How one woman’s passion came to define her brand…one step at a time.

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As a personal brander and psychologist, one of the things that has always fascinated me is how people discover their passions in life, and find a way to incorporate what they love into their personal brand.

This month’s guest blogger is Heather Waring, walking expert, coach and founder of Women Walking Women Talking. Here she shares her story of how she’s managed to live her passion and make that part of her personal brand. 

From womenwalkingwomentalking.com

Here’s Heather’s story…

In 1999, I took part in a sponsored walk along the Great Wall of China. I raised over £12,500 and fell in love with walking. I developed a training plan, and together with the friend I’d talked into accompanying me, we had the most amazing experience. It was heartening too to see that we had trained so well and had no blisters or joint problems.

I returned to the UK, wanting to continue with my walking but life got in the way. That is until 2005 when on holidays, I hurt my back turning over on a sun bed. It was so bad we had to quit the holiday and return home. I knew there was a reason that this had happened so I trusted and decided that it was divine intervention for all the years I had been saying that I really needed to take better care of my health through exercise. This, I figured, was the Universe’s way of pulling me up and warning that worse may come if I didn’t take action. I started to walk.

Every morning as soon as the alarm went off I would get my gear on and get out for a 30-40 minute walk and within 6 weeks I was seeing so many benefits including no more back pain. Others were noticing and asking if I had been to a spa or on holiday. I had more energy, was in a consistently good mood and had shifted a few pounds.

On one walk, I had a breakthrough regarding bringing walking into my work as a coach. And although the first iteration of this business didn’t work, it led to a walking group, other walking challenges like a 38 mile 2 day walk in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer; the Inca Trail in Peru and being featured walking with Clare Balding in the Lake District for her ‘Ramblings’ Programmme on Radio 4.

In 2008, with another walking friend, I started to walk the Camino de Santiago, not from the usual starting place of St Jean Pied de Port in the South of France, but from Le Puy en Velay in central France, roughly doubling the distance to around 1000 miles. I walked a section a year and finished in Spring 2017 finally reaching Santiago de Compostella.

From my very first section of the Camino, I knew I wanted to bring women out here to walk and with every step taken that vision became stronger. For me walking was my meditation, my ‘me’ time, my planning time. It was when I had my best creative ideas and through walking I explored…not only my locality but my city and it’s always been my favourite way to see a new place. It leads me to great places to eat and drink and allows me to take photos and to write for travel blogs.

Walking had become a huge part of my life.

In 2013/2014 I burnt out and was also diagnosed as having Adrenal Fatigue.

There are two pieces of action that are key in my recovery. One was getting out as much as possible into nature to walk. Even if it was only for 15 minutes and a walk round the block. The second was deciding to lay out my life on a table like a map in my quest to find out what had led to this and how I was going to fix it.

For years I hadn’t been happy but as life was good in so many ways, I felt that I had no right to complain. I now know so many other women who feel the same way. I hadn’t a clue what to do and I felt no-one could help me. I called these years my wilderness years. I was lost, seeking for the thing that would fulfil me and needing focus. I was so stressed and was living a life of giving to everyone else but myself.

When I started to look deeply into my life I started to see the patterns. My mind/body connection was virtually severed, something I was told by three different professionals within 10 days and which really pulled me up. I intellectualised everything, I didn’t feel. I wasn’t living in the moment, I was always looking at ‘what’s next’ for my family, friends and my business. I was quick to get frustrated and irritated, quick to tears and my faith in myself was low.

I did a 12 month programme with a mentor and during some one to one time with her, her words, ‘in all the time I have known you, you have always wanted to take women walking, so stop trying to do everything else and do it’, gave me the permission I needed.

Heather Waring on the move. Photo: womenwalkingwomentalking.com

As I continued with my recovery I started to put into place my plans and this time the angle was very different.

