We can’t help it. Whether we hear Apple, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, or Target, we habitually create very specific images in our head about each of those brands and what they signify to us. Likewise, very specific images come up when we hear names like Beyonce or Oprah or Michael Jackson. You see where I’m going with this?
Brands pertain to people as well. So it’s important to understand that whether you are trying to or not, you represent your brand. And whether you want to accept it or not, there is absolutely no way to separate your personal from your professional brand. (So if you’re tweeting things you don’t want a potential customer or partner to see, you may want to stop.)
Just think of the late Whitney Houston. What she may have considered “personal business” still managed to impede her professional brand.
So if we know this is true, let’s tackle the three areas where your personal life impacts your professional brand.
1. Your Appearance. What does your appearance say about you? Remember that getting up and getting dressed is not just reserved for the days you go into the office. In today’s society, any place you set foot in has the potential to produce an ideal client, business partnership, or new contract. The question is, “Do you enter each day expecting opportunities to come your way?” If so, there’s no such thing as just “running out.” You never know who you might run into. In my book, Real Money Answers for Every Woman, I say, “Someone with the power to bless you is always watching you,” even though you may not physically see them. I speak at conferences frequently, and it’s impossible for me to remember every face in a room of 80 people. But in just the past few weeks, I’ve run into attendees at Target, the mall, and Ikea. And not one can say that I had to apologize or make an excuse for my appearance. One woman even asked to take a “selfie” with me and I was ready!
2. Your Social Media Profiles (all of them). What do your tweets, pictures, and status updates say about you? If you’re a business owner but every picture of you on social media portrays you as a drunken party animal, how seriously do you expect potential clients or customers to take you? People who may want to do business with you are searching far beyond your LinkedIn profile and website. Yes, we see your crisp collared shirt and blazer on LinkedIn and yes, you’ve managed to scrape together a pretty impressive paragraph or two about your experience, but consumers are smarter these days. And we know that the truth about you lies within your late night tweets and Instagram posts. As far as we’re concerned, that’s the real you. Potential clients and employers alike want to do business with you – not your LinkedIn representation!
3. Your Associates and Extracurricular Activities. What do your friends say about you? We’ve all heard the saying “Your network determines your net worth” and the famous Jim Rohn quote, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” When you’re out and about, whom do people see you hanging out with? Remember, whatever perception others have of them, they may begin to have of you. As Grandma always said, “Birds of a feather flock together!” If you’re investing a lot of time with folks that aren’t going where you desire to go, you’re really wasting a lot of time and setting yourself back. Make sure you’re seen at networking events or associations that have to do with your industry. Invest your time in people and activities that support your dreams and goals, as well as put you in front of and around people who have brands that can lend credibility to the brand you’re developing.
Building your personal and professional brand will take time, a little maintenance, and even resisting the urge to show off some of your best midriff shots on Facebook. But regardless of the sacrifice, it should also be a part of the process that prepares you for your destiny and a few extra dollars. Now that doesn’t sound too hard, does it?