Performance Potential Series Part 1

You have an online brand as a nurse leader…do you know what it is?

By Richard A. Ridge, PhD, MBA, RN, CENP, NEA-BC hen was the last time you typed out a cover letter; attached it to a résumé; placed it into a stamped, hand-addressed envelope; and mailed it off in response to a job posting or potential employer? When was the last time you sent any paper correspondence on letterhead through the mail? We learned how to write effective memos in school and how to rely on a well-crafted résumé to completely capture our professional image. Other professionals and potential employers were unlikely to know anything about us until we actively communicated with them by telephone or via paper correspondence. But this style of communication has imploded during our professional lifetimes and, as nurse leaders, many of us have had to “catch up” with the rest of the business world. Many of us began or completed our formal education in the preInternet era when the first stop in a library was at either the librarian’s desk or the card catalog. Finding CINAHL and INDEX MEDICUS was as easy as finding the 20-foot rows of green and red books. Times have certainly changed with respect to information access and retrieval, and with all levels and dimensions of communication within the electronic world. Not only do we have unprecedented access to all kinds of information, others also have equally unprecedented access to information about us. We now communicate synchronously via voice calls and text messaging, and asynchronously via e-mail and text. We communicate one-to-one with individuals and one-to-many using e-mail distribution lists, list serves, web conferencing, and social network tools such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Our professional and personal worlds are intertwined in


46 October 2014 • Nursing Management

Copyright © 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.

Meet your e-presence

Nursing Management • October 2014 47

Copyright © 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.

Meet your e-presence

ever-evolving ways as Internet technology is further enhanced to support contemporary communication. In some ways, the world we’ve entered is similar to the Wild West with a lack of explicit rules and guidelines that many of us have negotiated using common sense and feedback from others along the way. For example, the correspondence we sent in the past was either thrown away or filed. In stark contrast, our sent e-mail sits in

countless inboxes within our organizations and throughout the Internet on unidentified servers and computers waiting for someone to pick up and either respond to us or resend to others. Documentation of our professional contributions and accomplishments is archived on our employers’ cached web pages, available and visible to anyone searching for our names. This article provides guidance on communicating within the

electronic world for professionals in general and nurse leaders, managers, and executives in particular, addressing how your e-presence impacts your brand as a nurse leader and how you can better portray your professional brand by effective use of e-mail, websites, and social media.

What’s in a brand? Our Internet brand, or e-presence, is defined as the electronic trail that

Table 1: Guidelines for e-mail etiquette Guideline

Specific guidelines

1. Respond promptly.

By responding promptly, you send the message to the initial sender that you care about his or her question or comment. If a full response will take additional time, send a quick e-mail to let the sender know that you’re putting together your response. Add time to complete the response to your calendar to avoid forgetting about the need to respond after you’ve read the initial e-mail.

2. Use an appropriate signature.

Create signatures for your e-mail to save time and clearly identify your name, credentials, title, organization, and contact information. Use different signatures for internal and external e-mail. Create additional signatures if you’re sending the e-mail as a leader or member of a professional association.

3. Use formal greetings and salutations when appropriate.

E-mail requires a moderate level of formality. When sending e-mail to other professionals or patients and families in response to a concern, the traditional conventions should be followed, such as “Dear Mr./Ms/Dr.” It’s also acceptable for a less formal salutation such as “Good morning” or “Good afternoon.”

4. Follow rules of grammar when sending formal e-mail.

Follow full grammar and punctuation rules in all formal e-mail. Those greater than 100 words may be easily created in a word processing program, run through spell and grammar check, and then copied and pasted into your e-mail program. Spell check in e-mail programs is often less rigorous and consistent than what’s available with word processing programs.

5. Use subject lines to organize your sent e-mail and guide the recipient.

Subject lines guide the recipient as to priority and importance. Use subject lines that connote the purpose and meaning of the e-mail. Also use the subject line to specify confidential, private, or don’t forward. Systematic use of subject lines allows the application of e-mail rules and automatic filing of specific e-mail groups into folders. For example, always identify monthly reports and specific meeting agendas in the subject line.