One part of my work is getting women to add activity, e.g a walk, to their day. Initially this might mean a walk round the block, getting off a tube train or bus stop early and walking further or using walking to get from A to B. But ideally I want to move those women into walking in nature, as that, I feel, is the magic ingredient. This can be a local park or open green space, by a river or canal and in the UK and Europe we have amazing scenery and such a variety of long distance paths, National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Beauty.

As well as the many physical and mental health benefits, walking in nature clears our head, expands our creativity and makes decision making easier. It’s a great vehicle to use to deliver my coaching.

The main thing that I do is to give the gift of space and time to women by taking them on
transformational walking experiences, often along the famous Camino de Santiago in France and Spain. By taking them away from everyone else’s needs they can focus on themselves. Without the distraction of beds to make, shopping and cooking to do they can put themselves first. The mindful walking we do; the small group that allows a feeling of belonging and deep discussion; the sampling of local and seasonal food and wine; the history and the scenery tends to aid re-discovery and re-connection and then onto re-igniting their spark.

One of my recent Camino Experience clients said – “The Camino allowed me to focus on myself, which is something that I am rarely able to do as a wife, mother and employee. As a wife and mother I am responsible for keeping my family afloat. As an employee I am responsible for keeping my team afloat. But no one is responsible for keeping ME afloat!  I felt like I was drowning before this trip, and now- after 1 week of focusing on no one but me- I feel rejuvenated, refreshed, and more present in my life. I am beyond thankful for this wonderful opportunity.”

On my own last section of the Camino I was very aware of the ancient woodlands that we are walking through. Filled with ancient oak trees I began to wonder what stories these trees could tell. I felt drawn to walk more ancient paths and to tap into the wisdom of these as well as into our own stories as women. As we have so many ancient paths in the UK, I am exploring some of these to add to what I already offer.

I get so much joy from walking, from introducing it to other women and seeing their joy at all they discover. I love being able to use it as the vehicle to deliver my experience, skills  and knowledge through coaching and mentoring and my overarching aim is that the wonderful women who walk with me uncover their fur selves and love their true selves.

At one point many years ago I remember saying “If someone would pay me to walk then that’s what I would do”.  Seems like that is exactly what has happened.

 

To learn more about Heather, her fantastic programmes and services, check out:

womenwalkingwomentalking.com

Lisa

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A Year of Personal Branding, May Edition

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Welcome to the May edition of A Year of Personal Branding“, where I’ve broken down key branding concepts as part of a month-by-month guide to help you with each step of growing (and implementing) your personal brand.

As always, I invite you to use these monthly Year of Personal Branding posts as a map that will allow you to navigate all aspects of Personal Branding.

In earlier posts, I asked you to look at your own brand attributes and how others perceive youLast month, we look at the part of personal branding that includes outer representations of your brand, or your outer brand. Whether or not we believe “a book should not be judged by its cover”, outer brand attributes are a key concept – and often the first component – in communicating your brand identity to others.

While your outer brand is still very much in your mind, let’s have some fun in May and look at what you can add to your wardrobe that fits in with your newly defined personal brand. You’ve worked hard on finding and defining this brand so why not reward yourself?

Here are a few pointers to consider:

