We all have a brand image whether we've consciously cultivated it or not - but what does yours say about you?
Is the perception that others have about you really what you think it is, what you want it to be - or, is it MILES OFF MESSAGE?
In a world where first impressions, trust and credibility have never been more important, and in business where people represent a brand more strongly than any slick website or glossy brochure ever can, it's time to take control of your personal brand and manage the perceptions of others more consciously and creatively.
As women, we have a great opportunity to express our personality and individuality so just how can you use your personal brand to do this?
You have a personal brand already - it's what people say about you behind your back and how they describe you to other people. We don't always think about how others see us therefore our personal brand is often left to chance.
So we need to take control of the perceptions of others and manage our personal brand more effectively. You could call it Perception Management.
Our personal brand is a little like a pearl in an oyster - it evolves organically over a period of time. Everything you do every day adds another layer to your personal brand pearl. So from every telephone message you leave to every drink with friends, you're giving messages out about your brand and developing a perception in other people's minds.
However, it's not just about creating a great image - a superficial image that doesn't reflect your true individuality and personality will always be transparent and clearly be unauthentic. Creating a powerful personal brand goes much deeper than that.
In my book Drop Dead Brilliant - Dazzle in the Workplace with Confidence and Panache, I address all the areas of building a brand and projecting it authentically. The book is based on my 7 Big Strides® to Personal Branding:
1. Who You Really Are
As a very first step, you must clarify exactly what your personal brand is. Base this on your fundamental strengths, your individuality and your core values. Uncover from within what you're outstandingly good at. Now get feedback from others on how they see you too, in three words. You need to see where the gaps in perception are, or perhaps where others see the flip side of the positive brand values that you have.
2. The First 7 Seconds
Now check out your first impressions impact - remember that it takes just 5-7 seconds for people to judge us. Does your first impression reinforce your Personal Brand or does somebody completely different come across?
3. Dress Like You Mean It
Style and grooming are the packaging of your personal brand. Do you package and present yourself in such a way that invites approachability, trust and credibility as an immediate perception of your brand? How good is your personal package at marketing YOU? On casual days does your credibility take a nose-dive? As women, we have lots of tools at our finger-tips to express our brand and individuality effectively. For example, even if you're fairly conservative in your dress, there are some wonderfully quirky shoes and accessories around today to add a little difference. A well-chosen accessory will make all the difference to a simple outfit, but never put cheap accessories with an expensive outfit - it will drag the whole look down.
Be aware of your best colours so that you make the most of your natural colouring - Drop Dead Brilliant covers this in detail. Don't forget your make-up - studies show us that make-up makes a huge difference to how people perceive us, especially in business.
4. Silent Indicators
Your 'Body Talk' can speak volumes about you. A genuine smile, a good handshake (not too firm!) and positive eye contact are essential when you meet people, particularly in a business situation. Give them your full attention for those few seconds when shaking hands. If we don't make good eye contact then we appear to not be interested - very negative!
5. Speak Easy
What does your voice convey about your brand? Have you listened to your voicemail message, to hear how you come across? Get others to give you feedback on this too. Your voice could be the first impression others have of you…..
6. Be Interested and Visible
How do you rate your interaction skills with others? Are you memorable for all the right reasons? Being interested in others makes you a more interesting person remember. Make sure you're visible and memorable within your desired network. Think about who the top 100 people are who you need to be more visible with. Building a great support network is one of the most positive things you can do - you never know when you might need them.
7. Each Time, All the Time
Consistency is crucial. For any brand to be 100% successful, it has to be 100% consistent. Make sure you're not caught off-guard!
Carpe Diem! Today's the day to take control of your Personal Brand and start managing those perceptions, which in turn propels you to greater success and personal fulfillment.
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