Creating a Consistent Visual Identity
"I was expecting someone..... different."
This is not a sentence you ever want to hear a potential sponsor / media partner / event booker say. You cannot control the ever deepening pool of images of you seeping across the web as you stay active in the adventure space. However, you can control the key look that represents you on each of your websites, social media profiles and other online spaces.
If you've traded in your waist-length hair for a pixie-cut, replaced your clean-shaven look with a Viking beard, or just grown older with the passing of the years, your profile photograph needs to reflect that. People in the corporate and media spaces tend to use images at least a decade out of date. Adventurers often pick their best 'hard-core' image, unrecognisable under furry hoods, iced-up beards, and giant googles. Or they favour the image from their most famous adventure, even if it happened 20 years ago.
You need an image recognisable as you, today, and you need the same image across all your homes on the web. Why does that matter so much?
1. Can They Visualise You In Their Space?
You want them to sponsor you, write about you, pay you to speak to their audience or make you an ambassador for their brand. In preparing to meet with you, they will google you, and they will visualise the 'you' that they find in their space - as their keynote speaker, as their magazine cover image, as their brand ambassador. If they then find that 'you' look very different in real life, that immediately puts you at a disadvantage.
Of course you are going to pick an image that is as flattering as possible, but it needs to be within the boundaries of current reality.
2. Can They Recognise You Wherever They Find You?
Building up a following is essential for most forms of funding in the adventure space. One way to do that is to make the process of following you as frictionless as possible. If someone who follows you elsewhere comes across you on a new platform, you want them to follow you there too. It helps to have the same username on all platforms, but that isn't always possible.
So a good way to do it is to have the same (flattering but recognisable) photo of you across all platforms.
But good photography is expensive :(
We often stick to a few old photos because they are the only decent ones we have. The proliferation of cameras has devalued the art of photography, but you only have to compare a portrait of you snapped by a friend to one taken and processed by a professional, to see that skill in portrait photography is a real asset.
Paying for decent photography can be a good investment. Having to do that every two or three years, or every time you change your look, can feel like an excessive cost but you need to weigh that against what you are asking for from sponsors, brands and event planners.
Collect decent images of yourself and cultivate photographers. Can you do some kind of swop in kind to lower your costs?
Related blog posts:
Know Where You Are On The Web
This post was inspired by updating my own portrait images. My photographer of choice is a friend I met when we were both studying post-gradate journalism, with a focus on photojournalism. Angie Lazaro went on to have a successful career as a fashion photographer, based in Cape Town. (Find her on Instagram at @angie_lazaro.)
Having picked one image to use across my profiles on the web, I kept a list of all the places I updated, so I could find them more easily next time. It is a long list! One or two didn't even have the previous photograph. They were still languishing with the one before that.
Even if you can't afford to commission new photographs, pick the best one you have and devote a few hours to putting that no.1 photo everywhere you hang out. At the same time, use it as a way to look at where you do spend time online, and close down any profiles you no longer use. (I finally shut down Google+.)
While you are there, check your profile text on each site - make sure every one mentions your website and/or the social media platform where you most consistently hang out. Try to bring your followers to your home base.
This is my list to date - I bet I've forgotten a few.
- Trello (swopped it to Gravatar)
- Google and my mess of interlinked accounts (which also updates YouTube)
- Contacts card
- Wordpress / Gravatar
- The Business of Adventure website About Page photo
- CathyODowd.com About Page photo
- CathyODowd.com favicon