HC: How important is physical appearance such as the clothes you wear?
EK: We have people come to us and say, why am I here? Why does my company want me here? Do I not dress well? I say stop, we’re not here for that. What we’re here to do is to help you manage how people perceive you.
Humans make snap judgments and we’re getting faster at it, so appearance does matter. Sometimes we do styling with clients but it’s always in the context of representing your personal brand, not ‘here’s fashion, here’s a colour that works for you’. If you’re presenting yourself as Lady Danger, who’s interesting and an innovative solver of problems, what does she look like? Is a pink shirt appropriate if you are the person who goes in to shut down a business due to insolvency? It’s about context.
Once upon a time careers and professions had costumes. You could tell what someone on the street did for a living based on what they wore: this is a lawyer, this is an accountant, this is a policeman. Lots of professions don’t do that today – casual Friday’s have destroyed any concept of it. So we think of it as a concept of costume rather than fashion; here’s the costume associated with that character you’ve created.
HC: These days we can’t ignore online profiles. Any tips for improving that aspect of your personal brand?
EK: The first thing to remember is once it’s on the internet it’s very hard to get it off. One of the things we talk about is trying to own the first one or two pages of Google search about you. How do you make sure you’ve written or participated in the creation of those? Know how to drive the Google search results. Sometimes it’ s a matter of typing in your name, getting to a page you want to be on, and just hitting return over and over while you watch TV, because that drives that page up high in the search listings.
LinkedIn certainly, and Facebook to a degree, are starting to dominate Google results. So that means managing your LinkedIn account, building it, keeping it constantly updated, will also ensure you move up the search list.
You may participate in sporting events, and you can often get your name listed from taking part in corporate funruns, for example. If there is anything dark on your profile, people will firstly find those ‘good news’ pages, and many will give up after two pages anyway.
Also, don’t hide things. We worked with a senior executive recently who parted company with an organisation in a negative way, and he hadn’t put that on his LinkedIn profile. People will find out anyway. It’s about owning your story: have your say, write it your way. Think about what forums you join, or the groups you join in LinkedIn. Once upon a time if you were a Brownie or a Scout, you wore badges to show your interests. That’s what those groups are now on LinkedIn.
It’s important to keep your cyber brand current and refreshed, in exactly the same way a corporate brand would be kept current and refreshed. And that doesn’t mean incessant tweeting. Only tweet if you’ve got something relevant to say.