, tumblr pages, subscriptions to online services, a Facebook page. Those who you can’t find directly, you can find indirectly as a result of someone else mentioning them in virtual passing.

And while some candidates lock everything down, others don’t. It was evident that half my team genuinely thought their profiles were hidden, partially hidden or, at least, not so easily accessed. In addition when I asked if they were concerned about their own online reputation I sensed a positive attitude that at the moment it shouldn’t matter. And it shouldn’t…but sadly, it does, it really does.

What is apparent is that young people sometimes use twitter like text messaging, often discussing subjects that many of us would seldom voice in public. They say anything and everything without fear of condemnation, because put simply, they are only chatting with close friends about stuff which is personal to them….banter you might hear in any pub, hall of residence or club across the land.

I don’t want to stifle someone’s good times. I merely wish to point out the privacy options on social media platforms, from which they could benefit a fine future because I have a fine team, who really impressed me from the outset.

It scares me to think, however, that today’s graduates applying for jobs carry a naivety of youth that could potentially damage a career before it’s ever been given that first break.

My team is enthusiastic, articulate, informed, full of ideas and full of life. They live that life to the full, “live the dream” and are seemingly fearless. How I envy them.

It’s refreshing to hear their thoughts and aspirations for my business given they have only known about it for a week or so.

In the first instance the team has been spending some time this weekend preparing me a ghoulish film to celebrate Halloween using the products we sell, in addition to providing me with a personal spec.

I have always tried to project a personable image for newroomsonline, so over the next few weeks I will be introducing you to the guys, their twitterstreams and inviting their input on how I do things. They will write a blog post or two, they’ll all write a newsletter, they will tweet, engage and reach out on Facebook!

Say hello to them if you pass one another!

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