The onset of the digital age has greatly increased the speed and breadth of communication. Never before have we been able to reach out to others so quickly and publicly. This new ability to connect in a myriad of digital ways opens the doors to many opportunities and creates a host of pitfalls for professionals. Maintaining a professional image should be as important as keeping up with the speed of technology.
In order to keep up with the speed of communication, a trend that has enveloped the digital world is the truncation of messages and a tendency to launch communications without appropriate forethought. This creates an inherent danger to the reputation of the person launching the communication. Just about every week, there is story about a celebrity or professional athlete that finds himself in a controversy because they turned to Twitter or other social media sites to blast out initial reactions to events without taking a moment to consider the appropriateness or accuracy of their messages.
Communications that are deemed inappropriate or that don’t convey the intended message are only part of the problem. For professionals, of particular concern should be how communication conveys their professional image both to their potential and existing clientele and to their colleagues and associates.
As a key example, as a manager of a reverse mortgage division, I see a lot of resumes that are submitted to my company. I am constantly amazed at how people handle the presentation of their resume. This is often their first introduction to the firm from which they are seeking employment. This may be an old fashioned thought, but I have always believed that you show respect and interest for a job by presenting resume that demonstrates your experience related to the position you are applying for, along with a cover letter that detailed why you feel you should be considered for this position.
However, thanks to the digital world and employment websites where job seekers can send their resume with the touch of button, a large percentage fire off their resume without even including a cover letter. Others include a general cover letter that doesn’t address the specific position. Worse yet, they will include messages written in textspeak (a language best left to teenagers).
I have seen the lack of professionalism in communications to prospective clients as well. In the haste to get information out to a prospect, a salesperson will hastily type an email or a letter, ignoring basic spelling and grammar conventions.
Especially with the senior demographic, the level of professionalism that is portrayed through your communications is vitally important. Many seniors view this as key element to evaluating you and the level of trust they can have with you. Seniors seem to be joining the digital world in larger numbers and are increasingly comfortable communicating via email, and even text messages. However, they generally are not prepared to embrace the hieroglyphic nature of texting world.
It is important to remember, as well, that communications on message boards, comments on websites, even in groups like LinkedIn are on the Internet. Once something is out there, there is no taking it back, it is available for all to see. It is easy to get caught up in a strong opinion and feel the need to respond in an emotional way. You have no way of controlling who is reading that response and how that may impact future business. People more often turn to the Internet to learn more about the people they are associated with, whether it is employers checking out a potential hire or prospects choosing who to work with.
There is nothing wrong with having an opinion and wanting to participate in an on-line debate about important topics. Handled carefully, this can create a fantastic opportunity to demonstrate your expertise on key topics. You just need to make sure the message is presented in a way that you intend, before hitting that "send" button.
How you speak, how you write and how you communicate conveys your knowledge and expertise in presenting your services to prospective client. The digital world has created wonderful opportunities for professionals to expand their client base and increase their exposure, but the results can be disastrous if you don’t take a moment to ensure the communications convey the message you intended, and support the professional image you are seeking to foster.