What is your brand? What do people think of you?
If you think that you don’t have to worry about brand image because you aren’t the CEO of a major company or don’t own your own business, I highly encourage you to re-consider. Brand is everything and can impact your success as an employee or business owner.
In the book Brand Aid, I found it amazing that the author teaches his five school-aged children about the importance of brand. At the beginning of each school year, he asks them what they want their teachers, friends, and classmates to think of them. Then he asks them what specific actions that they have to do to shape that image. At the end of the year, they re-evaluate whether or not they were successful in achieving their goal. This is a brilliant idea to instill and practice at such a young age! I was very impressed. If young children can do it, certainly all of us can.
With that said, take stock in the following three areas that can have a major impact on the perception and image that others form of you:
- Clothes that you wear, both professional and off-the-clock
- Pictures posted on social media
- Friends and Colleagues whom you associate closely with
I had a brand consultant once tell me that when you go out in public, you should always wear clothes that support the image that you want others to have of you. Specifically, she recommended that women not be going out all day in their yoga pants, unless they are a yoga instructor. Her thought is that you never know if you’re going to run into a potential client at the grocery store. My entrepreneur teacher is also adamant about clothing, and always wears a sport jacket and advises to not to wear jeans if you want others to trust you with their money. In my IT consulting days, the advice was to always dress for the job that you want, not the one that you had.
The author of Brand Aid says that “our clothes send messages, whether we intend them to or not. Neat, serious, comfortable, careless, sloppy, confident, formal.” He recommends to dress “half up” and never dress a full level up to make you stand out of place.
So be mindful and think about your wardrobe and ask yourself, do the clothes that you own support the image that you want others to have of you at work and in your personal life?
Be aware of the pictures that are posted or tagged of you on social media. People will make judgments of you and your company, so make sure you are dressed and captured in situations that will support, not hurt your image.
With that said, does your LinkedIn profile picture look professional? If you’re not sure, read this Entrepreneur article on 8 Types of Photos You Should Never Use On Your LinkedIn Profile.
Be honest – would you hire or do business with yourself based on first impression of your profile picture? If not, please make the investment to hire a professional photographer to take headshots. They usually start around $100 for a 30 minute session with either several touched-up images or the entire CD of the best images. It’s a great investment that you make once and then can use across all your social media platforms.
From a business standpoint, make sure you hire a graphics design artist to create a quality, professional logo, since that is the “picture” of your company. Even if you are a small business owner and just starting out with a limited budget, a poorly designed logo and marketing materials can make your business look amateur and hurt your financial success.
III. Friends and Colleagues:
The people you allow in your inner circle can have a major impact on your success. Early in my consulting career, I had a senior manager share advice on being mindful of who you have lunch with at work. He said that management might form perceptions of your quality of work based on your close colleagues. If you hang out with the low performers at work, management may think that you must also perform at the same level (despite being untrue). He said that perception is reality, as unfair as that may be. This may be a tough message to swallow, but you are whom you associate with.
I have an entrepreneur friend who I’ve had multiple conversations with about brand image. She is very mindful of the pictures that are posted of her on Facebook and is very selective of the people, companies, and even events that she is associated with. She has future plans of another entrepreneurial venture, and wants to protect her current and future image. I think this is brilliant and I encourage everyone to be this forward thinking.
Recommended Action Items:
- Determine what brand that you want others to have of you.
- List out 3 specific actions that you can do to support that image. (Or even 3 things that you should not do that support the brand you want.)
- Re-evaluate in 6 months – 1 year if you have achieved your goal. If not, consider hiring a brand consultant for help.