“I’ve been reading about you…” — privacy and publicity

The email confirmed our appointment the next day to tour the club he runs. Then my correspondent added, “I’ve been reading about you. And I think you’re going to be a good fit here.” I’ll be honest with you, when I saw that, I started freaking out about my privacy.

privacyHow could there possibly be enough information about me out in the world that a man I hadn’t yet met could decide I would be “a good fit”? Had I somehow slipped up and made public a Facebook post that should have been private? Had I tweeted something personal?

Honestly, I panicked for a full 15 minutes. Then I remembered:

Oh yeah. I have a blog.

Not just a blog, a whole website. I actively work to get more people to know who I am. And apparently I have succeeded. If he had been a potential client, I probably would have made the connection seamlessly. But this wasn’t about business. So after my freak-out, I had a good laugh.

The fine line between privacy and publicity

All the networking gurus tell you to do exactly what this gentleman did: Google the people you’re scheduled to meet, or those you’d like to meet. Learn something about them beyond whatever they’re famous for, so you can get a sense of who they are. Perhaps engage with them on the level playing field of a shared interest.

But it’s probably best not to tell your target that’s what you’ve done. Just work what you learn into the conversation casually, “I notice you’re a writer. We schedule lots of literary discussions for our members” or whatever.

He never mentioned what specifically made him think I’d be a “good fit” for the club—it might just be something he says to every potential applicant. And his research didn’t give him completely accurate picture of me: When we stepped off the elevator into the basement, he asked:

“Do you play squash?”

Play squash? “Sweetie,” I wanted to say, “I barely even eat the stuff.” Still, I’d happily visit the athletic facilities to schedule a massage; their members’ price list looks like it hasn’t changed since the 1970s.

But I digress.

Privacy and publicity. Yes, it’s a fine line. Being a solopreneur rather than a corporate behemoth, I do have to share a bit of myself with the public. And when I write for clients who work at those corporate behemoths, I always encourage them to incorporate personal stories in their speeches. Being authentic helps people connect with you. But I’ve never given any thought to the form those connections might take once the speaker is offstage.

I am now.

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