Digital Presence and Managing Your Virtual Brand: What You Need to Know

FWA President Kimberly Weirick, Linda Descano, Raleigh Mayer and Deidre Campbell

Digital Presence Event

On Wednesday, May 28th FWA Members and guests came together to listen to a panel discussion featuring Linda Descano, an FWA Member, Managing Director and Head of Content and Social, North America Marketing, Citi; and President and CEO, Women & Co. Citi.

Ms. Descano, who is responsible for social media and content marketing efforts for U.S. consumer businesses with over 20 years at Citi, was interviewed by fellow FWA Member Raleigh Mayer. Known as the Gravitas Guru and principal of Raleigh Mayer Consulting, Ms. Mayer helps senior executives elevate presence, speak persuasively, and become more sophisticated at managing their relationships and reputations. She is an advisor, coach, educator, and speaker, specializing in effective communication, powerful presentation, and leadership development.

As technology continues to evolve, big companies have a mandate to promote their products or services on various Internet-based platforms and social media networks. Therefore, business people need to be familiar with a variety of engagement options,, keeping in mind that we’re all still human beings behind the screens and gadgets and that vital connection with other human beings is the end goal.

Linda Descano

Echoing this sentiment and kicking off the engaging dialogue, Ms. Descano stated, “While most marketers are interested in building reciprocal relationships with brands, a majority of these brands are less than successful in creating a solid relationship with their consumers. You always must manage and maintain a digital brand as this enables you to be known for what you want and simultaneously helps you to better protect your brand.”

Looking back at her own personal experience, Linda didn’t always want to be closely involved with social media. In fact, she revealed that she initially wanted to be a nun “for a very brief moment” and later considered other career choices including a teacher, mathematician, journalist and even a geologist. Because her mother didn’t finish high school and her father didn’t go to college, the only professionals she had ever really been exposed to included bookkeepers, nuns and teachers. Fast forward over 20 years and now Ms. Descano receives upwards of 300 emails a day just in her office inbox alone, which doesn’t include her three personal email accounts that generate 150-200 messages daily and the professional networking platform known as LinkedIn, where she is likely to see 15 incoming messages and 200 requests to connect a day. Currently, Linda has around 1,200 connections that she personally knows on this site.

Ms. Descano commented, “The financial services industry differs from others as you’re always having to think about reputation management. Accepting someone via your own social media channels is an endorsement of that individual. You must ensure they’re people of stature with high character who reflect your personal values.”

As technology is ever-changing, it has prompted a dramatic shift in the office culture from what you knew and how you worked to the current realm of who you know quickly becoming a much stronger form of currency, “as these strong connections can help you to solve a problem you may not be able to do on your own,” Ms. Descano added.

Outlining some of the biggest advantages and disadvantages of social media, Ms. Descano advised that while these channels enable you to get access to a vast array of information and keep tabs on friends, family and colleagues, the downside is they also require a huge investment of time.

“Most social networks are blocked at financial services firms and this is intentional. Thus, you must have a strategy that you enables you to compartmentalize- it all requires planning just like anything else in your life. Listening to feedback is important in regard to messages you’re promoting via these social channels just as understanding what resonates and what can help drive consistency for a brand,” according to Ms. Descano.

Audience participation during the program

Something else to be mindful of is that it’s critical to use different types of platforms for different needs. For example, LinkedIn should primarily be used to discuss issues pertinent to your career field. Only follow people you trust that deliver good messages. On the other hand, because she works for a global brand in a highly regulated industry, even when using Facebook you must remember that whatever you say can have a positive or negative effect on your brand. Ms. Descano added, “I’m always editing myself and managing everything about my life as part of representing any brand is thinking very carefully about anything you say. Be sure to reserve this platform for friends, family and colleagues, while LinkedIn should only be used in a professional manner. Twitter is a blend of both of these and you should always make an attempt to tweet back to anyone you find interesting when possible.”

Additionally, Ms. Descano provided the audience with a crucial tip in remembering to monitor privacy settings on all social media sites carefully as well as paying close attention to them as they are updated on a regular basis.

Live Twitter Feed

During the lively conversation, Edelman provided a projection of a live Twitter feed at #FWAny to allow for real-time digital interaction. Following the discussion, a question and answer series was held. When asked by FWA Member Janet Handal how it works between Citi and its legal department when messages must delivered in a short period of time, Ms. Descano revealed that there are different processes used in varied scenarios. “When publishing under the brand, our legal and compliance departments typically review the message depending on the content. Hence, we must adhere to preset guardrails and be willing to have patience. Basically, this boils down to rolling over whatever challenge you may be facing; push the boundaries and always ask for a little more.”

In conclusion Ms. Descano shared, “Remember that it is key to put a human face on big corporations. This can be done through tweeting, posting, writing and then gauging the success of these initiatives. Stay true to yourself and conduct yourself online as you would offline at all times.”

When asked about the event after it ended,  Justin Winters, CFP, Director/Adviser Treasury Partners commented, “Great event last night. I loved the energy!” Also, Diana Merenda, Business Process Change Management & Controls, Risk Mitigation, Client Relations Marketing Services stated, “Such a great conversation with Linda the other night. She’s a great inspiration to me on so many levels.”

Special thanks to Deidre Campbell and Alex Dorer of Edelman and Co-Chairs Peggy Decker and Raleigh Mayer of the FWA Professional Development Committee.

Click here for event photo gallery