No matter what you do online, you’re doing it in public

Ronn Torossian, CEO of 5WPR in New York, is an established authority in the field of social media. And Torossian has some bad news for you. They know. They all know.

Recently, a dusty old DIRE WARNING has been making the rounds (once again) on social media. This one claims that hackers can access your personal information through family photos posted on social media. The article waxes threateningly poetic about the injustice of it all and informs the user how to “protect your family.”

Now, before you click over in a blind panic searching for this miracle cure, sit down, take a breath and listen to this: The article in question is three years old. It’s NOT news. In fact, even if it was news, these “hackers” would have had the last three years to develop a workaround.

“The idea that a three-year-old ‘warning’ has any merit today is a pretty thin premise,” Torossian said. “There are a lot easier ways to steal your personal information online.”

Torossian is correct, of course. Black hat programmers don’t need to break into your file specs and steal data. Most of your important data is right there for the taking. The digital equivalent of low-hanging fruit.

The only way to effectively control your reputation online requires two steps:

First, filter everything you put online BEFORE you post it. If it could be used negatively in any conceivable way…don’t post it. Ever. At all. Was I clear enough there?

If you would not want it plastered on a billboard in Times Square, don’t put it online. Because, if you do choose to post it, understand that no amount of privacy filtering is foolproof.

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Much like the concept of the weakest link, your privacy protocols are only as good as those of your friends. If they share your content on their sites or pages or walls, it doesn’t matter how much protection you wrap around it. That file is now only supported by their approach to privacy.

Next, put as much good out there as possible. This is the step that most people skip…or at least take much too lightly. From a PR standpoint, the best defense against the dangers of the Interwebs is a good offense. Regularly publish positive – but privacy neutral – messages across multiple sites and social media forums. In this way you protect both your privacy and your reputation.

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Ronn Torossian is the Founder & Chairman of 5W Public Relations, one of the largest independently owned PR firms in the United States. Since founding 5WPR in 2003, he has led the company's growth and vision, with the agency earning accolades including being named a Top 50 Global PR Agency by PRovoke Media, a top three NYC PR agency by O'Dwyers, one of Inc. Magazine's Best Workplaces and being awarded multiple American Business Awards, including a Stevie Award for PR Agency of the Year. With over 25 years of experience crafting and executing powerful narratives, Torossian is one of America's most prolific and well-respected public relations executives. Throughout his career he has advised leading and high-growth businesses, organizations, leaders and boards across corporate, technology and consumer industries. Torossian is known as one of the country's foremost experts on crisis communications. He has lectured on crisis PR at Harvard Business School, appears regularly in the media and has authored two editions of his book, "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results With Game-Changing Public Relations," which is an industry best-seller. Torossian's strategic, resourceful approach has been recognized with numerous awards including being named the Stevie American Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year, the American Business Awards PR Executive of the Year, twice over, an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year semi-finalist, a Top Crisis Communications Professional by Business Insider, Metropolitan Magazine's Most Influential New Yorker, and a recipient of Crain's New York Most Notable in Marketing & PR. Outside of 5W, Torossian serves as a business advisor to and investor in multiple early stage businesses across the media, B2B and B2C landscape. Torossian is the proud father of two daughters. He is an active member of the Young Presidents Organization (YPO) and a board member of multiple not for profit organizations.