Public Relations

Homenum revelio: Why you cannot trust who you cannot see

Sue Parker /

DARE Group Australia founder Sue Parker. Source: Supplied.

Albert Einstein famously said “imagination is more important than knowledge”. Indeed, imagination is a glorious attribute that in its positive form is the fuel of childhood wonderment, human and business creativity. Imagination is defined as the part of the mind that imagines things, forms new ideas, concepts or images of external objects not present to the senses. Its essence sits in inventiveness, initiative and resourcefulness.

The transformation of a child’s shabby stuffed toy into a beautiful princess saving the world, visualising worn Lego pieces as a space rocket or play-acting wizards with magic powers is imagination in splendiferous action.

Similarly, in business, imagination is the fuel that burns creative fires. It’s the impetus of dazzling marketing ideas that build brands, rouses pathways to solve complex problems, ignites commercial artistry and entrepreneurial fire, and creates products that have changed the world in ways once unbelievable.

We bear witness to the positive manifestation of imagination in breathtaking form all around us. But there is a flip side, too. Like all behaviours, there is a time and place.

If our imagination is running wild in the wrong place, fog and negative assumptions can fly high. This often occurs where there is minimal evidence or information provided. A blank canvas without detail can bubble up a sea of divergent conclusions and hypotheses. And these may or may not be correct ones. Truth is often stranger than fiction and rhetoric doesn’t always meet reality.

In business, the issue of trust and transparency is fundamental for growth and client acquisition. And in the personal arena such as online dating, trust is crucial. Yet, in both situations, many hide their identity, touting many excuses for leaving a blank canvas.

There are countless examples of users on dating sites without photos or important information that turn out to be, in fact, married, formerly incarcerated or holding some other untoward motive.

Likewise in the business sector, there are many examples of owners going to considerable lengths to ensure they don’t have a digital footprint of any kind. And there are many who have purposely construed conflicting information to take the scent off joining any dots. If you have ever fallen prey to such shenanigans you will have built a finely tuned nose to detect any future concerns.

Establishing business trust cannot be underestimated. With Google, social media, LinkedIn and websites, all relevant research is at our fingertips. Potential, clients, suppliers and staff are checking before, during and after contact.

Many professional sectors are wading through significant PR and damage control with many buckling a spotlight of suspicion. The small business ombudsman Kate Carnell recently shone a light on the dodgy practices of some within the SEO sector and there is no need to further extrapolate on the franchise or financial fields. Further, Roy Morgan regularly publishes research findings of professions’ trust rankings where several commercial service sectors are given a shaking.

Every sector has both brilliant and appalling operators. Adverse perceptions can slide the gamut of questioning fraud, credentials, integrity or of having five heads (okay, that is a little jest). In today’s market, businesses cannot risk sprouting any seed of doubt.

So it’s imperative that every business minimise the potential for imaginations to run off the tracks. It’s also a great opportunity to showcase great personal brands as a standout in sectors suffering a poor PR rap.

Yet, I am constantly dismayed at how many websites there are without photo visibility or information on owners and/or directors. A lack of photos, names and personal background information is a real barrier to building confidence. And it’s staggering how many SMEs and solo operators don’t even have a direct name to contact, just a phone number.

We simply cannot trust who we cannot see.  

I have heard every excuse in the book for a lack of visibility and information.

  • I’m getting photos done soon. (What for the last 12 months?)
  • I hate having my photo taken. (Sorry, put your big girls or boys pants on.)
  • I don’t want to be in the spotlight. (Why would you go into business then?)
  • I don’t want to be contacted directly. (Why ever not, if you wish to grow your business?)
  • My mobile doesn’t work well in my area. (Yeah right, ha.)
  • It’s the business brand that matters not mine. (You are clearly asleep in  understanding the importance of people to build trust in a distrusting marketplace.)
  • I went to do it, but …
  • I want to look like a bigger business (You still can with positioning and marketing.)

People buy from people

Service businesses just cannot hide behind a logo or their company brand. People buy from people and personal brand is at the epicentre. Any notion that a business brand is all that is required to inspire enquiry and convert is unwise at best, and ludicrous at worst. The brand promise is congruent across both the business and personal.

And yes, it’s true that we make decisions visually within a split second. It’s human nature and there is no point denying it. But I’m not talking here about discrimination or inappropriate bias, but simply, the reality is an ideal client will make an assessment of you based on your photo. They might think:

  • I like your kind smile;
  • I trust the warmth in your eyes;
  • I trust you are a friendly, open person;
  • I sense great gravitas and competency in your posture;
  • I feel you are a respectful person via your expression;
  • I sense your sense of humour may be aligned; or
  • I trust your conservative appearance.

Whatever is authentic and true for you is the image and information that needs to be shared transparently on all your public digital assets. And team photographs build a real platform of attraction for staff, suppliers and prospects.

Suffice to say that when people check out a website or social media profile resulting in zero or minimal personal information, imaginations may conjure up many and varied things. And while it is true that not everyone cares about seeing photos, mobile numbers or background information, the vast majority absolutely do.  

So unless you are part of the ‘mob’, are fraudulent, have multiple spouses (none of which are aware of your polygamous life) or have a head that would melt Google and metatags, always put your photos, background and contact numbers on your website and social media assets.

And even if you tick a box on the aforementioned list, still show up and step out anyway. There is always someone for everyone’s imagination and your vibe will attract your commercial tribe at any rate.

I’m off to fight the good princess fight with a Lego space rocket. Oh, and I did meet my current husband via an online dating site. That’s another story for another time. But he did have a great smile and genuine information.

NOW READ: What does your LinkedIn photo say about you?

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Sue Parker

Sue is the founder of DARE Group Australia. A personal and business branding, LinkedIn and marketing communications specialist, Sue works with professional and creative services businesses at the launch, rebrand or growth stage. 

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