I spent the last few weeks conducting news media training for members of the California Society of CPAs in Northern California. In between, I attended the World Conference of the International Association of Business Communicators in San Francisco. (I am an IABC member and an accredited business communicator, or ABC, through that organization.)

The sessions at the four-day conference changed my thinking on how I will approach news media training in the future. Although I have modified my program over the past few years to include more about social media, the future version of my presentation likely will include more practical information on how firms and individuals can use social media to their advantage.

For now, here are a few observations shaped by my attendance at the World Conference.

Social Media Trumps Legacy Media

Radio didn’t doom newspapers, and television hasn’t bashed radio. So-called legacy media (newspapers, radio, television) will always be around, but their influence is changing because generations change. Young people—those millennials entering the workforce—have different ways of gathering news compared to Baby Boomers They rely more on social media (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Yelp, Instagram) to obtain information than on print publications, radio or television. My own son, who recently received a Ph.D. in how game theory applies to negotiations among nations, doesn’t read newspapers. He can easily collect the information he needs by cruising the Web.

We’re All Exposed

Did we really ever have complete privacy? The Constitution never guaranteed such a right. Nowadays the average person can spend a few minutes at a computer and ferret out the address, age and other details of anyone else. A good hacker can get even more, including Social Security and credit card numbers. Uber tracks its users. Surveillance cameras are ubiquitous. And if you are at a conference or rocking to a concert, chances are someone is Periscoping your presence.

Control Your Brand

My contemporaries and I were constantly advised to make a good impression on potential employers. Dress in appropriate business attire. Exercise good manners (do gentlemen—if they exist—still open doors for ladies [if I may use that term]?). Censor your language, especially in mixed company. Today such rules are relaxed. Casual business dress is standard in many fields. Feminism has put everyone on equal footing when exiting or entering a building. And radio and network television seem to be the only places where no one can say those seven famous words.

Regardless, branding (which is another way of saying “impression”) probably is even more important today than it has ever been. If nothing is private anymore, then the person who knows how to maintain a particular image of himself (or herself) has an advantage over the person who sees no connection between his Facebook posts and his choice of beer.

At the World Conference, self-styled social media evangelist Guy Kawasaki proclaimed the power of the visual on social media and advised that a person use the same profile photo over all social media venues he or she is involved with. Why? Because the smart person realizes that consistency in profile imagery conveys a certain gravitas. Perception, in short, is reality.

So how do you want others to perceive you?

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