Photo by Maxim Ilyahov on Unsplash

Just as looking in the mirror reflects your physical appearance, your digital image is a reflection of your personal brand. The manner in which you appear online, whether via video, social media presence, or even Slack message is telling a story about who you are and how you’re showing up in the world. The problem is, just like that new patch of gray hair, you might not like what you see.

While you may not have the ideal reflection staring back at you currently, there are proactive steps you can take to begin to develop your picture perfect digital image. For guidance, I reached out to Donna Brighton, the chief idea officer at Brighton Leadership Group. Donna specializes in helping leaders identify and use their unique leadership voice and brand, both in-person and online. She shares her insights on how to set your personal brand up for success in a digital world.

What are the commonalities and points of differentiation between an individual’s digital image and his or her in-person image?
“Whether you mean to or not, you will always be broadcasting a message about yourself to others through your words, actions, and appearance. Your personal brand is the unique combination of your appearance, skills, experience, and personality that you want the world to see, presented in a clear, focused manner. If you don’t take the time to define it and live it, someone else will do it for you.

The more dimensions you interact with, the broader perspective people get. For example, a phone call uses words and voice tone to communicate. So it’s important to use those dimensions effectively. For example, how you sound impacts someone’s impression, which affects your brand image. A video call adds the dimension of appearance. Being in person gives someone the chance to fully experience you, where both phone calls and video calls miss out on the full experience of you.”

What steps can you take to improve your visibility and ensure that you have a positive online brand image?

  1. Do a digital audit. Search for yourself online and see what comes up. List all your online accounts and review how you show up on each. Evaluate your visual impact and whether it clearly conveys your authentic brand image.
  2. Be authentic. What you share and how you show up should match. I often think of the quote, “Be Yourself Because Everyone Else Is Taken.” Take a look at other personal brands for ideas, they can include ‘celebrities’ in your industry as well as those with worldwide recognition like Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Beyoncé, Carly Fiorina, Arianna Huffington, etc.
  3. Ensure that your personal brand promise stays consistent, both online and offline. It’s important to demonstrate consistency across your communication, gravitas, and appearance. Don’t underestimate how tiny inconsistencies can derail personal brand effectiveness.”

As more meetings are hosted remotely, how can you bring your best self to virtual events, especially important strategic events like board meetings?

  1. “Ask thoughtful questions that you’ve prepared in advance.
  2. Take notes and arrive prepared to contribute.
  3. Use asynchronous communication wisely.
  4. Be intentional. Decide what you want to project (your intent) and then show up consistently.
  5. Make sure you are well lit, that the background aligns with the brand image you want to convey and your audio is clear.”

What advice do you have for fostering and maintaining authentic connections remotely?
“It’s all about intention. Take time to decide who you want maintain a connection with. Then find out what matters to that person. Create a connection schedule to ensure that you are intentionally reaching out on a regular basis. One memorable item to add to those connection touchpoints is a handwritten note. I firmly believe that handwritten notes have never gone out of style. People remember a positive note of encouragement. Another way to foster connection is to consider making a request. When we ask for help that someone else can provide it builds a relationship.”

For more information on enhancing your digital brand and understanding your digital footprint, check out Donna’s recent webinar, ‘Set for Success: Your Digital Image.’

Amy Thomasson is a strategist, content creator, and storyteller with extensive experience in marketing and communications, membership development, and volunteer management.

She has worked in a variety of business environments ranging from the Fortune 500 to professional associations. Amy currently serves as the marketing director for the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

Amy is incredibly passionate about volunteerism within the association and nonprofit management community, and currently serves as co-chair of Association Forum’s Content Working Group, as well as a mentor to Forum’s Emerging Leaders. She is also a highly-rated speaker and article author, who has partnered with ASAE, Association Forum, AssociationSuccess.org, and standalone associations to deliver engaging content. Amy is a 2018 recipient of Association Forum and USAE’s Forty Under 40® Award.

She has a BA in Communication from the University of Missouri-Columbia, an Executive Leadership certificate from Cornell University, and a Professional Fundraising certificate from Boston University.

Amy Thomasson is a strategist, content creator, and storyteller with extensive experience in marketing and communications, membership development, and volunteer management. She has worked in a variety of business environments ranging from the Fortune 500 to professional associations. Amy currently serves as the marketing director for the Congress of Neurological Surgeons. Amy is incredibly passionate about volunteerism within the association and nonprofit management community, and currently serves as co-chair of Association Forum’s Content Working Group, as well as a mentor to Forum’s Emerging Leaders. She is also a highly-rated speaker and article author, who has partnered with ASAE, Association Forum, AssociationSuccess.org, and standalone associations to deliver engaging content. Amy is a 2018 recipient of Association Forum and USAE’s Forty Under 40® Award. She has a BA in Communication from the University of Missouri-Columbia, an Executive Leadership certificate from Cornell University, and a Professional Fundraising certificate from Boston University.

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