Your Image? Your Summer Homework

16/08/2011
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When your friends are looking for your name on the Internet, are you happy with what they find? How about your clients, potential business partners, employees or voters? Is your digital image the one that you want because it reflects your goals and helps you achieve them, or do you have an image created at random from various pieces of information, like a puzzle?

To answer that question, go ahead and put your name in a search engine. Then, look at the results with the eyes of your stakeholders – everyone who is important to you. Afterwards, ask yourself again: is your digital image helping you grow, or is it sending out a message that you might not like to hear?

There is no such thing as no image

I was recently talking to a client who told me: “I don’t want to be on LinkedIn. I am responsible for highly classified information and I handle risk every day. Besides, I have no ambition to be visible. I am not planning a political career. As for my professional career, how can I know where I will be two years from now?” Therefore, my client thought there was no need to manage his digital image. “I have no digital image. I just want to keep things for myself.”

And yet, when I put my client’s name in Google, there were some disparate pieces of information that came up about him: his position, some hints of career growth, some past deals, and a small-sized picture. If I were a journalist, a business partner considering a deal with his company, or a potential employer, I would be quite baffled. So, I’d start asking around. As a journalist, the first thing I would do would be to call his competitors. As a blogger, I would go for some crowd sourcing to draft his profile. Who is he? Does he have something to hide? If so, what? At the end of the day, having a LinkedIn updated profile makes common sense for a businessman with nothing to hide. Doesn’t it?

My client, who is a most honest and focused professional, didn’t understand the basic difference between reality and perception. In reality, he just wants to focus, to do a good job and keep his private things for himself. In perception, he is working for a multinational corporation, handling risk, making essential decisions for his company, and may have things to hide. By asking around, someone can fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle and the final image won’t be pretty. At least, it won’t be the image that you would like to put out if only you cared to manage it.

Common sense for summer 2011

Whether we want it or not, there are a couple of changes in the business world that are good to be aware of. Having an updated LinkedIn profile has become common sense. When someone is looking for your name online, there is a high chance that the first links that will appear will lead to your LinkedIn profile, your Facebook account, and to your blog if you have any. Not updating your profile regularly with information, endorsements and statuses seems like ignorance. This is also valid for ladies on maternity leaves. Would you really want to hire someone when you Google her name and you realize that she’s been idle for the last six years? I mean, if you have a great training budget, sure, go ahead. If not, you might feel as reticent to such hiring as I do.

Let’s take a look back to what was common sense a few years ago. “Lawrence A. Bossidy, CEO of Allied Signal, noted that E-Mail has made it easier to communicate. Not only does he issue E-mails, he gets them as well, explaining ‘it’s essential that you do.’” Sending and receiving e-mails was considered communication leadership in… 2007, when Robin Cohn’s book The PR Crisis Bible, which features the quote above, was published. Is e-mail a matter of leadership anymore? Do you feel like you are doing something special when you open your mailbox in the morning? No, it has become routine. It’s simple common sense. For many people – including your stakeholders – LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are already common sense. Those who are not there yet are perceived as communication illiterate at best. And at worst, they just don’t exist.

Something more for the summer

Whenever I start media coaching work with my clients, I take them through a so-called communication SWOT. What are your strengths? How about your weaknesses, fears and uncertainties? What is your vision and what opportunities are out there to help you achieve your dreams? How about threats and risks at hand, and what can we do to minimize them? We also do one or two media interview simulations, to back-up the analysis. Of course, SWOT results are individual. Your dreams, as well as your fears, are only yours. Yet, there are some things in common, like the fact that journalists are hungry for quality expert articles in summer when there isn’t much to write about. What stops you from writing a great piece of expertise in your field and sharing it with the media?

Next time someone Googles your name, your article may come up among the first links that a potential client or business partner will read. This could decisively influence his choice of doing business with you – or not. You can manage your image if you are willing to look down into yourself, define your goals and then engage in a bit of work to sharpen your online and media communication skills. It doesn’t matter if you plan to take over your company or your country in the future.

Managing your image is a matter of wisdom and leadership. You have an image, whether you want it or not. The question is: what’s your image saying about you to those you care about?

THIS TEXT HAS FIRST BEEN PUBLISHED IN THE COLUMN MEDIAPOWER BY LEADERS MAGAZINE ON AUGUST 16, 2011 http://www.leadersmagazine.cz/2011/08/16/your-image-your-summer-homework/#.UuCqh7RNyM8

I focus on strategic communications, emotional and systemic intelligence and personal and organization leadership. I help leaders and future leaders to develop their strategic communication skills, to build reputable personal brands and to boost their team and organizational leadership. I support individuals, teams and organizations through advisory, training, coaching and mentoring services.

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