Guest Post by Brand & Image Expert Susan Hesselgrave, Style With Susan
Do you ever wonder if you’re doing the right thing in the right way? If you should be working for that company? If you can succeed in your business?
Bottom line: it’s all about you.
As your BAM Style and Image expert, I know that there is a lot of confusion about what I do. Let me clear that up now, so you know what to expect from me. I am not a fashion blogger, personal shopper or closet organizer. Those are resources I use when I’m working with clients, like pen, paper and desk for a writer. So, sorry, but you won’t be reading posts from me on “5 Ways to Wear Booties This Fall.”
I’ve actually been working in “image” for as long as I’ve been employed. First, in customer service. Then, in public relations for nonprofit organizations. And prior to launching my own business, working as a brand analyst in corporate brand development.
So I’m going to start by defining what style and image really are. Hint: it’s not what most people think of when they hear those words.
Style+Image is exactly the same as what is often called personal branding. And personal branding is the development of your public identity with intention. You don’t have to be a public figure to have a public identity. Even a hermit in a cave on a hilltop has a public identity.
Let’s talk about Brand You.
Your style is one expression of Brand You. Style is not how many clothes you have in your closet or how much you spent on them. Style, as the song says, “Tain’t what you do, it’s the way that you do it.” Style includes how you speak, how you move, how you listen. Clothes are not stylish, people are. You are always expressing style, whether you intend to or not! The question is, are you expressing your style or are you wearing camouflage?
Your image is all the rest of Brand You. It’s not your headshot. It’s not whether you wear makeup or not (that’s part of your chosen style). It’s not a measurement against some transitory, cultural idea of “beauty.”
Image encompasses all of the rest of how you see yourself, and how others see you: your values, otherwise known as “what you stand for.”
Here’s another old-fashioned word for how the world sees you: reputation. So let’s talk values.
One V word calls forth another: Volkswagen. The legendary car company Volkswagen just trashed their brand, their image, their reputation. Probably forever. It was revealed this week that Volkswagen had rigged their diesel-powered vehicles to cheat the emissions tests…meanwhile polluting at a rate 10x worse than other vehicles on the road. This isn’t “egg on their face” bad, folks, this is the Scarlet Letter. “Cute” just became “cheat.” Volkswagen intentionally violated one of the Values that their brand stood for: integrity.
(Some of you may be asking, “what if they rebrand?” Nope. At this point, it doesn’t matter if they decide to retool their logo or their marketing materials or start donating to some save the earth foundation. “Brand marketing” cannot whitewash their devalued image.)
Why does this matter to you, Business Mom?
It matters because your values matter. Of course they do. You parent your children in a certain way because of your values. You treat your friends in a certain way because of your values. You spend your money according to your values. And to be successful in your business efforts, you need to make sure your business is in ALIGNMENT with your values.
I’m not talking generically about society’s values. Nor the values of the company you work for/represent. I’m talking about your personal values.
Everybody’s got them and each person has a different set. Think of this as your life palette. You paint your life with these colors. These are your “true colors.” This includes what we love to see, touch, taste. (aesthetic values). What we value in our friends – humor or loyalty or determination (values of personality). And perhaps most importantly, our moral boundaries, our ethical values. (A good friend of mine refers to this as the “squirm factor.” If something makes you squirm, it’s out of alignment with your values.)
Now if your business or job is in some way out of alignment with your values (aesthetics, personality, ethics), you will feel a bit “icky” or “out of joint.” If it is out of alignment with your style (how you do what you do), you will feel like you’re “acting a part.”
Getting clear on your style and image will allow you to confidently gut check each business and career decision you make, whether it’s choosing which direct sales company to represent or deciding who to collaborate with in a joint venture.
So try this exercise. I call it the Billboard Test.
Step 1: The next time you have a business decision to make or an action to take, the first question to ask yourself is NOT “Will this make money?” Instead, imagine putting that decision or action/result up on a billboard. A BIG BILLBOARD! Now, put yourself on that billboard too. Just like the guy selling cars. Are you cool with that? Does it make you feel proud? Or does it make you feel icky?
Step 2: explore why you feel that way (proud, icky, excited, whatever), and write those thoughts down. Getting this into words is the start of your Manifesto. You are getting clear on Brand You.
Being in business is being out there. Being seen. Being public. When you can put yourself on your own billboard, you can be confident that your business is in alignment with who you are and what you stand for. And that foundation translates to rock solid success.