907.529.2391 | mary@barbergp.com

Arrested on Federal Fraud Charges…?

Like many public relations professionals I have a series of Google Alerts that help me know who’s saying what about my company or me. It’s an excellent way to stay abreast of what’s being said about different issues. Yesterday’s alerts that came in for “The Barber Group” not only caught my eye, they nearly made me fall out of my chair:

Google Alert

Needless to say, I knew it wasn’t about me, or my company. But I did have some questions:

  • Could potential clients think it was me? Do I need to scream from the rooftops “It’s not me!”
  • Should I share it with clients so they know it’s not me?
  • If someone Googles my company name, will this show up on top of the search results?
  • Do I need to change my company name?
  • Will it affect my credit rating?
  • Could there be identity theft issues?

Matt Obee via Flickr, CC 2.0In taking a little time to assess the situation, I decided not to make any drastic changes for a variety of reasons. When I chose my company name, I knew there were other organizations with the same name. After all, Barber isn’t exactly an uncommon name. I’ve been using The Barber Group as my company name for nearly 13 years. It will take more than a guy from northwest Arkansas who had a company of the same name that stopped being in business six years ago to cause me to lose the brand equity I have on my own name. As a solo consultant, most groups are looking to hire me by looking for my name, or they have a qualifier with the company name such as public relations. Finally, most of my clients come from referrals from another client or professional.

But, when you’re thinking about things like a company name, it’s likely a good idea to consider how you make it something a bit more unique. At the same time, it’s also important the name you choose is not so complicated your customer won’t remember what it is.

If you need to set up Google Alerts, it’s not hard. Just head to http://www.google.com/alerts and enter the information requested. Remember to use quotation marks if you have multiple words in a search. You may need to adjust search criteria as well if you’re not getting what you thought you might receive. As an example, the alerts I have for my company and me:

  • Mdbarber – my preferred social network handle
  • “Mary Deming Barber” – my professional name
  • “Mary Barber” – the name I also use. Note this alert results in a lot of information not pertinent to me because my name is common. However, it takes only seconds to scan the email for information I need.
  • “The Barber Group” – my company name

I hope my followers are okay with the fact I’m not on my way to Riker’s Island! I’m happy to stay put right here, fulfilling the mission of The Barber Group by continuing to help clients with strategic public relations efforts.


Image: Matt Obee via Flickr, CC 2.0


By |2018-03-18T22:45:52+00:00March 21st, 2013|Social Media|9 Comments

About the Author:

Mary Deming Barber, APR, Fellow PRSA, runs a strategic communications consultancy where she helps clients understand how to integrate new media into traditional communication programs. Mary has counseled clients in Tacoma, Anchorage, San Francisco, Oregon, and Colorado for nearly 40 years working with a variety of food organizations, several agencies, and as a key team member on two successful US Senate campaigns. 


  1. Karen Swim March 21, 2013 at 10:38 am - Reply

    That type of alert would be shocking, and I’m glad it’s not you. This is also one of the many reasons why we must actively manage our brand. Using Google Alerts is one easy step that everyone can do. There are also other tools like Reputation Defender and Brand Yourself (I use and love this one) that help you control your own messaging. Your story illuminates that this could happen to any of us, thanks for sharing it along with practical tips to protect our brand.

  2. mary March 21, 2013 at 10:42 am - Reply

    It was something of a jolt Karen and then the PR pro kicked in as you would too. I’m not familiar with the tools you’ve mentioned here but will definitely check them out. Thank you!

  3. Michael March 21, 2013 at 2:41 pm - Reply

    Mary by any name would be as excellent a PR professional.

    • mary March 21, 2013 at 2:48 pm - Reply

      You are so kind my friend. Thanks for reading!

  4. Kellye Crane March 22, 2013 at 6:41 am - Reply

    You are such an upstanding citizen, the thought of such a thing is kind of comical! Which I suppose is another lesson: having a solid reputation/brand can serve as a bit of insurance against incidents like this. Anyone who knows you (or of you) surely knew instantly this was a different Barber. Interesting case study!

    • mary March 22, 2013 at 8:22 am - Reply

      Thanks Kellye. I would hope so, but was an opportunity to look again at what we see online about our companies and ourselves.

  5. Shonali Burke March 22, 2013 at 7:19 am - Reply

    I did a workshop for a very large company last month, and there were folks there – some, very seasoned professionals – who’d never thought of setting up a Google Alert (or on any other search engine) for their name. I wonder if, as PR pros, we are a little extra paranoid, so think of setting them up automatically? Or, some might say vain. 😉 But you’re right, this is an essential thing to do.

    I doubt very much that this would have had any actual impact on your personal/professional name. I think the types of businesses (yours and the other) are quite different, so the people/companies who might search for you/for whom you’d pop up in a pertinent search are likely quite different to the other. I think the ID theft issue is a VERY good point you raise (among others), so definitely people/companies should have iterations of their name that they set up searches for.

    • mary March 22, 2013 at 8:25 am - Reply

      You’re right Shonali about Google Alerts. In talking with people about this yesterday, I learned there are PR pros who don’t have them set. I really didn’t think it would have an impact on my business because of what I do, but one never knows…so it’s critical to know what’s out there.

  6. […] we are given an opportunity, every day, to write—or rewrite—our stories. Through smart listening, we can correct inaccuracies, and by virtue of generating consistently strong content, our words […]

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