What Does Your Personal Brand Communicate About You? What Determines How People Perceive Us—and Why it Matters
What does your personal brand communicate to others? Is it helping or hurting you?
Could the way you currently dress, groom, speak, or carry yourself define you to others in a negative light? I know as busy leaders, our personal brand may not be high on our list of priorities. However, I invite you to at least make a mental note of what I am presenting today and consider examining the impact of your personal brand.
Daily, we are bombarded with different brands for products and organizations. Each brand makes an imprint on our minds, offering any number of promises: “I am trustworthy.” “I am cool.” “I am elegant.” Each brand attracts a certain clientele, who are then drawn more closely to the brand. And if the promise of the brand is kept, their clientele are likely to become exceedingly loyal to their brand.
Most of us grow up hearing that it is what is on the inside of people that matters. While it’s true that what is in our heart is most important, the outside is important too.
What if I see my patients after not showering for a few days, wearing a torn T-shirt, shorts, and flip flops? While this may work in a beach town somewhere, most patients would perceive me as unreliable and unprofessional, regardless of my actual skills as a doctor.
In the corporate world, traditional teachings on management say one must dress to impress. The cliché we’ve all heard is, “Dress for success!” I’ve found that the movement to dress formally in business settings often creates distance between people. On the other hand, think about highly successful people like Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffet, or Steve Jobs, who rarely ever looked the part.
Appearances matter. We must consider how the way we dress and the way we present ourselves, impacts others—particularly our client base. While it is not the most important aspect of our leadership, it absolutely does matter. We can attract or repel certain people from us just from first appearances.
What is the Image You Would Like to Render?
Many small companies are not intentional about their brands. Moreover, their leaders are not usually intentional about creating an image they want to portray. Branding yourself or your business is not superfluous, nor is it deceptive. Rather, it is a wise strategy to present yourself and your organization to the people you are wanting to attract.
For example, if you are the head of an orphanage in Guatemala, you will want to make sure the children and their relatives feel welcome and comfortable. If that is your goal, would you wear an Armani suit? Naturally, you would not because your image would create a cold distance between yourself and clients.
Determine how you want to be perceived, then begin creating that image. Most importantly, be that person on the inside. The best brands are created when the inner character matches the outward appearance consistently. Both are intentionally crafted.
Is Branding Simply About Selecting the Proper Attire?
This is not an article about proper attire. It’s an article about what you—everything about you—communicates to others. Do you want to be seen as classy? Warm? Controlled? Whimsical? Professional? Successful? Smart? Simple?
Common answers may include:
“I don’t care how I am perceived.”
“I don’t know how I should be perceived.”
“I know how I should be perceived, but I’m not sure how to get there.”
Like any brand, you are currently being perceived in a certain way, whether you give thought to it or not. Wouldn’t you rather intentionally determine that for yourself? As you give this some thought, I want to share with you a few principles about creating powerful, professional organizational brands. You may relate to these suggestions because creating a personal brands is based on the same principles.
Principles for Creating an Organizational or Personal Brand
- Brands must be consistent. If one McDonald’s restaurant is clean and another is filthy, would your perception of McDonald’s be clean or dirty? It is the same with personal brands. I have known people who present themselves professionally one day, and then act crass the next. Be consistent with the image you want to portray.
- Everything associated with a brand impacts the perception of the brand. In a store front business, it’s the parking lot, website, social media, building, carpet, bathroom. Everything people see carrying your logo will be associated with you. It is the same for our personal brands. Anything you associate yourself with personally will affect how people view you.
- Brands must reflect what is on the inside. If Neiman Marcus, a brand that communicates elegance, actually stocked grunge apparel, or sold second-hand clothes, who are they going to attract? Appearances matter.
- Brand strategy and creation must be intentional. We must make a point to plan our brand with thoughtful intention.
- The ultimate goal of a brand is to attract the target audience. If people are of zero importance to you, then by all means, stay in your pajamas all day. Never comb your hair or tend to your personal hygiene. But if you value attracting others to you, tend the garden of your brand.
- A brand’s promise directly impacts the person who stands behind it. How others see your organizational brand is also how they will perceive you. Further, it greatly impacts how you will see yourself. If you present as professional, then you will see and think of yourself as such.
My hope is that our personal brands are not a hindrance to our ultimate goals as leaders, but that they serve to help us along our way.
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