Have you ironed your shirt? Straight talking about personal brand

I’ve been to a lot of business networking events. I’ve met a lot of people.

I can tell you that most people don’t think seriously enough about creating a personal brand and so the personal brand creates itself, without the person even being aware of what it is.

And this is dangerous.

I can tell it’s dangerous, by the way a little (or a big) thing might put me off ever doing business with someone, referring them or aligning myself to what they do in any way – and they’d never know it because it’s a habit they didn’t plan.

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Let me give you some examples.

Shaking hands limply, looking around the room while talking to me, or worse – looking at me but not at my eyes, shoving a business card at me before we’ve had a conversation, spamming my inbox with unsolicited advertising, failing to close a conversation and just shuffling off, drinking too much at a business event, overpromising and under-delivering – especially on customer service, not answering emails or phone calls in a reasonable period of time, crazy bad makeup, greasy hair, BO… need I go on?

Really I’m not being nasty… but let’s be honest, these things can be deal breakers for anyone. Oh and by the way, the looking somewhere other than my eyes when talking to me? That goes for women too – that old ‘look you up and down and check out what you’re wearing’ thing. Did you think I didn’t notice?

I’m not saying I’m perfect.

I’ve had chipped nails, a ladder in my stocking, smudged eye make-up and a less than thousand-megawatt-smile from time to time. I’ve forgotten to get back to someone or I’ve said something that didn’t come out the way I meant it. Life is hectic and at times a bit of a rollercoaster for us all. But I do try to make an effort to maintain certain standards of work, customer service, behaviour, dress, manners, attitude and basic respect for other people. There are a number of things to me that are non-negotiable when building a business and a personal brand (which if you’re thinking is not essential to your business… well you probably haven’t read this far anyway).

No-one knows you like your mum. What would Mum say if she saw the way you were walking out the door today, or the way you were greeting people, speaking and listening, eating, entering or leaving the room…?

Hmm. Makes you think doesn’t it.

If you’ve got Mum’s basics right (have you ironed your shirt?) you are already miles ahead of the pack. Then it’s about finding a set of values that are essential for you and the success of the work you do.

Some of my essentials are:

  • Over dressing is always better than under dressing
  • Personal style is an important way to make a statement
  • Smile and always be polite and helpful (I know I sound like a girl scout, but who says no to girl scout cookies?)
  • In any work-related situation, always always always be professional (give your best, be customer-oriented, don’t whine or bitch about anyone or anything, don’t let emotions affect how you speak to clients or staff)
  • In public, appear self-confident, even when you’re not feeling it
  • Use (tasteful) humour to relax yourself and others
  • Enjoy and be passionate about your work
  • Know who you are and be your best self

If you don’t like my list, fine. Make your own. Just remember that if you don’t, people you meet are making your list for you.

No one sums up the importance of paying attention to your personal brand like a favourite aunt who has always told me:

‘Put on your lipstick. You never know who you might meet.’

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