Tom Murphy of PR Opinions has some thoughts on "identity management" - i.e., knowing what people are finding out about you via the search engines. As he points out, this can be particularly interesting if you have a common name:
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 propertydealings 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.
I don't get associated with anyone that interesting, but have a look at a Google search for me - I'm hitting the top two slots again, with the Column Two guy in the third and fourth - and some consultant in the fifth slot. Mind you, I don't know either of those two guys, but both are in jobs similar enough to mine that there could be confusion from people who don't already know the one they are looking for.
The more interesting name match is the judge, who's there if you scroll down. In various name searches I have set up in BottomFeeder, that guy comes up because decisions he makes from the bench sometimes hit the news.
Which all goes back to what people will think when they Google you. The first problem, of course, is the possibility of getting the "wrong you". Which could make for a bad introduction before you even meet. What's the answer to that? I have no idea, honestly.