I think it’s time I came clean about my secret life. For too long I’ve pretended to be a digital marketing guy from Bradford, with a background in journalism and PR. And the lie had to come crashing down eventually.
You see, I’m actually the boss of Mercedes Formula One team.
For those of you unfamiliar with the world of F1, I’m not really. That’s Ross BrAwn. An important distinction I’m sure you’ll agree.
Mixing up some web bloke form Yorkshire, with a man who has worked at Benetton, Ferrari and Honda, before buying that last company, renaming it Brawn GP and then selling it 12 months later to Mercedes for £110m – well, it’s a fairly large mistake to make really isn’t it.
But it happens on a daily basis.
Like most geeky types, I have a Google Alert set-up for my name. No, I’m not quite that vain, it’s to give me an idea how my web site is faring in search results and to see if I’m mentioned in dispatches anywhere.
And daily – and I mean daily – some of the stuff Google finds about “me” is actually to do with Ross Brawn. Now, on a fan web site that might be an excusable mistake (it’s not but I’m a generous soul) but these mistakes are often from the web sites of Autosport and similar professional motorsport magazines. You’d think they’d know how to spell his name wouldn’t you?
The best email I have ever received was about five years ago, when out of the blue a corporate speaker booking agency asked for a copy of my CV. When I asked them why, they told me they had a client interested in getting me to speak at a function. Crikey, “on what subject” I replied. “Your time as technical director at Ferrari”, they said.
Now, this was wrong on so many levels. Not only had they gone to my web site to get the email address they’d used (you know, a web site plastered with “I do stuff with web sites”), they were also expecting someone as important/busy as Ross Brawn to reply to emails personally and, well, if someone wanted to book “me” for a speaking gig then surely “I” didn’t need to sell myself to them?
I let them know about their mistake (I’m sure the “thanks for stopping us look like idiots” reply will arrive one day) but, as a friend suggested, maybe next time I’ll ask for a non-refundable deposit and start drafting an amusing speech about the time I was at Ferrari… just to be on the safe side.
In the digital world in which we live, our name is – to some degree – our brand. Type “Ross Brown” into Google and – hurrah – I’m the top result. Following by a photographer in New Zealand, then Ross BrAwn’s Wikipedia entry and, bless ‘em, a Google images gallery full of pictures of, well, it’s not me let’s put it that way.
For some people, a personal brand doesn’t matter too much – you work for someone else, you don’t need the publicity etc. – but, in the future, when our career paths will be more of a zig zag than a straight progression, it doesn’t hurt to be “out there” a little.
But with that level of exposure comes some degree of responsibility. Is your Facebook profile open to strangers? Have you said things you wish you hadn’t on a public forum? Will dubious photos from your wild twenties come back to haunt you in your 40s when you’re looking for a big corporate promotion?
An increasing number of employers now look to the web – and especially social networking sites – before they consider taking a member of staff on. Indeed, stories occasionally appear in the press of employers who demand to know a person’s username and password for Facebook before confirming a job offer. An abuse of power? Undoubtedly. But, taking a step back, you can see why they do it. If you’re the kind of person whose every status update refers to late nights, alcohol, recreational drugs etc., then how reliable will you be as an employee?
So, work on the assumption the might want to – at the very least – be your ‘friend’ on Facebook, nail down your security, delete anything you wouldn’t want your mother to see (or, at the very least, make such things only viewable to a few trusted “friends”) and you won’t go far wrong.
Anyway, it’s Saturday morning, an absolutely beautiful day and I think it’s time for me to do a few circuits of Silverstone with my mate Michael.
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