In “Where to Hide? Part 1”I talked about finding people online without much information to go by. The story to follow talks about the ‘other’ direction; being found.
It’s early 2008, the world is still in order and people go to work at Lehman Brothers: I had a conservative client who apparently was close to circles that where close to the pope… kinda one, or two degrees of separation. This just to make the point in what way the client was conservative.
I was working as a media consultant for the CEO. After a few months Clock Wise’s role was to be expanded into producing video content. Since it was a sizeable budget Clock Wise needed to be vetted. With nothing to worry about, I foresaw no problems.
Whoever did due diligence also googled my company and me and sure enough a documentary, Venus Boyz pops up, that I was proud of having co-produced about eight years earlier, about Drag Kings (yes, women who dress as men), which had some explicit scenes in it, which were within the context of the documentary absolutely appropriate, if not necessary, but that had not been my choice to make. I served as co-producer and Clock Wise as the production service company for the New York shoot. I had zero control over content and was essentially a hired hand.
I was summoned to a meeting with the CEO who demanded to see the film. I left him with a copy. Weeks later the DVD was returned without comment and I never heard of the client again – not even when I offered to return what was left of my retainer. After that experience I was torn between, pride for an important film and regret over a big job gone down the tubes – no less barely three months before the Lehman crash.
For the first time I really experienced what the internet could do to my reputation. I went on Google and searched myself, Clock Wise, and films I had worked on. Back then (not five years ago), without the benefit of Social Media - which allows us to a certain extend to curate our own on-line presence - I really had very little to no control over what popped up where and by whom. I also for the first time realized my vulnerability having an uncommon last name and being exposed as owner of a company.
Interestingly enough I had a conversation early on with the CEO about the fact, that they had no internet presence, which in itself tells a story too and, in my option, raises questions as to why not. My advice to him had been to get a site to give prospective clients and investors something to “hold on to” and his company a way to ‘control’ their internet presence. I just googled them again now: still no website, but a bare bones LinkedIn profile for the company. Maybe they are on to something?
For those of us who DO have an on-line persona - and I would venture to guess that that’s just about everybody in the developed countries, but a few laggards and my mother - all we can do (short of hiring someone to ‘scrub’ our on-line presence for a hideous fee), is be pro-active about our on-line presence and KNOW what’s out there.
Even if you cannot control your on-line presence you can manage it. I’m certain if I had been aware of what was out there AND had the foresight to realize that it was an issue for this particular client, I could have been proactive and positioned the film and my involvement such to possibly make the issue go away. Then again, as my friend Susanne Mueller always says: “Could-Have and Should-Have where brothers and never got anything done”.