We have entered a 24/7/365 bathing suit season in business. You and your company are always exposed, always vulnerable. Depending on your perspective, this can be intimidating or empowering.
Our lives and businesses have become reality shows—open to the world, sometimes by choice, other times by association. Customers are talking, competitors are watching, employees are networking, family and friends are sharing, and companies are scrambling to adapt and evolve.
We used to be able to avoid the spotlight, covering up our insecurities and masking our flaws. We could more easily control our brands and how we were perceived. But that was before the dawn of the digital age, and the explosion of social networking.
At some point we lost control, which is a scary thing for many entrepreneurs, marketers and other business leaders. We have been placed under the perpetual microscope of our social circles, in which the potential exists for unfiltered commentary and opinions about our every move, even if we choose not to participate.
Information is at our fingertips. What we discover online about people and businesses directly affects the decisions we make as professionals and consumers.
Job candidates, employees, business partners, academics, board members, executives, industry leaders and media are all affected. No person or business, regardless of industry, is immune.
And yet, there are people who have never Googled themselves (or their brands) to see what others see, and there are companies that continue to ignore social media because they can’t assess a direct ROI.
What we all must accept is that everything has changed. That is, except for one immutable law: perception is reality.
Whether you and your business are engaged in the online world or not, with every action you take and decision you make, you are either building or weakening your brand.
This presents enormous challenges, but even more significant are the opportunities—awareness, engagement, goodwill, leads, loyalty, love—for brands that have the confidence to ”bare it all” and connect with audiences in more authentic and personal ways.
So, you have a choice:
- Dive In: Be confident in yourself and take ownership of your brand. Accept that people are watching, talking and judging, and embrace it to build your career and your business.
- Cover Up: Hide away with your fears, miss out on all the fun and hope that you don’t become irrelevant and obsolete.
This is no place for curmudgeons and lumbering organizations. This is the land of underdogs and innovators. Professionals and businesses that are nimble, dynamic and transparent have the opportunity to disrupt markets, displace leadership and redefine industries.
The next generation of leaders will be those who are ready to leave their comfort zones, let go of their fears and anxieties, take risks and build remarkable corporate and personal brands.
The choice is yours.