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Managing Your Image

May 10, 2012 - Ernest Hohmeyer
You might think that the internet is one big black hole and information is viewed equally by all walks of life all over the world.

But in fact, those that pay attention to what you say whether its “personal correspondence” or professional - may be the folks in your community and your target customers.

Who’s Listening?

In the spring edition of the Wilson Quarterly their theme is “The Age of Connection.” There was an interesting article “A Small World After All?” Ethan Zuckerman writes “A recent study of Twitter, a tool used by 400 million people around the world, showed that we are far more likely to follow people who are physically close to us… Thirty-nine percent of the relationships on Twitter involve someone following the tweets of a person in the same metropolitan area.”

As we increasingly communicate on-line, we seem to be creating what I call a “communications avatar” of ourselves. It may be in-correct to assume that your on-line persona or what people perceive, is the same as your real life self.

As we become overloaded with information, it is becoming important to consistently re-enforce your image. Your On-line Avatar

Welcome to the world of “managing your image.” Increasingly this may include your personal internet correspondence.

The Harvard Business Review OnPoint focused an entire edition on “Manage Your Image”:

In “What’s Your Personal Social Media Strategy” Soumitra Dutta points out to “Take into consideration the borderline between private and public audiences…” It is important to “Set some guidelines about what information you choose to disclose.” Finally “Make sure to focus on the quality of your message – not the quantity of Facebook friends or Twitter followers you have.”

In “The Decision to Trust,” by Robert F. Hurley, it is pointed out that “Because trust is a relational concept, good communication is critical.”

The authors Eccles, Newquist and Schatz point out in “Reputation and its Risks” that “Intangible assets such as brand equity and goodwill account for 70 to 80% of a company’s market value. So reputation is critical.”

“Companies trying to protect their good names are increasingly coming under assault from small-scale antagonists: dissatisfied customers, disgruntled employees – virtually anyone with a personal computer and an ax to grind. Just as the military learned new strategies to deal with information-based attacks, managers of other organizations can fight back against new-media snipers by applying these important lessons.” These include according to “Reputation Warfare” by Leslie Gaines-Ross, avoiding “overuse of force” and to “behave reasonably, justly, and humanely…” Also, “respond at high speeds” and find “sympathetic third parties” as well as “Stockpile credentials now for use in battles ahead.”

Are We the New Journalists?

Today it seems to keep your business and personal status “refreshed” you are constantly updating your information. How you do that and what you say as a “journalist” may reflect on your image as each day you search for new “content.”

In the age of sometimes over-reaching “political correctness” you can create perceptions that may not be what you desired. These “snippets” like the increasing importance of establishing the right image within the first 15 minutes has led to the importance of “managing your image.” Sometimes in the haste to meet the daily information deadline, we may focus too much on words and not content that re-enforces what you are about.

There is a local chapter of a global networking organization BNI International and its chairman Dr. Ivan Misner is quoted “How to Make Your Network Work For You” in this focused feature on “Manage Your Image” in HBR. It reads “People tend to forget about the importance of long-term credibility because they’re so focused on making an immediate sale.” He continues “But with that approach, you only eat what you kill that day.”

Is it All Becoming One?

How you position yourself is no longer restricted to a business or community image but has extended into the world of “personal branding.” How you manage your personal and public image has become important. For small communities and our smaller businesses that often reflect the personality of their leaders that image can become blurred. It may be becoming more difficult to separate personal and public perceptions. What you say or how you position yourself in either forum can form an image of you and who you represent sometimes in perpetuity on the Internet.

In “Define Your Personal Leadership Brand in 5 Steps” by Norm Smallwood in this HBR edition, this helps to convey “your identity and distinctiveness as a leader. It communicates the value you offer.” A focused leadership brand can help you “clearly identify what you want to be known for; it is easier to let go of the tasks and projects that do not let you deliver on that brand.”

How do you “build a leadership brand”? Five steps are pointed out:

1. “What Results Do You Want to Achieve in the Next Year?” These include the “interests” of your customers and employees. It is suggested to “begin by focusing on the expectations of those [you are] working to serve… Leadership brand is outward focused; it is about delivering results. A key component is “clarifying what is expected of you.”

Other building blocks include:

2. “What To You Wish to Be Known For?” Important here is narrowing it down to one word “descriptors.”

3. “Define Your Identity” A key task is combining your one-word descriptors into several “two-word phrases that reflect your desired identity.”

4. “Construct Your Leadership Brand Statement – Then Test It”

5. “Make Your Brand Identity Real” Ensure “that the leadership brand you advertise is embodied in your day-to-day work.” And what may be important for us all to understand is that “your leadership brand isn’t static; it should evolve in response to the different expectations you face at different times…”

Changing Expectations?

We all know how customer expectations are rapidly changing and the trick may be to be adaptive to meet these changing needs with an evolving brand. As our personalities become broadcast to a wider audience so does the importance of telling a good story of your business, community or product.

Is cyberspace creating an “avatar” of ourselves that if we are not careful can portray an image of what we do not want?

If we recognize this new image creating world, we can also use its potential to reach a large audience with a clear message.

Perhaps our new motto should be “Mirror, mirror on the wall, is it really “the me” I want out there?”

Creating your own “Google trails” and “managing your identity” may have become new themes in broadcasting your image.

 
 

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