I loved watching Michael Jordan play for The Chicago Bulls in the 1990s. In those days, everybody seemed to want to “Be like Mike”. I remember thinking about how isolated he and other big celebrities had to feel as public figures. When I went out for an evening, I would often think about the fact that he couldn’t just go out to a movie with his family without drawing a huge throng of fans seeking autographs and pictures.
I enjoy my anonymity. I enjoy being able to go out on a whim without orchestrating the renting of an entire movie theater or restaurant. But I still need to be careful.
More spotlight on the consultant’s public image
In the current world of social media, consultants may be less anonymous than they might think. A consultant may establish a LinkedIn account which lists their professional activity. They may also have accounts on Twitter , Facebook and any number of other social media sites.
Like many people, a consultant may use one or more of those other accounts for personal use. For instance he may use the Facebook account to post pictures of the kids, the dog or a recent skiing vacation.
For more information, see Client Relations for Consultants
If that’s the extent of personal use, there’s probably no harm done. If he uses social media sites to promote a side business, political views or any type of controversial issues, there is a risk of offending current and potential clients.
When harmless posts such as family pictures are made available, you could argue that it displays a human side that a client may enjoy seeing. It all depends on how much personal information you’re comfortable exposing to clients and prospects.
Separating the private and public images
I prefer to keep it separate and have my privacy setting such that only people I approve can access my personal information (at least as much as that’s possible).
Another facet of your public life is the possibility of a chance meeting when you’re out socially. Depending on the size of town in which you live, it may be unavoidable. But even in the largest of cities, you can run into a client employee in a public place.
If you’re just out to dinner with your significant other, you can exchange pleasantries and move on. If a young consultant has a night on the town and runs into a client after a long night of drinking, it could reflect negatively on his reputation. In this situation, the best bet is to avoid any contact if you fear embarrassing yourself in front of a client employee.
You could argue that your personal time is just that: personal; and a chance meeting shouldn’t have any effect on client relationships. As much as I agree, not every client and consulting manager would.
A consultant – whether she’s independent or an employee of a firm – should always be cognizant of her public image and how that might affect her career. The higher level you are with a firm, the more critical it is.
Have you ever created damage to your consultant’s public image?
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.