Personal branding is an essential part of successful entrepreneurship. In many professional circles, people think personal brand (PB) is strictly about the appearance of an individual or the image. While image is a key component to a powerful brand, many are missing the mark by focusing too heavily on their appearance or what I call visual voice. A successful PB is one that encompasses the individual as a whole, not just what she or he looks like. Think of your personal brand (PB) as the artistic brushstrokes of you as a complete work of art. It begins with clearly defining who you are and what you stand for then using that information to create the palette for what you wear, the look of your business cards— and everything in between. While some PB’s develop by accident, leaving yours to chance may be costing you dearly. Instead, purposefully define and develop your best brand as your career evolves.
In the past, I was pigeonholed as a stylist. My clients would hire me under that perception and then be WOW’d at the strategic and marketing improvements they made through my consultations. (As my brand evolved I understood the reason I was being hired solely as a stylist was because my personal brand had not evolved and my marketing and content needed to change- as it now has!) Rachel hired me to focus solely on her Image—wardrobe, hair, and makeup. As usual, I also coached her on her non-verbal language—posture, presence, poise. Against my advice, she then hired a photographer, her cousin whose feelings she did not want to hurt by using a brand photographer I had referred. When her book was launched, she sent me a copy in the mail. I cringed when I saw it because the quality of the cover shot image was okay at best, but more than that her clothing was not laying right, and she was slouching in her picture. No one had been with her to focus on those fine but powerful details that matter. She was ‘selling’ that working with her would make women feel powerful, but her body language was anything but powerful. She was claiming that her work would make women successful, but she had settled for a mediocre photographer and believe me, it showed! How frustrating to see. It is that frustration that fueled me to shift the paradigm in how others understand what personal branding is.
Here are four things powerful personal brands have in common:
Personal Branding Beyond Image: The first step in developing a powerful PB is to get very clear on who you are, what you value and what you stand for. While that may seem obvious, it is the foundation of developing a brand, creating compelling marketing pieces and yes… determining how you dress. I use myself as the example here! As I mentioned above, I had not fully embraced the breadth of my strengths in marketing strategies and branding which is why I was thought of as a stylist. It was when I began to understand personal branding strategies were my ‘sweet spot’, the cash register began to ring!
Current Professional Photographs: Keeping your images fresh is a powerful way to reflect the evolution and continued success of your business. I coach my clients to schedule a professional photo shoot once a year. Your photographs are one of the most effective ways to present the authenticity of who you are in a digital space–an investment worth making in your success. When the updated images show up in their brand presence and social media platforms, it creates buzz and compels people to inquire about what’s new and exciting. These fresh photos inevitably attract business and generate revenue.
Keep it Polished: Whether it’s your shoes or the organization of your briefcase, polish matters! Remember, your personal brand is someone’s reality of you. Karen walked into an important presentation that would ‘make her year’ if she was given the project. She was nicely dressed, but her shoes were scuffed, and so was her business bag. As she began the proposal, she was fumbling in her messy brief bag to find a document she would pass out to the committee. I watched as one committee member noticed the condition of her shoes and as two other members gave each other a knowing look as she frantically looked for her handouts.
When you show up to a business meeting or networking event looking your best and fully equipped with everything you need at your fingertips you are creating a perception that you pay attention to the fine details of your business as well.
What You Drive Matters: In third grade, I wrote a paper titled My Future. I predicted I would become a real estate agent (apparently not!) and that I knew I would need a “…fancy car so others would think I was successful and want to hire me.” What you drive may not matter for practical reasons, but it does for perception especially if your clients will see your vehicle. If you are claiming that your products and services will create success and wealth, it’s out of alignment if you are driving a late model, beat-up, dirty jalopy. If you claim working with you will create a healthy and adventurous lifestyle, a fun Jeep may be in order. If you are a professional organizer and your car is cluttered and muddy, what does that reflect? My client Rachel is a wildly successful business coach and has a luxury, sleek car that is always clean, organized and finely detailed. It better be, it reflects the details of her personal brand.
In a word, your brand equates to your business reputation. Whether by design or not, your PB affects how others perceive you and is the difference between instantly attracting clients or turning them off. By implementing these four tips successful professionals know, you will elevate how others see you and create a more consistent and cohesive brand.
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