Research proves that 65% of all communication is visual. What are your clothes saying about your personal brand?
I’m off to New York this week to land a major piece of business, meet with my agent to deliver my latest book and give a speech to career professionals. I’m completely prepared to “wow” everyone I’m seeing with the content I’ve created, but without looking the part of “World-Class Brand Strategist,” no one will listen to a word I say.
To make sure that I’m seen and heard, I carved out a couple of hours on Sunday laying out each outfit – carefully considering my mostly media-savvy audience. I thought about what they would respond to and feel comfortable with. Then I mixed all the pieces in unexpected ways in keeping with my personal brand. In the suitcase went a red sleeveless dress with a lightweight long beige jacket, a tailored dark grey Jackie-O type dress cinched with a studded leather obi and funky black jacket. For casual client dinners, I threw in a pair of skinny jeans and some fun tops to go under the jackets. Everything went into one small bag so I could carry on.
If I was a guy doing the same business trip, I would have packed two beautifully tailored closely cut suits with crisp dress shirts in unexpected colors. No tie. I’d make sure that my watch and eyeglasses (if I wore them) were the latest style. I would be conscious to not look old school or worn. I’d show up in the NYC relevant and of-the-moment.
If I were in a more conservative field such as finance, politics or law, I would have neatly folded between sheets of tissue two suits with accessories that tell the world, “I’m confidant about who I am. I have a unique approach and bold ideas.”
When getting dressed for a big meeting, interview or presentation, it’s important to align with the company culture and visually relate to it with your own unique expression. For example, at MTV, I wear jeans and a tailored jacket. At Lifetime, I wear a dress. At Bloomberg, I’m in a sharp skirt and jacket. When doing business in LA, I put on lighter colors and high heels. If I’m in the south, I wear strong colors and statement jewelry. My goal is always to fit in without blending in.
Why should you go to so much trouble packaging yourself with such clear intention? Because you’re branded the minute you walk in the door, so you never want to give anyone a reason to say “no” based on your appearance.
How you dress should express your professionalism and creative energy – fearlessly communicating your personal brand at-a-glance.
So let me ask you this: are you celebrating your unique style or are you selling out? It’s important to wear what’s acceptable to work and then kick it up in unexpected ways. Does your dress say schoolteacher when it needs to say business development? Does your hair say wild child when it needs to say capable executive? Does your computer bag say accountant when it needs to say Web designer? Are you wearing jeans to a meeting when a suit or adding a cool jacket would speak volumes about your professionalism?
Research shows that 65% of all communication is visual, so if you are not looking the part you play with your own special flair then you may be running the risk of being forgettable. And, in this economic climate, that is not something you want to be!
To be seen and heard, cultivate a signature style that’s tasteful and speaks volumes about your personal brand.