Are You Really Making a Great First Impression?

Wouldn’t it be ideal if everyone knew about all the great things about you or your organization? If, when they searched on Google, they were immediately taken to your online profiles, or your website’s home page, where they patiently waited for all your carefully developed content to scroll past, and then diligently read all your meticulously edited copy and watched your beautifully produced videos?

Unfortunately, that’s not what typically happens, and too many of us are unwilling to face the reality of customers’ short attention spans and their ultimate desire for clarity and authenticity.

When’s the last time you searched yourself, your organization, or the names of your colleagues, the way a customer might?

Likely, depending on how you search, which keywords, which services, or even which device, the results might surprise you, and may be very different for each customer who tries.

Some sites or services may be accurate, but some are not. Your LinkedIn profile may have your correct work experience, but your Facebook profile may not. Your company website might have your most up-to-date bio, but your IMDb profile may not. Your company may have an accurate profile on some sites, but not on others.

All of this leads to confusion . . . which information is correct? Has the customer searched the right person or company? How do they know it’s really you, and can they trust the information they find if it is conflicting?

Here are five important steps to make sure you or your organization is making the best impression it can:

1. Be Aware of How Others See You or Your Organization

Evaluate the impression you and your organization is making online from the viewpoint of your customers, constituents, donors and peers.

Type the name of your organization into Google or another search engine. What do the results show? Does your official website come up first? If not, what does? Do the top results include your social media accounts, including LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter? Do you have a Wikipedia page or an IMDb listing? Are you listed in professional directories related to your industry? Does your name come up on other websites? Are there unfavorable listings?

The first step to managing your online reputation is doing a proper assessment of what others see when they search for you, or when they search topics related to you or your organization. You can perform a simple audit by creating a list of all the profiles that come up, including notes about positives and negatives, and corrections which should be made.

2. Be Consistent

The image you or your organization projects should be consistent and recognizable. When a customer, donor, or peer sees content generated by your organization, it should be consistent with the image you are trying to project.

A consistent brand image means that logos, typefaces, imagery, and tone should be selected with deliberation, and everyone who communicates on behalf of the organization should be familiar with, and required to abide by the established guidelines.

A visitor should be able to recognize the basic elements of the organization when they visit the organization’s website or social media accounts, or when they receive an email, or view an advertisement. Changes to this brand image should be deliberate, and well thought out, because they will change how your organization is perceived, for better or worse.

3. Know Who You’re Targeting

Every business or organization has one or more target audiences. Have you stopped to really identify who these people are and what messaging will resonate with them? In many cases, it will be beneficial to segment your target audiences so you can tailor the messaging to each segment, based on the different needs or interests they may have.

These audience segments can be particularly useful when designing custom landing pages for your website, as well as for any type of online promotions, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter advertising and, and Google adwords promotions. The goal is to prepare content that is designed to optimize the experience for each segment of your audience.

Different services or products will, in many cases, appeal to different audience segments. The better your organization can use data to understand which audiences are interested in which services or products, and why, the more effective your communications will be.

4. Highlight Your Strengths (and Address Your Weaknesses)

Once you’ve optimized your organization’s website, social media channels, and other online presences, you’re in a position where you can better leverage your strengths. Positive news articles, blog posts, and reviews should be amplified on your website and across social media.

Your organization can benefit greatly by a strong social media presence, both for organization itself, as well as key individuals within the organization. A strong social media is extremely useful when it comes time to amplify a positive news article or interview that appears online. The time it takes to build your network on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram can be extremely valuable. A robust email list can also be particularly useful when you have good information to share.

Negative articles or reviews should be responded to appropriately, and used to identify weaknesses within your organization. The best organizations take criticism seriously, and use it to stay ahead of the needs and expectations of their customers.

5. Hone Your Message

Before you can hope to share your organization’s story with your target audiences, you must take the time to ensure that all of the key people in your organization understand it first. Your mission should be clearly stated on the your website, and should be supported with articles, videos, and imagery on all of your organization’s online channels.

A well thought-out mission statement should clearly explain why you exist, and what you do for your customers, clients, fans or stakeholders. The mission statement should also detail how your company or organization does what it does, and should reflect your core values. Subsequent blog posts, press releases, brochures, and other content should all align with the content framework your team has mapped out.

Since this mission statement provides a foundation for all of your content, both online and offline, it should be reviewed regularly, and be edited to reflect any changes in your values or purpose.

What Online Platforms are Important for my Organization?