  • What do you need to add to develop a brand-consistent personal style? Is there something you can add to your appearance that is unique and memorable (e.g., hairstyle, handkerchief, briefcase, ties, style of glasses)? Allocating yourself a budget, consider what you need to really add for polish and definition.
  • Consider your goal. What would you like to achieve and can your outer brand help you get there? Perhaps this goal is to get promoted, find another job, or even to nurture the softer or more creative sides of your personal brand that need a little more air time.
  • Have a strategy. Depending on your budget you can splurge on a wardrobe overhaul, pick a few key staple items that will last (coat, shoes, and handbag) or even just settle on a few accessories that compete the look. This doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. Second hand shops or online luxury consignment shops like Vestiare are often treasure troves, and with a bit of canny shopping, you can find winter bargains on sale to make room for summer stock!
  • Details are critical. Do you give the impression that you take care of your appearance? Are your
    garments stain-free and ironed? Do they fit properly or are you overdue for a trip to the tailor? Are your shoes dirty and scuffed or clean and shined?
  • Look to your inspirations. Celebrities and high profile personalities as well as personal inspirations – and take note of their style and how they present themselves. Do they have a signature look, a certain quirkiness or hairstyle? How can you take what you admire about their look and make it your very own?
  • Look to the experts. Here are some top tips from personal stylist Chantelle Znideric of personal-stylist.co.uk to get your juices flowing, and some excellent thoughts from stylist Gail Morgan of gailmorganstyle.com on how colour can impact on your personal brand. If you need more inspiration in this area, pick up some fashion glossies or check out the sites of fashion bloggers such as MyStyleArtist.
  • Last but not least, ask yourself: Are you comfortable with your personal style or do you feel like you are “trying too hard”? Ultimately, your personal style needs to feel authentic.

Image from iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Lisa

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The “Brand of the Month” goes to…

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Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world an interesting and distinctive brand. My latest personal brand of the month goes to…

Tracey Emin

Here’s why…
I’ve personally been a fan of British artist Tracey Emin for years. So when her latest work was unveiled at St Pancras International station earlier this month, I thought I’d take the opportunity to feature her as a Brand of the Month. I was also particularly moved by her latest work; it is meant to be a love letter to Europe.

Tracey Emin unveils “I Want My Time With You”, at St Pancras International Station. Photo: John Stillwell/PA Wire

Tracey Emin is a brand with a voice. One that is soft, bold, passionate and political.

Although she may come across as rather soft spoken in person, her work loudly projects what she believes in. Take her recent piece at St Pancras for example. Not many people can light up a train station with their words. The neon sign is one of the first things you see when arriving from Europe; there is quite literally no escaping her message. Behind it are Paul Day’s bronze statue of two embracing lovers and the large Dent clock, reminders of the frailty of time. Emin explains the romanticism behind the piece: “I cannot think of anything more romantic than being met by someone I love at a train station and as they put their arms around me, I hear them say ‘I want my time with you’.”

But there is a more layered meaning to the piece, one that captures her sentiment towards Brexit: “It’s really a great subliminal message sent out to the rest of Europe … I am deeply, deeply concerned about Europe, and that in a year’s time we’re going to be a tiny little island just floating around in the North Sea. I don’t personally want to leave Europe at all and this is my message to all Europeans. I love Europe.”

At 20 meters long, the work is the largest to date of her trademark texts and her most ambitious public artwork to date.

Tracey Emin is a brand of social responsibility. One that is generous, active and committed to the cause.

Emin is well known for her charity work, something I find particularly admirable. I met Emin a few years ago through my volunteer work with Terrence Higgins Trust (THT), the UK’s leading HIV and AIDS charity. What struck me was not only how hands-on she was with the organization, but how committed she was (and continues to be) to attending events such as THT’s Christie’s Auction. Not only does she generously donate original works every year, but she often spends the night mingling with guests and sometimes even makes a very lively appearance up at the podium with the auctioneer to help increase the highest bid!

Emin at the Lighthouse Gala Auction in aid of Terrence Higgins Trust. Photo: Piers Allardyce

Her original artworks also have raised over a million pounds for children’s charities such as the NSPCC and ARK…to name a few.

Some or Emin’s original artwork donated to charity. Photo: ArtLyst.com 2013

Tracey Emin is a brand that is authentic to the core.

“Her work is intensely personal, revealing intimate details of her life with brutal honesty and poetic humor.” I found this to be a spot-on description of Emin’s work, which is largely autobiographical and confessional. Sometimes raw, sometimes shocking, her work is always her.

