“The impression you make online is as powerful as the one you make in person,” claims The Marque, a service designed for high-profile professionals to take control of their digital narrative and brand. From chairpeople to TV personalities, its client list has steadily grown into a who’s-who of global gravitas.
We met with The Marque’s founder and CEO, Andrew Wessels, to discuss the inspiration behind the service, and why our online presence is more important than ever.
How did the idea for The Marque come about?
I was actually looking for a new venture, as I had successfully exited my company in 2014 and was researching former mentors and colleagues online – tracking their career paths and seeing how they’d reached the top. However, all the information about them was so disparate. It was unorganised and outdated.
Seeing a gap in the market, I set out to build a digital profile management platform that would provide leaders in their fields with an accurate, current and clearly presented online profile that offers privacy and security from unwanted solicitation.
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Were you able to test the idea with high-profile acquaintances – friends or people you’ve worked with?
Yes, my very first target was Lord Rose, who had left M&S to become the new chair of Ocado. Despite his high profile, I googled him and had to go through about 13 or 14 different websites to work out what was true and what was incorrect. It felt backwards to me that there wasn’t one location where I could source all of the facts about him. That was the kernel of the idea and I took my plan to 20 high-profile acquaintances and asked if they would pay for an online profiling service. The hugely positive response meant I took the plunge and created The Marque.
A large part of our audience is made up of people who own and run big businesses. Some are digitally savvy, others less so. How important is it to give a good first digital impression?
We call it your ‘Digital Twin’ – and it’s hugely important. A profile on The Marque offers factual, accurate and engaging content about an individual which has been expertly search engine optimised. Profiles also link to the most impactful media coverage and help counteract against search results with incorrect information, such as Wikipedia.
As well as profile management, we offer a digital audit service, providing an in-depth analysis of a client’s current digital presence, which is vital to identify any weaknesses. Clients are often exposed without realising it – for example, websites giving out personal information, family members making unwise comments on social media.
We can imagine this service being relevant to many of our readers. What’s the process for someone looking to get their digital profile in order?
Very simple. Get in contact with our sales team, who will advise on which of our services are recommended. For profiles, these are researched and created by our digital media centre, sent to the client for their approval and then kept up-to-date by a dedicated profile manager, with the help of some sophisticated software.
How ‘big’ or successful do you need to be before investing in your digital presence?
Every person at every level should be investing time into their digital presence. We can all do little things, such as signing up for Google Alerts and owning your identity on all platforms like LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram – even if you don’t use them, own your identity with a bio about you so that you can’t be confused with someone who shares your name and may be an unsavoury character.
What are the online touchpoints people should consider when maintaining their own digital profile and footprint?
Ensure that you know exactly what your personal digital footprint is and says about you. What does your Twitter feed say about you? Do you still have a MySpace page which shows a different personality to the person you now are?
Build your online reputation through your behaviour. Contribute to your positive, professional digital footprint by posting only those things that contribute to the image of you that you want your bosses, banks or future spouses to see – Kamala Harris googled her husband before their first date!
Nowadays, it seems people can quite quickly destroy their personal brand with little more than a tweet. Do you also advise people on how they should act and interact online?
When we first start working with a client, our initial research gives a good overall impression of what is out there about them. We don’t advise people on how to act and interact online, though. The Marque was established to help clearly present and curate the online profiles of especially talented businesspeople, about whom the information online may be fragmented or difficult to navigate.
Our clients have had success in many fields and illustrious careers that stretch over decades, so the business was established to clearly illustrate these achievements. We do due diligence on each of our clients and look to ensure that they will be compatible members of our community. We truly believe you are the digital company you keep.
Have you seen any changes to the business due to the pandemic? Have people needed the service more or less, or for different reasons?
Definitely! We have seen a huge surge during the pandemic, due to everyone being stuck behind computer screens and more specifically Zoom. Previously, you would make your first impression with a handshake. Now you make your first impression on whatever a search engine chooses to serve up. It is vital, therefore, to manage this and ensure you have controlled digital assets, not random ones, representing you.
The digital and technological world is constantly changing. How do you see The Marque evolving in future?
We have just launched the Digital Briefcase, which is really exciting and crucial to providing peace-of-mind that your digital persona is accurate and that threats are identified and dealt with immediately. The Briefcase is made up of four elements: a deep-dive digital audit, a Marque profile, live web and social media monitoring, as well as access to expert digital partners to resolve threats as they appear.
The digital audit provides an in-depth analysis of a client’s current digital footprint to determine any reputational and security risk factors. After our team trawls the web using a methodically considered range of keywords, search engines and locations, all tailored to a client’s requirements, the final report analyses the findings and offers a complete set of ‘next steps’ to mitigate risk.
Discoveries may include false information, negative media coverage, poor imagery, fake social media accounts and inappropriate associations. Also included is real-time social monitoring and sentiment analysis to identify emerging reputational and privacy risks across radio, television, web, and social media. ‘Red alerts’ are sent immediately so we can advise on how to react accordingly.