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This column is part of Globe Careers' Leadership Lab series, where executives and experts share their views and advice about leadership and management. Follow us at @Globe_Careers. Find all Leadership Lab stories at

Jill Rowley is well known in the social media community. This self-described digital evangelist educates audiences around the world on the Five Pillars of Social Selling. These are:

1. Personal credibility

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2. ABC: Always be connecting

3. Using content to engage your buyer

4. Social listening for leads

5. Measuring meaningful metrics

The Five Pillars serve as a road map to develop a digital brand for sales teams as trusted relationship builders.

Digital Strategy. Social Selling. Online Reputation. If Jill is an evangelist, I am one of her disciples. I dedicate much of my time (on LinkedIn and Twitter especially) to reiterating the merits of, and methodologies associated with, effective digital communication to create trust and build brands. Yet of all of the content that Jill Rowley has shared about social selling – and there has been a lot – in my view, her most thought-provoking quote is one which forces us to confront our non-digital behaviour. And it is this:

"If you suck offline, you'll suck online."

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This statement sums up the reality that our offline professional brands have a way of transferring over to digital spaces. For many successful people this is a non-issue. Successful people are often innovators seeking excellence in all aspects of their professional lives and at home with disruptive technologies, the digital world being no exception. Others make the mistake of trying to make themselves seem more than they really are by buying a following rather than building one. The reality is that no amount of money or smoke and mirrors will be able to obscure mediocrity.

Transparency on social networks lays everything bare. LinkedIn profiles are ready for viewing, whether they are compelling, incomplete, or inaccurate. Twitter conversations are globally accessible. Comments made by us, and about us, are there for all to see and to pass judgment on. So, too, our Web pages, blogs, and publications. Regardless of the digital space, our offline decisions and choices are simply reflected in a new way. The question is: How will our actions be interpreted?

As for Facebook, think for a moment about the content that you are choosing to "Like". It tells me a lot about your values, and unfortunately, those "Likes" and comments that you post are not always to your benefit. Chances are I'm not the only one who thinks so. Soon a pattern develops, which affects our overall digital reputation. This is especially true when our Facebook Friends are also a part of our professional circles. The lines separating the two worlds become blurry.

It's not simply the transparency of our online actions that affect our brands. Our inaction may be equally indicting too. That Twitter biography we haven't yet written. That LinkedIn photograph we haven't yet uploaded. That customer service complaint we chose to ignore and hoped would go away. Action or inaction, it all reflects our level of interest in the digital world, and whether or not we have decided to lead, follow, or put our heads in the sand.

So while this might sound a lot like online branding, it's not. It is our offline decisions, values, and priorities that drive our Likes, Shares, Retweets, Comments and the extent of our digital participation and leadership. It is our offline success that drives our online brands. Ultimately our core values and ethics permeate through to digital spaces and paint a telling picture.

There is nowhere to hide in the digital age.

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A lot of time and energy is poured into the creation of an online brand and a digital communications strategy. Rightly so. Having a digital presence that reflects our professional integrity and our business acumen is a sound strategy. But we also need to get back to basics. Digital networks and strategies on their own aren't enough for success. If you can't close a deal offline, you might as well shut down your website. And if you're not being honest online, you're probably not being honest elsewhere.

I recently read a quote by Jay Danzie that describes the essence of professional branding and business success in person-to-person terms: "Your smile is your logo, your personality is your business card, how you leave others feeling after an experience with you becomes your trademark."

The best thing we can do to build our professional brands is to be conscientious, positive, and accountable. We can make sure our say-do ratio is 100 per cent. We can go the extra mile, choose to have an open mind, and embrace change.

Regardless of how slick a digital profile or website we may have, our offline professional brands and core values will ultimately be revealed through the digital tools that we use.

So make a commitment to the enhancement of your offline brand first. Because as software engineer Grady Booch stated, "A fool with a tool is still a fool."

Hilary Carter (@TweetFromHilary) is a public speaker and the founder of InTune Communications (@AreYouInTune), a strategic communications firm that helps companies and individuals amplify their messages and build their brands on Twitter and other social media networks.

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