A fantastic example of this is Emin’s installation My Bed (1998), which earned her a nomination for the Turner Prize. The work featured Emin’s unmade bed surrounded by her personal objects (from slippers to empty liquor bottles, cigarette butts, and condoms) in a state of disarray. It’s a highly personal piece exploring the symbolism of a bed as a place of birth, sex, and death, and arose out of a time of emotional despair following a relationship breakdown. Perhaps one of the keys to her success is her ruthless honesty, which often hits at the core of shared human experience.

Emin at her exhibition “Tracey Emin ‘My Bed’/JMW Turner” at Turner Contemporary, Margate. Photo: Stephen White, courtesy of Turner Contemporary.

As part of this authenticity, Tracey Emin is a brand who isn’t afraid to follow her own true path

Emin received significant acclaim during the 1990s, which earned her entry into the Young British Artists (YBA), alongside members such as Damien Hirst  and Jake and Dino Chapman. Along the way, she also earned the reputation of iconoclast and provocateur, the “bad-girl of Britart”.

Emin at Turner Contemporary in Margate, Kent. Photo: Jas Lehal

Once described as an artist “as synonymous with the capital’s arts scene as Andy Warhol was to New York”, she is now breaking away from the big city and moving her studio to her childhood home of Margate, Kent.

Her iconic bed also made (unmade?) a return, when exhibited a few months ago at Turner Contemporary in Margate.  Emin explained in an interview: “I have been around the world. I am tired. I want to go home. And you know what they say, you can take the girl out of Margate but you can’t take Margate out of the girl.’”

 

Lisa

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Five tips to becoming a more authentic public speaker

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“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that sound right? This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.” ― Jerry Seinfeld

This is one of my favourite Jerry Seinfeld quotes, and given how common fear of public speaking is in Western society, it’s one that continues to ring true today. Many of us, however, need to engage in some form of public speaking throughout our lives, and how we present to others hugely reflects on our personal brand…our reputation and the name we make for ourselves.

Our guest blogger this month is Hanieh Vidmar, a public speaking expert who has built her entire career around public speaking and helping others build up their skills and confidence as speakers. Here she gives her top tips on making presentations…

There are so many tips and techniques that we can implement into our presentations to help us improve our delivery and raise our confidence. In this article, I will share five tips on how you can be your authentic self when on stage – which is extremely important when delivering a presentation.

  • Telling stories creates great content for any presentation – whether it’s a sales pitch or a motivational speech. Stories can really put ‘you’ into the presentation and help your presentation sound more authentic. Share short and relevant stories in your presentations to help strengthen your message. 
  • Our body language is a big telltale on how we are feeling. When on stage, we need to emit a relaxed and confident energy and one way to achieve this is by knowing our presentation. Before your big day, practice, practice and practice some more so that you know your content well. When you know your content well, this can eliminate a lot of stress when you’re on stage and help you relax and therefore create a more authentic delivery. 
  • Visual aids are powerful in presentations. They can  strengthen your presentation and help your audience take in your message more effectively – in fact, visual aids are 65,000 more effective than text alone. You can use slides in your next presentation to help you achieve this but don’t hide behind your slides nor allow your slides to control you. To make the most of your slides, remember the rule ‘less is more’. Use keywords and then face your audience to explain the point to them. Don’t pack the slide with loads of information which you read as this shows nerves and lack of clarity. Being authentic on stage requires you to be confident in your message. 
  • Your two greatest assets in your presentation are your audience and your information for them. Involve your audience in your presentation. One of my favourite hooks to use in a presentation is to ask questions – open your presentation with a series of questions which involves a show of hands or ask your audience members questions individually. This helps with a number of things: 1) You show interest in your audience, 2) You can connect with your audience,  3) You can adapt your presentation to according to the answers they give you, and 4) by asking your audience questions, it can help you relax and your interest shows authenticity. 
  • And finally, one of my favourite styles of delivery is to talk to your audience as if you’re explaining a story to a group of friends in a restaurant. Give your presentation the same energy, tone and body language. If you use your hands when you talk do so in your presentation, if you say an odd joke when you’re around friends, do so in your presentation too (remember to keep them clean and non-offensive) and if your tone changes with your emotions, do the same in your presentation. The best way to be yourself is to, simply, be yourself. 

