If you’re on the management team of a professional services or consulting firm, you know it’s important that both you and the experts who are your “product” project a positive brand image. In fact, the same is true for any finance executive who wants to earn and keep the respect of banks, investors, customers, partners and suppliers. Yes — that’s you.
Of course, a truly effective brand goes beyond the basics like making sure your business cards and office stationery send the right message about your firm.
Now more than ever, it’s crucial to project a professional image online. Unless you’ve been actively managing your online brand throughout the year, you’re missing out on a great marketing tool — and possibly losing business to competitors. The new year is a perfect time to review your online branding status and make plans to improve it. Here are five tips that can help:
Check your privacy settings: If you use social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter for personal communication and sharing photos with family and friends, you probably publish comments and photos that aren’t necessarily meant for public consumption.
But unless your privacy settings shield these items from view, anyone who does a search on your name will find images and communications that you didn’t intend to share with the world. The new year is a good time to review all your personal social-media platforms to make sure they are shared only with the people for whom they were intended.
Conduct a personal brand consistency review: If you’ve been in business for awhile, chances are you’ve completed professional profiles, submitted data to online directories and posted information about your skills and experience on a number of sites, such as LinkedIn or a network specific to your profession.
That can be a great way to generate new business and make professional contacts, but unless you keep your information up to date, the image you project may be inconsistent. Now is a great time to take a look at your various profiles and update photos and information to ensure consistency. Use of an updatable personal microsite with current contact information, links and other professional data can be a terrific way to ensure online brand consistency.
Google yourself: Even if you closely manage your online brand image, it’s advisable to check your search engine results frequently. Because of the way search-engine algorithms work, information you didn’t expect to be displayed prominently might make it to the top of your search engine results, which can be an issue when you’re attempting to manage a professional image online.
If your name is fairly common, it’s also possible that the results for someone who shares it will dominate the search returns. If so, there are ways to overcome this, such as the use of a personal URL that you can embed in your email signature, résumé and other online communications that leads to handpicked search results.
Develop a new content creation strategy: Publishing thought leadership pieces and contributing opinions on your industry’s current issues is a great way to bolster professional credibility, and with so many platforms available to share your thoughts, it’s never been easier.
Think about how you can become a thought leader in your sector this year. Develop a content-creation strategy, considering platforms such as a blog, Twitter, association-contributor pages and professional sites where you can showcase your expertise. It’s an excellent brand-building tool, and it can also address any issues you have with search-engine results if you regularly publish professional content to expand your influence throughout the year.
Get help with managing your online brand: These days, you can assume that prospective clients and business associates will do an online search on you before starting a business relationship. That means a professional image online is a necessity, not a luxury.
If you don’t have time to closely monitor and manage your online brand, get some help. There are platforms and services on the market that can give you the tools you need to easily manage your online reputation and handle professional brand monitoring on an automated basis. Look for services that can integrate your online and offline branding elements for a consistent image across the board.
By following these tips, you can put your best foot forward in the new year.
Susan Jacobs is director of marketing and client services at All-State Legal, a provider of products and services for law firms.