Your Appearance and Your Brand

This post is part of the 7 Steps to a Personal Brand series.
Read the previous post: Building a Platform for your Personal Brand.

Clothes don’t just make the man, they make the brand. Your appearance conveys more of your brand as you realize and serves as your first opportunity to create brand recognition. Before you introduce yourself, deliver your elevator pitch, even tweet, your audience will look at your exterior. It’s crucial that this exterior conveys your brand message.

Anyone who knows me in real life knows that, if it were up to me, I would spend my days in sweatpants and hoodies. And when I was a freelance writer, that was perfectly acceptable. But when I made the transition into PR and began attending more events and conferences, it was important that I find a style that is both authentic and strategic. Since the majority of our clients are authors, I attend a lot of writer’s conferences and book festivals. The fans dress casually and the authors move towards business casual, depending on the genre (romance authors often opt for dresses and brighter colors while sci-fi authors and graphic novelists can get away with graphic tees and jeans.) My goal is to position myself as a publishing professional and separate myself from both the fans and the authors, which is why I go business professional: slacks, button-downs, and jackets. But I’m also a creative, so I always include some fun accent, like a bowtie or pocket square.

Some of your appearance will be determined by your industry; if you’re working at a law or accounting firm, you can’t wear jeans and t-shirts just because they’re on-brand. And depending on where you’re going and whom you’re meeting with, you may have to adjust your look. But there should be consistent themes in your appearance, which, in turn, will keep your brand message consistent.

Consider the following:

  • Color Palette. The colors you wear often say more about you than the style of clothing. Red exudes power and demonstrates you’re not afraid to stand out, while black is classic, but also a bit unimaginative. Solid colors are more professional while patterns and prints are creative and fun. If you work in an industry where everyone wears black, gray, and blue suits, and you want to stand-out and demonstrate your creativity, don’t be afraid to include a pop of color in your tie, pocket square, or socks.
  • Style. For many of you who work in corporate, it may seem difficult to branch out and establish a personal style. You do want to create an impression, but you don’t want to create the wrong one. You shouldn’t wear a strapless dress or short sleeves and a bowtie when everyone is wearing business suits. The key is working within the confines of the industry to make style choices that convey your message. Just because you have to wear a business suit every day doesn’t mean you have to look like everyone else. The type of suit you choose, the size and design of your tie, even your socks and shoes all contribute to your in-person brand.
  • Signature Pieces. As you can probably tell from my headshots and various photos around the web, my signature piece is a bowtie. Seldom do I make a public appearance without it. A finance guy I know always wears funky, colorful socks, even when his suit is a conservative blue. We have a client who will always be seen in heels. Think about a type of clothing, accessory, or eyewear you gravitate towards, and what it says about you. If it conveys your brand message, then consider using it as a signature piece and never leave home without it.

Your homework for this week is to go through your closet and look at the clothes that will be a part of your professional appearance. What do the colors say about you? What types of clothing are you gravitating towards? What message are these clothes sending? If it helps, write it down. And maybe go shopping.

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