Visibility by association
AI-generated image using Bing and the prompt “rectangular image of seven people of different ethnicities and no faces, standing up close together, with one woman in the centre with a spotlight above her head, light orange background, cartoon” .
Like most people, I spend more time than I care to admit on social media – mostly, watching silly videos and seeing how cute my friends’ cats are. But I can’t really bring myself to consistently use it professionally.
I recently went through the assessment process to become a member of the ITI. I was approved last month (so I can now proudly call myself “Ana Carolina Ribeiro MITI”), and the normal thing to do would be to write a post on LinkedIn about it, wouldn’t it? “I’m very happy to say that I’m now a MITI, etc, insert vaguely-inspirational-but-not-coachy-line here”.
I tried to, I promise. I got a screenshot of my certificate. I opened LinkedIn. I got bored halfway through the post, thought no-one would be interested in it, and left to watch cat reels on Instagram. Not exactly a solid marketing/visibility strategy, if you ask me.
It did get me thinking, though. What works for me? Where do I engage naturally with colleagues and feel comfortable sharing my expertise and learning from them? The answer was obvious: within professional associations.
The first association I joined was ABRATES. However, back then I already lived abroad, and there weren’t online events to join – so I missed out on all their events, didn’t get much from my membership, and decided not to renew it. While that was not a success story, it taught me a very valuable lesson: for me, it would only make sense to join any association if I could be an active member.
In 2016, I joined APTRAD, primarily because I was seeking a mentor and wanted to make sure I avoided the scams/gurus that didn’t seem to be as prevalent then as they seem to be now (although I’m told that’s not quite accurate). After participating in their mentoring program, I attended their conference in 2018 and became more active in their Facebook groups, eventually joining the social media team, where I stayed until last year.
When the pandemic hit, APTRAD organized online lectures, and they invited me to speak about transcreation. This was the first time I ever spoke to an international audience, and gave me the confidence to speak at two other conferences the following year.
Networking with colleagues in those conferences, I learned about MET. Everybody really raved about them, and when I realised I could join despite not yet living in Europe (a somewhat common misconception), I didn’t hesitate. I joined their monthly Conversations and their Book Club, and through those met great new colleagues. In 2021, when they decided to hold their annual conference online, I volunteered as a helper. It was such a great event that, on the last day, I already started to look for tickets to San Sebastián to attend METM22.
With all the changes in my life since 2022 (marital status, continent of residence, etc), I haven’t been as active in those groups as I once was, but getting back on that track is high on my priority list.
And this brings me back to my application to become a MITI. It has been on my radar for a while, particularly after I joined MET. I was always put off by the fact that there was an assessment step before I could join, and that first I needed to figure out a plan to get the most of my membership. It has to be said that the admission process was quicker and more straightforward than I had anticipated.
In addition to submitting (with my partner) a proposal to speak at ITI’s next conference, I’ve already joined three of their networks: Portuguese, Marketing, and Beauty, Fashion and Luxury. Of course, being summer there’s nothing much going on, so I’ll have to report back on how interesting the discussions are within those groups.
Throughout the years, actively participating in professional associations has produced the results I wanted: I’ve learned very useful things from my peers, I have established my professional presence, and I’ve been referred by these colleagues for interesting projects. And it felt natural.
So, if you find social media uncomfortable or the idea of posting for the sake of posting sends a chill down your spine, maybe you don't need to feel like an impostor, as I did for a while. There are other ways of putting your name out there, and they can be just as effective, if not more so, than creating cookie-cutter content just because someone said that’s what’s expected of you.