6. Use reply all and cc appropriately.

Replying all to a long list of recipients may be necessary, but it’s also creating more work for others. Ensure that reply all is used appropriately. Copying e-mail using the cc option shouldn’t be used to reinforce dysfunctional communication between and among people and departments in conflict. Only cc a person’s superior when absolutely necessary, and only after pursuing all other options. Copying an e-mail using the bcc option sends a copy without alerting the primary recipient. Although appropriate in select circumstances, this should also be used sparingly.

7. Informalize your internal e-mail.

Conversational tone with minimal emphasis on grammar and punctuation is acceptable for informal internal e-mail. Omit salutations and signatures, and use abbreviations freely. Create and send e-mails as brief as possible to minimize the time spent by others reading them.

8. Use personal e-mail for personal use.

Resist the temptation to use your company e-mail for personal use because it isn’t private and is subject to full review. Know your organization’s policies on Internet and e-mail use. You can’t control the content of your incoming e-mail, but inappropriate content is more likely to come from sources associated with your personal e-mail accounts.

48 October 2014 • Nursing Management

Copyright © 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.

we leave behind, sometimes purposely and sometimes as an unaware participant—as employees, professional organization members, or as we spend time in our personal lives on community service and leisure activities. Understanding your brand as a nurse leader is the first step to taking greater control of shaping and crafting your online image. In the eyes of your entire professional network, including current and potential employers, you’re defined by information sent by you and collected by others. Brands are well known and accepted in our economy as important assets for conducting business on many levels. We’re surrounded by brands and have formed bonds and attachments to products and services based on brands and their promises. When we make purchasing decisions in our personal and professional lives, we have certain expectations related to a brand that are either reinforced or diminished each time we follow through on obtaining a specific product or service. We develop preferences for branded products and services as we’re influenced by past practice, advertising, and other marketing strategies. Companies invest significant time, money, and effort to develop, maintain, and increase brand loyalty.1 Most of us can readily state for which items we demand a brand item and for which items and services we would accept a generic or commodity item. We probably have a definitive stated preference for which car we like to drive, which coffee we like to drink, which clothing stores we like to use, and which computer to buy. We’ve also probably developed strong brand preferences for our primary physician, dentist, hair stylist, and other services that we utilize.

Table 2: The American Nurses Association’s Principles for Social Networking 1. Nurses must not transmit or place online individually identifiable patient information. 2. Nurses must observe ethically prescribed professional patient-nurse boundaries. 3. Nurses should understand that patients, colleagues, institutions, and employers may view postings. 4. Nurses should take advantage of privacy settings and seek to separate personal and professional information online. 5. Nurses should bring content that could harm a patient’s privacy, rights, or welfare to the attention of appropriate authorities. 6. Nurses should participate in developing institutional policies governing online conduct. Six tips to avoid problems 1. Remember that standards of professionalism are the same online as in any other circumstance. 2. Don’t share or post information or photos gained through the nurse-patient relationship. 3. Maintain professional boundaries in the use of electronic media. Online contact with patients blurs this boundary. 4. Don’t make disparaging remarks about patients, employers, or coworkers, even if they aren’t identified. 5. Don’t take photos or videos of patients on personal devices, including cell phones. 6. Promptly report a breach of confidentiality or privacy. Source: American Nurses Association. 6 tips for nurses using social media. Social-Media/Social-Networking-Principles-Toolkit/6-Tips-for-Nurses-Using-Social-Media-Poster.pdf.

Strong brands are defined by their relevance and distinctiveness.1 As nursing leadership professionals, we also carry a brand. Our brand defines us and our attributes in a way that other decision makers can identify and differentiate us from others. Whether we’re hired for a position, selected for a promotion, recruited for a volunteer opportunity within an organization, or asked to author an article depends in large part on people’s predetermined knowledge, perception, and expectations of us.

