He stared at me with a blank look on his face. It was a look of surprise and embarrassment that betrayed the fact that he had never considered this very fundamental question before. He was a marketer for a large international law firm, and the answer to this question should have informed many different decisions he made in marketing the firm. I wasn’t very surprised by his reaction.
I used to be a trial lawyer and I am accustomed to cross examining people. This felt exactly like that. “Why do you put pictures of the lawyers on your website?” He stared blankly for a moment and then stammered out, “So you know what they look like?” I promise I am not making this up.
This answer isn’t wrong, but it isn’t very good either. Perhaps a better way to say it is, “To put a name with a face.” When I am talking to or emailing Johnny Lawyer, I can picture his lovable mug. Considering how unpopular having your headshot made can be with some people, this does not seem like a fantastic answer.
Another answer I commonly get to that question is, “Well, you just have to. Most people do.” Again, while this isn’t a great answer, it definitely is not wrong. It is true that most people do it, and if you don’t it looks strange, like you are not serious. Have you ever received a friend request on social media such as Facebook or LinkedIn where the requester did not have a profile picture? It’s like that. It’s strange. You wonder if they’re even a real person.
For the clients that I market myself to, there is often a more important reason. That online headshot is going to be the first impression they make on many potential clients. First impressions and the common knowledge surrounding them are one of those things that everybody knows is true and actually is true. The research in this area is overwhelming. First impressions are formed almost instantaneously, visuals are far more important than text, they are very sticky, and first impressions formed online carry over into the real world. Since that is the case, it is a good idea to make that first impression a very strong one.
The majority of headshots I see do not make good first impressions. What really makes me mad about these shots is that it is not the subject’s fault at all. They don’t deserve it. They just have no idea what to do in front of the camera, and of course they should not. It is not their area of expertise. The expressions on their faces when they were being photographed should not have been left up to them.
Just so you don’t think I am beating up on other people, I will use myself as an example.(more…)