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Is Your Professional Photo as Good as Your Professional Reputation?

By Stewart Gandolf, Chief Executive Officer

Female doctor talking on phone and smiling8 Extremely Helpful Guidelines for an Ideal Executive Portrait

Healthcare is a people business...where trust and confidence begins with the first impressions. Here's how to create an effective professional photo that helps build and extend your first-class reputation..

OK—we'll be the first to admit that not everyone is incredibly photogenic.

But a professional's professional photo is a powerful and often neglected communications tool in healthcare marketing. So...take a dispassionate look and ask: What is your "executive portrait" saying about you? (Use the same test for hospitals, key staff members, and hospital executives.)

Visual information is more impactful than verbal or written communications. You and I (anyone) remember 10 percent of what we hear, 20 percent of what we read...and 80 percent of what we see. And more importantly, pictures connect people to people on an emotional level. They portray trust, confidence and sincerity—the intangible but vital elements of your professional reputation.

Now take another look.

Is your professional photo as good as your professional reputation? Or is your "image" saying unkind things behind your back? Do you even have a recent and decent professional photo? If you need a picture to send to the media or professional society would you be scrambling to find something appropriate on short notice?

In our work with professional practices, hospitals and healthcare organizations large and small, we see tons of good and bad examples of practitioner pictures in all sorts of healthcare marketing materials. Unfortunately, the poor examples tend to lead the pack.

And, like it or not, your reputation is reflected in what people see in your photo. Absent any other input, they can feel that you don't deserve their professional trust. (And perhaps a competitor gets their attention.)

What we see suggests that successful practitioners—doctors, surgeons, dentists, administrators, technicians, staff—have and use top-quality professional business portraits. And here are eight guidelines that experience tells us will help you get the job done right.

For the sake of your professional reputation and your brand...

  • Schedule it. The most common excuse we hear is "no time." Of course, everyone's busy, but give this a realistic priority. Set a timeline; put dates on your calendar. And allow enough time to get it done right without being rushed.
  • Use a professional photographer. Do-it-yourself efforts don't produce professional results. Generally, profession photography is usually reasonable in cost. And considering the dozens of ways good portraits are used over a long period of time, a decent budget is well worth the investment.
  • Check samples and references. Good photographers post their portfolios online and tend to specialize. Search for "executive portrait," "corporate photography," or even "flattering headshots." Ask colleagues for references, and don't settle for a generalist or someone who is simply convenient.
  • Meet in advance. Talk with the photographer about your needs, expectations and budget. Will this be done in a studio, at your office, outdoors, on location—or more than one of these venues? What is the final deliverable? Does the photographer provide makeup, digital "touch-ups," props, backdrops, or other options?
  • One sitting = many shots. There's not a lot of extra effort required to produce variety in clothing, backgrounds, and expressions. For both men and women, bring more than one conservative option, but avoid anything flashy or distracting such as stripe, plaid or busy materials. Avoid attire that is too formal, too informal or trendy. The background should be neutral and/or natural.
  • Take direction. We can tell you that what looks natural through the lens doesn't always feel natural or comfortable. Your photographer will tell you to look into the lens, lean this way or that, move your hands or whatever, so go along with the instructions for the best results.
  • Expressions, expressions, expressions. Instruct the photographer to take lots of images—lots. All the subjective likes and dislikes aside you'll want to make final selections from among many options. Ultimately, you'll want at least two primary expressions in your library, with a variety of poses, backgrounds, attire, etc. It's hard to generalize, but depending on where and how you photo will be used, the two categories are:- Caring Confidence. This image should convey sincerity; expression of concern (no big smile); and someone worthy of trust for "official" business applications.
    - Personable and approachable. Here's where a wide smile, and a more relaxed feeling can communicate friendly professionalism; for the less formal uses.
  • Update yourself occasionally. If your professional photo is five or ten years old, refresh yourself. Eventually people will notice the difference.

It seems that the world is increasingly visually oriented. The uses for professional portrait photography have grown as the Internet and online marketing have grown. People expect to see what you look like in hospital or medial practice advertising, PR and publicity releases, peer connections and CVs, the hospital or surgi-center welcome wall, annual reports, newsletters, brochures and dozens of other places.

Send us a sample of your marketing materials and we'll give you quick appraisal of what it says about your brand, reputation and professional image.

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