Be Neutral
A Publication of the Georgia Office of Dispute Resolution


This is one in a series of marketing articles that will explain e-marketing in layman’s terms.  This information is provided to help you modify your online presence to get your practice noticed.

Marketing Tip: E-Marketing v. Your Physical Safety

Recently I had a conversation with a mediator who was stalked by a party and that individual made it all the way to her driveway at home. The police were called and the threat was removed, but it left her scared because her chosen profession had inadvertently compromised her family’s security. Her feeling was that this had happened because she had a presence on Facebook. Have you exposed your family in the same way ?

We all put mountains of information out on the web daily… often without a single thought for our own security. In the case of mediators, as we often walk away from a settlement with one party who is very angry with us, this stray data can lead them right to our front door. There are databases available for free or a small charge that can reverse almost anything – landline number to address, cell phone to address, email to address, and more. While you can’t stop marketing your practice you can be smart about how you do it.

Physical Addresses
This is the one piece of information that you don’t want anyone but your friends and family to have access to. Therefore you can’t put it out there on your social media profile or on your website. But the real problem is more complex than that.

Mediators who rent office space are normally fairly safe in publishing their office address, assuming that there is a modicum of security in their building. However, those of you who work at home can’t afford to publish your “office” address because it is also your home address. There are a number of solutions, including limiting the address information that you list to city and state, renting a PO Box, and using that as your address, or joining a group that offers mediation space and using that as your physical address. Consider the mediators who mediate out of their homes (yes, some of those exist !) and include maps on their websites to their offices – they’ve just given an angry party all the information needed to find them.

In many instances mediators have their addresses on their websites without even realizing it – do you include a PDF version of your CV or perhaps you publish a series of articles with your address in the author bio ? What about public directories like the Georgia Bar, GODR, ACR, or even the Secretary of State’s corporation registry ? How much address information are you publishing there and how much can you reduce it in order to safeguard yourself ?

Phone Numbers
Did you know that there are services on the web that will allow anyone to take a phone number (landline or cell) and reverse it to get the physical address associated with it ? It might cost them up to $30 to get the information but if they really want to find you they can. Clearly you have to publish a phone number so people can contact you to make an appointment to use your services, so how are you going to safeguard your address ? There are some options for you:

Use an answering service as your primary published number (including on your business cards)

Have your office address (assuming you don’t use a home office) listed as your billing and physical address in the phone directory. While this happens automatically with a landline you, need to make a conscious decision to do this with your cell phone as that is often in your personal name.

Use a “re-director” service. This is basically a number that is owned by a third-party service that will automatically redirect calls to whatever number you want. I use a company called Accessline, and for less than $20 per month any call to my re-director number will automatically dial up to 5 numbers that I have predefined. In my case it calls my desk phone, primary cell phone, secondary cell phone, and finally home phone. The fact that the call is being re-routed is hidden from the caller. If you choose this option it is important to remember to hide your outgoing number when you call the caller back !

Do you list your phone number on Facebook or LinkedIn ? If you’ve published an alternate number for security purposes, it is important that you do not list your direct cell phone number or (worse) your home phone number but instead use the re-director number or answering service number. If your friends don’t know your phone number they probably aren’t your friends, and they can cope with using the alternative number and waiting an extra minute or two to get through to you.

Social Media
While LinkedIn is a fairly safe environment because it is business oriented and most users don’t put personal information out there, the same cannot be said of Facebook. Today we share everything in this space – pictures of our grandchildren, notes about our travels, our political opinions and more. This is not information that should be available to the general public. There are a few tips that will safeguard you:

Maintain a business page for your practice on Facebook. To do this you must first be a personal member (you can create a “dummy” personal account for this) because you have to be the administrator of your business page. Your personal page should be restricted so only friends and family can see it. This is a standard Facebook setting. When you set it the public will know that you have a personal page on Facebook, but if you set security at the max only people you have approved for your friend list will be able to see the information that you publish.

If you publish photos on your business page in real time (such as those from a conference or training event) it is critical that you turn off geotagging on your cell phone. Geotagging is a feature that allows a viewer to see exactly where and when these photos were taken. You do not need to publish a photo that effectively notifies the viewer that you are at the ACR conference in New Orleans and will be there for the next 3 days ! Here is a series of instructions to disable geotagging on your iPhone, Android or Blackberry:

You may have also joined one of the geo-locators such as Foursquare. Using these tools, you add locations to your profile (e.g. airport, courthouse, office, McDonalds, a conference hotel) and “check in” when your phone is in that location. Many people take that information further and set the software to automatically post their check-ins to their Facebook profiles. Do I really need to say how bad an idea this is ? You may want to know which of your friends has already arrived at a conference that you’re going to or who is at the same airport you are when you’ve got a long layover, but do you really want the entire world to know where you are ?

While Foursquare requires you to create an authorized viewer list (similar to Facebook friends), if you haven’t set the necessary privacy settings for your personal Facebook page and you have Foursquare automatically post your check-ins to that page, then you’ve potentially put yourself in real danger.

Domain Registry

One other way people can find you through the internet is by researching your website registration. When you buy your domain name you are required to furnish your name, phone number and other identifying information (basically everything that you’d need to use your credit card online). All of that information is then stored in a publically accessible database. If someone executes a WHOIS search (e.g. ), they’ll get all your identifying information merely by looking up your website information. Typically domain registrars charge less than $15 for this service, and if someone really wants to find you, $15 is well worth the expense. Most domain registrars now offer domain security that will put your information into the national database as required but will hide the information from the general public.

The internet is a wonderful tool for marketing your practice. People need to be able to find you, and you can’t count on trusted referrals as the sole source for growing your business. Therefore you need to be smart about the information that you publish and how you publish it. Think about how the information you are posting could lead an angry party to find you and your family. If you have any doubt, don’t publish it. Make sure your security settings are at their max, and update them regularly. When you set up a room for mediation, you always put yourself closest to the door for safety and ensure that you know where the security people are located – doesn’t your online marketing deserve the same attention ?



Michele Gibson is a Georgia-registered neutral and a certified emerging media consultant.  She is the president of Digital Smart Tool, LLC – an e-marketing firm offering website design, SEO, electronic newsletters, social media coaching, and marketing training seminars.


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