Knowing me, Knowing you and Knowing who…

The job of managing reputations has definitely got more interesting. While there was a lot of fear uncertainty and doubt when the Internet first emerged and people got very worried about rogue web sites ( and a couple of people posting items in newsgroups, the Internet has matured very quickly meaning the threats to an individual’s or organization’s reputation has become far more sophisticated.

With search engines indexing every piece of information they can find on the Internet and millions of people using those tools every day, there’s more transparency now than ever before.

This is particularly true for individuals. We all know (and probably do it ourselves) the practice of checking someone out on a search engine before meeting or talking with them. Do you know what people find out about you before they meet you?

This online reputation ecosystem was brought home to me recently in a personal way. My parents, God bless them, weren’t the most imaginative when deciding on my name. It’s a proud family name, but Tom Murphy isn’t exactly exotic. Indeed a quick search finds a playwright, the mayor of Pittsburgh and thousands of other similarly named individuals. We all have the same problem. There was an analyst at Meta Group (R.I.P.) called Tom Murphy and for years we used to receive each other’s media queries. It’s funny we now both work at Microsoft and the confusion has continued unabated.

But in the past week or so, the media in Ireland and the UK have been focussing in on an unsavoury Tom Murphy or to give him his full title, Tom “Slab” Murphy (no relation). He is the alleged chief of staff of the IRA and has been linked with some dodgy property dealings in the UK amongst other things. The story has been on every TV news bulletin, radio bulletin, broadsheet, tabloid and online news service over here. A friend of mine joked that soon I’d be getting a lot more “respect”. Although there’s little likelihood that we’d be mistaken for each other, and of course he could take major offence at being mistaken for a PR practitioner, it illustrates the vagaries of online reputation.

So here’s the question for this morning. Are you managing yours?