Don’t Be Surprised By Imposters

They say imitation is the best form of flattery. Yeah, uhh…no it isn’t. It’s actually the best form of personal brand impersonation.

Last week, I met with a fellow public relations educator exploring research opportunities to collaboratively write about issues in communication related to diversity, leadership and innovation. We’d never met before so he did what any decent, well-meaning, respectable person would do in today’s age – he Googled me. From there, he found my Twitter profile then let me know he followed me. I went to Twitter to find him and noticed his profile was not listed among my followers. That gave me a hunch to search for my Twitter profile. I found my profile (@aerialellis) then scrolled down the search page and discovered @ellisrpb, a profile with my name, photo, bio and location that does not belong to me.

I was surprised and I shouldn’t have been. Recently, Twitter revamped their policies on how online abuse is reported due to the increases in reports of impersonation, imposters, offensive tweets and harassment. (source: Washington Post)

Bad Twitter

In my case, the imposter had tweets and retweets from and to my followers but the content didn’t reflect my authentic voice. Now, I’m no celebrity or politician among the highly targeted victims of imposter accounts but I am a business owner and an educator. I can’t afford to have my voice mistaken.

I’ve used Google Alerts from the moment the feature was launched and this false page never made it to my inbox. I’ve sent nearly 30,000 tweets since joining in 2008 but have never received a DM or tweet from a follower asking “is this really you?” I’ve monitored client accounts and moderated Twitter chats but never noticed someone else portraying me.

I immediately went to Twitter’s support page for reporting phony accounts. The process was very easy and the fake Aerial was removed in less than 24 hours.

A few things to note to avoid personal brand impersonation via social media:

Take action immediately. Why wait? Find out how to remove the fraudulent page and follow the necessary steps. You may have to wait on a response while they investigate everything but don’t give up. Stay on the case.

Monitor your name. Be on the lookout for online mentions of your name. Set up an alert through Google or other free services that will notify you when you name appears online. Though I can’t recall a time the fake Aerial appeared in my alerts, they are a safeguard for knowing what’s out there. Periodically, you should do a manual online search for your name to see if anything malicious pops up. This is how I found the fake Aerial.

Keep security tight. When you switch phones and computers, clear out your passwords. When you create passwords, make them strong with a mix of letters, numbers and symbols. Completely log off social media sites instead of only closing the browser.

Don’t be surprised by an imposter account. It happens. Your reputation can be negatively impacted by an imposter but don’t make it easy for them.

Vision + Voice + Brand: NCAA Women’s Final Four Leadership Academy

NCAA Womens Final Four Nashville“Vision + Voice + Brand = CEO of Me” is the title of the workshop I had the honor of facilitating for Music City Girls Lead! – a leadership academy produced by Lipscomb University  in cooperation with the Champions4Women Committee of  the Nashville Local Organizing Committee, proud host of the 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four.

The Academy was a series of classes and experiences for high school girls in grades 9, 10, and 11 in the Middle Tennessee area aimed at strengthening girls in their pursuit of excellence through classroom and online learning, community experience and direct mentoring.

Engaging the students were a few of Nashville’s deep bench of local leaders and mentors, as well as experts on leadership development.  The Academy curriculum covered six different areas: developing as a leader, becoming an ethical leader in multicultural society, developing vision and voice, learning to use technology in leadership roles, promoting wellness and health, and transforming vision into results. Each academy culminated with a graduation ceremony and served as a lasting legacy of the 2014 NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Aerial Ellis presented NCAA Women's Final Four Personal Branding for GirlsI spoke to the young women about creating a personal brand using entrepreneurship and technology. I started by having them write a vision statement. A vision statement is your declaration of what you want out of life. It is your opportunity to answer the question:

“When I get to the end of my life, I will be the most disappointed if I never accomplished ___________.”

We talked about female visionaries such as Michelle Obama and Taylor Swift. We also looked at young girls who had the vision to become successful entrepreneurs at an early age.

Next, we defined voice. Your voice is inherent to who you are. You have to find it. We did an exercise that allows the girls see the various ways we can find out voice through writing daily. That allows your content to be your voice and for your story to inspire someone. It proves that what you have to say has value.

Then we defined a brand. I explained they each have their own brand and that it will always follow you throughout life. When you hold true to your brand personality, opportunities come to you.

We did an exercise that allowed the girls to write their favorite brand on a name tag and introduce themselves to the group as that brand as a parallel to who they are personally. We then discussed online protection and privacy, the best tools to use for distributing your voice across social media and how to find your passion through these activities. I also gave the girls a worksheet as brand map to take home and chart their future success.

This was a great opportunity to teach and inspire. Girls rock!



Personal Brands I Like: Melissa Dawn Johnson

This leading lady of personal branding practices what she preaches. From her Sunday morning motivational segment on CNN to her weekly vlog, “Brand Me Minute,” featured on, Melissa Dawn Johnson works to empower individuals by reinforcing the idea that change is a catalyst to unleash potential. As CEO and president of Velvet Suite Marketing Consulting Group, Inc. and Brand Me International, she has developed powerful branding models for celebs, athletes and corporations. What is most intriguing about Melissa is her ability to transcend her own personal brand into a national movement of personal discovery for millions of others to find their true passion and live in it! Learn more below by joining the “brandtastic” movement on Facebook.

Melissa Dawn Johnson, author of Brand Me. Make Your Mark: Turn Passion into Profit

Personal Brands I Like: Queen Latifah

Here’s a woman who has mastered many facets of entertainment – music, television, film, theatre, books, beauty and business. Her recent CNN appearance on Larry King Live reveals the honest way in which she approaches her personal brand and how she doesn’t allow prying into her private space. Who needs the dish on the Queen when the success of her career is enough to keep us talking for decades to come! Hear her philosophy on how she manages a personal brand while protecting her personal life.

Queen Latifah on CNN's Larry King Live

Personal Brands I Like: Victoria Beckham

Okay, okay – I know what you’re saying, “You like her because she’s a Spice Girl.” Actually no. I respect this former girl group singer because she has seamlessly transformed her posh personal brand into fashion icon status. She took her stage presence to the runway and finally landed in the designer’s chair to launch her own collection of dresses that celebs and even PR strutters like me are going crazy for. Check out a recent rundown of which celebs, including Sarah Jessica Parker and Jennifer Lopez who both wore a piece from the collection to the White House, are making Victoria’s collection a staple in their red carpet wardrobe.

Vogue UK