I was looking through LinkedIn the other day, and I was struck by the number of profiles that had the same stock standard types of professional headshots on display. In some cases, they were photographs that had been cropped down from a larger personal photograph. Other times it was the standard professional headshot taken against a blank wall, wearing neat corporate attire and similar smiles or a serious face. As I scrolled through the newsfeed, I found myself enthusiastically looking for something or anything to stand out. Make me pause and look further. I wanted to connect with people and find out about who they were and what they stood for. In some cases, I had to dive into their written content at length to find out more about them.
While I agree about the need for a more corporate look in a photograph when there is a specific audience and purpose, it’s not always the best choice when you are in a sea of faces. Especially in places like LinkedIn. While it’s great to see what you look like and how you present, as an on-looker I want to connect with you and know that you have the capacity to emotionally connect with me – not just look good!
After my incessant scrolling on LinkedIn, the next day I was looking through Spotify. I began searching for some new albums to play while I worked. As I slowly scrolled through what was available, I was again struck by the directory of thumbnails that was album artwork. It reminded me of the LinkedIn search. However, my experience with the album artwork was totally different and so much more engaging. I was intrigued by some of the artwork and others turned me off completely from listening to the album. There was this polarising effect. The different artwork did what it was meant to do. I happened to stumble upon some music that I wouldn’t necessarily have searched for in the past. However, the artwork had drawn me in to want to hear more.
Imagine if you scrolled through a LinkedIn search and saw a variety of expressions and messages communicating to you. No more ‘same same’. The full expression of self and varying messages! A conversation starter! An opportunity to polarise! To connect with like-minded people! To fill in the gaps before people make their own assumptions about you.
A Conversation Starter!
When you can STAND OUT in a way that really sets a tone from the first impression you give, you leave yourself wide open for opportunities to come your way! If you want to be more successful and receive more pay for the value you provide, then you need to show and express your value fully! You need to back yourself 100%! When you ditch the mediocre or worse still the “afterthought” headshot, you save your customers and decision-makers from having to search for your value in your content and IP. You lead with your value all the way, in how your professional headshot communicates your iconic brand identity in conjunction with the powerful content and IP that you have to offer.
It’s a bit like the “Where’s Wally” cartoon puzzles. You know the one with the huge scenes of masses of people? You look for Wally hidden somewhere in the crowd wearing his white and red striped top and hat. Searching through a sea of ‘same same’ faces and facial expressions and styles leaves your potential customers and business connections needing to play “Where’s Wally” to connect with you, and frustrating them in the process. You don’t want to become another victim of that dreaded Scroll Button, while people are searching for experts like yourself on social media, directories or bureau pages! When you are blending in with everyone else, you have to work so much harder with your written content and marketing to express your point of difference. People can easily forget you.
Benefits of a Professional Headshot
We have all heard the research that says that it takes only 3 seconds for someone to form an opinion based on their first impressions of us. LinkedIn’s stats have shown that a user who has a professional headshot (as opposed to a personal photo or no photo *gasp*) will get 14 times more views than those without!
One step above this is the need to emotionally connect with your potential customers. According to a Gensler Brand Engagement Study, 94% of respondents said they would be highly likely to recommend a brand they emotionally engaged with. So the ultimate question here is DO you know how best to emotionally engage with your ideal audience? What emotions motivate them? What will stop them in their tracks as they scroll past profile after profile, or click through website after website? Are you going to be a Wally who blends in and makes it harder for your audience to connect with you emotionally? Or will you be different from the norm out there?
7 Tips to Stand Out
Here are 7 Steps to Stop being a Wally with your professional headshot and brand identity:
- Stop looking at what everyone else is doing! Innovators do not look to others for guidance, they walk their own path. In doing so, you will test some boundaries and maybe even ruffle some feathers. But I’d rather get some sort of emotional rise out of someone than be in a constant state of ‘ok-ness’.
- Do some deep identity work with someone unbiased. Get a clear perspective about WHO you are, WHAT you stand for, and HOW you provide value.
- Be playful with different facial expressions that can become part of your signature visual branding.
- Choose clothing that reflects your message and what you stand for. Not just what you wear every day to the office!
- Bring energy to your headshot – excitement, joy, determination, daring! Take control! Stand out for the right reasons!
- If you are going to use props, then make sure that they have a purpose and strongly align with your brand message.
- Commit fully to the process of FULL self-expression in your professional headshot. No half-hearted attempts! Otherwise, you might as well go back to being a Wally.
I DARE you to step outside of the Norms!