What is visibility?


Sarah Anderson

What do you think of when you hear the word “visibility”? 

Perhaps it’s being seen and heard? Making your work known? Building your reputation? Being recognised for what you have delivered? Becoming known for something? Projecting a certain image of yourself, your team, or your organisation or cause? Being publicly visible via platforms like media, speaking or social media?

Whatever your current definition, visibility is a loaded term. It comes with all kinds of preconceived notions, misconceptions and MANY personal experiences and stories that shape our sense of its meaning, purpose and potential.

We’d like to challenge your thinking here on the concept of visibility. Over many years of working across leadership, communications, brand, strategy, marketing, coaching and development, we’ve developed a unique approach to visibility: what it is and isn’t; how we can think about it differently; and how we can put it to work as a powerful tool for influence and impact. So let’s get to the basics, before we give you a chance to assess your own.

Let’s start by defining what visibility is not.

It’s not about making you famous.

(Although that has been known to happen.)

It’s not about putting an artificial version of yourself on a platform.

(Although your platforms are crucial.)

It’s not about getting your face all over social media and TV.

(Although that might be an important by-product.)

In short, it’s not visibility for visibility’s sake.

So what is visibility?

Visibility is a tool to build influence and impact. It’s a roadmap to make ideas happen. It is an activator of strategy. It disrupts traditional ideas around leadership and communications by combining self-aware and visionary leadership with authentic, strategic communications. We’ve been told it feels like a secret weapon for unlocking potential in people and organisations so we can do the work that matters.

Critically, authentic and sustainable visibility emerges when we start with why we want or need to be visible and what might be possible if we are. So we created our own methodology, tools and frameworks to make decades of learning about this topic accessible to as many people as possible.

Our approach to visibility is built on the foundations of a three-pillared framework:

Visibility to self

What would you answer if someone asked you, “who are you?” How aware are you of your triggers and fears? Do you know what really drives you? How healthy is your self-talk? This is visibility to self territory.

You can’t create influence and impact, tackle systemic barriers or create real change unless you have an in-depth understanding of who you are and what you stand for — whether you are a person or an organisation. Visibility to self is about articulating your purpose, values and vision then leading and living in alignment with them. It’s about understanding the stories you tell yourself about visibility and reframing them. It’s about positioning visibility in the context of your wider strategy — whether that’s a leadership strategy, personal strategy, business strategy or culture strategy. By focusing on this vital pillar, you will learn how to work to your strengths as an individual or organisation, and effectively address your challenges and blindspots. This pillar is the source of our clients’ biggest ‘aha’ moments. It’s where the work nearly always starts, and never ends. And sadly, it’s most commonly the pillar that is overlooked, to the detriment of the rest.

Visibility to others

Think about those people you follow or listen to, whose words or actions inspire you, make you think differently or motivate you to take action. They have a way of leading, communicating or engaging that speaks directly to you. This is the second pillar of visibility: showing up to others.

When you’re ready to step into the world with courage and authenticity you need a roadmap. Visibility to others involves taking a strategic approach and then learning powerful communications tools and techniques to activate it. This pillar is about helping you create the right goals, understand your audiences, then take your message out through storytelling, media, social media, speaking, awards, thought leadership, relationship-building and many other platforms — remembering to evaluate and refine your strategy as you go. 

Visibility for collective impact

Think bigger now, to those people or movements or causes you’ve got behind. Perhaps you’ve mentored or advocated for someone, or made a sign and marched in a protest, or signed an online petition and shared it. Maybe you’ve started a business (or are thinking about it) whose focus is about helping people or shifting the way things need to be done in a particular area. Think about inspiring movement-makers whose vision or courage has inspired a wave of action: from Greta Thunberg to Steve Jobs to Nelson Mandela. Or that community leader who got a community garden up and running, stopped a fast-food restaurant being built in your town. All of this encompasses visibility for collective impact.

Visibility for collective impact is about using your or your organisation’s voice and platform for something bigger – to champion causes, build collaborations, spotlight and shift problems, advocate for people and create wider impact. We all operate within bigger systems, so need to recognise that our visibility isn’t just up to us, and doesn’t just serve us. When we take steps to see our visibility as part of a wider context or systemic impact,  we can leverage our influence for the greater good.

Moving from definitions to insight

Which pillar are you spending most of your time and energy on? Where do you feel you need to concentrate your efforts next? The best place to start is where you actually are.

Contact us to find out how you can assess your visibility through a visibility audit as part of one of our individual, group or organisational programs.

About Visibility Co.

Working at the intersection of leadership, strategy and visibility, we seek to be strategic provocateurs and catalysts of systemic change, supporting you to unleash the potential within so you can create a better world from wherever you are.

While we’re not big on labels, we’re often referred to as social impact and communications strategists, or strategic leadership advisors, or visibility experts.

Fancy words for a business, led by Julia May and Sarah Anderson, that brings together purposeful leadership, strategy and communications in truly integrative and innovative ways.

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