What goes into your brand? As nurse leaders, our brand is built internally as we develop our reputation among colleagues, superiors, and direct reports. It may not be uncommon for someone who reports to us today to be our boss at a future time, either within the same organization or at a different one. Reputation provides the foundation for what others expect from us. We build onto the foundation of

our reputation by adding education and certification credentials that carry our own brand message. As a college graduate of a specific school or program, you acquire the brand promise that people have grown to expect. We often make initial decisions about others based on where they worked, where they went to school, or if they’ve served in the military. As we gain experience with these individuals, our expectations are either reinforced or diminished and we’re left to decide how much to trust the brand the next time. Your e-presence consists of everything that connects to you in cyberspace. This includes every reference to you on your or your employer’s website; your sent e-mail and everywhere it has been copied and forwarded; your personal Facebook page, your Facebook friends’ pages, Twitter feeds, and other social media; professional organization websites; and publications that you’ve authored. You aren’t in full

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Copyright © 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.

Meet your e-presence

control of the content after it leaves your keyboard and, in some cases, you aren’t in control at all as others post information about you. You often don’t own the copyright to content that you’ve written and posted. But all of this content—some of it live and some of it archived—is fully accessible depending on the skill of the person conducting the search.

Conducting a brand assessment Just as with everything in nursing, start with an assessment of sufficient depth and breadth to identify your brand’s current state and highlight

quotation marks, you narrow the search to focus on your full name. If you have a relatively common name and you see many irrelevant results, add your credentials or additional terms such as “nursing” or “nurse.” The Google search will return paid advertisers on the right-hand side of the screen. These generally include fee-for-service background checks with very limited information available for free. Click on one or two of these to see what information about you is available for free. Your current age, previous addresses, and possible relatives

Take control of your brand as a nurse leader by assessing your e-presence.

any issues of concern. For example, you may find incomplete and possibly erroneous information that should be corrected where possible. The assessment starts with gathering your data and then searching specific areas online to determine how complete and accurate your personal information is aligned with the content in cyberspace. Start your initial comprehensive search with Google. Effective Google searches start broad and are then narrowed down. Start the search using your full name in quotes because Google automatically includes the Boolean operator “or” between all words and your results will include every item with your first name and every item with your last name. By using the

may be viewable. These services automatically gather information from public sources, such as real estate transactions, arrest records, court cases, marriages, and divorces. If this is a concern for you, other companies offer tools for consumers to use to control the information that people see about them online. The main search results will include web pages that reference your name. Identify the ones that pertain to you. The search will usually identify your social media pages and other social media pages on which you’re prominently featured. Ensure that the information within these sites is accurate and portrays you in a professional manner consistent with the image you want to project. Change your pictures as

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needed and delete any potentially embarrassing or personally revealing photos. Update your school alumni information and any other affiliated professional organizations. Google offers a web alert feature that can be used to track Google searches with your name as the search term. Google alerts can be used to identify updated and current information on you, your company, or anything else that may be of interest. You can tailor these alerts by setting up the search terms, indicating how often you want to receive them, and applying a variety of advanced features that help increase the relevance of your results. To continue positively building your brand, consider guidelines for e-mail etiquette (see Table 1) and the American Nurses Association’s Principles for Social Networking (see Table 2).

Brand in demand Take control of your brand as a nurse leader by first determining what’s important to you professionally and then assessing your e-presence. We’re defined by the e-mails, websites, and social media pages that we create and that others create about us. By understanding your brand as a nurse leader, you can then exercise greater control over your personal and professional image on the Internet. Part 2 of this 3-part series will explore how to use the social media site LinkedIn as a professional networking tool. NM REFERENCE 1. Clifton R, Ahmad S, Allen T. Brands and Branding. New York, NY: Bloomberg Press; 2009. Richard A. Ridge is the CEO of the New Jersey State Nurses Association in Ewing, N.J. The author has disclosed that he has no financial relationships related to this article. DOI-10.1097/01.NUMA.0000453935.48386.93

Copyright © 2014 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Unauthorized reproduction of this article is prohibited.

Performance potential series part 1: meet your e-presence.

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