Being authentic in a presentation is vital as this shows you’re relaxed, your comfortable in your space and you know what you are doing. Use the five tips above to help you strengthen your message and leave a long lasting positive impression in the minds of your audience.

Enjoy the process.

Hanieh Vidmar

To learn more about Hanieh Vidmar and sign up for a free five day public speaking and confidence course, check out www.haniehvidmar.com!

 

 

Lisa

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A Year of Personal Branding, April Edition

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Welcome to the April edition of A Year of Personal Branding“, where I’ve broken down key branding concepts as part of a month-by-month guide to help you with each step of growing (and implementing) your personal brand.

As always, I invite you to use these monthly Year of Personal Branding posts as a map that will allow you to navigate all aspects of Personal Branding.

In earlier posts, I asked you to look at your own brand attributes, and more recently, at how others perceive you.  This month, we look at the part of personal branding that includes outer representations of your brand, or your outer brand. Whether or not we believe “a book should not be judged by its cover”, outer brand attributes are a key concept – and often the first component – in communicating your brand identity to others.

But are you expressing an outer image that creates an impact and sends the right message about you? This month, I challenge you to take a step towards building a more authentic and representative outer brand.

Photo: istock/kupicoo

Traditionally, spring is a time of spring cleaning, of decluttering and making space. Let’s take a look at how a little  decluttering of our own can help us express a more authentic outer brand, particularly by focusing on the clothing and accessories that may be detracting and even distracting from our personal brand.

The Wardrobe Edit
Set aside a day to look through your wardrobe and decide what fits in with your personal brand.

Ask yourself:
– Does the item or outfit represent the brand you would like to put forward?
– Is this look a consistent and accurate representation of your authentic brand?
– Is it also right for your profession?
– Are the items conveying the right message about you?

Having a friend on hand can help with the process, but if you would rather do this on your own, try taking photos of outfits to help you make your mind up. Of course, if you feel like you can use a little professional guidance with your edit, personal stylists can work brilliantly and can be well worth the time and money. Just be sure to use a stylist who is also savvy to personal branding!

Decluttering your wardrobe doesn’t mean that you have to automatically toss everything that doesn’t set you alight at the moment (more on this in my upcoming post, stay tuned!). Try repositioning the items that you feel best convey your brand into the main part of your storage space or wardrobe so that it’s easy to reach for when you need it. You can of course keep the other bits and pieces for when you want to experiment, add a bit of sparkle for that event, or to deliberately “mix up” your brand. Of course, if something is really looking incongruous with your personal brand then by all means donate it for someone else to enjoy.

And don’t forget to edit accessories as well and experiment a bit. Adding that fun broach or pocket square might just help to add a bit of oomph and even refine your outer brand. Perhaps you’ll even discover a defining signature piece in your de-clutter.

Once your edit is complete, take a look at those items that may fit with your personal brand, but perhaps needs a little love and attention: that briefcase that needs a bit of polish, or the dress that would work if you got the hem or sleeves shortened. Spend a little time reviving items or updating them as needed. Sometimes a simple dry clean or mend can make all the difference.

For re-homing purged pieces that didn’t make the cut, consider bagging them for a charity shop, ideally one that represents a cause resonates with you (after all, social responsibility is also an important part of personal branding!). If you’re feeling sociable, consider holding a clothes swapping party to not only find new homes for pieces that no longer depict your brand, but perhaps even discover friends’ pieces that you can work into your own branding. For re-homing designer pieces, try selling them on sites like eBay or Vestiare Collective, which can be ideal platforms to help you create wardrobe space…and make a little spending money for those new pieces too!

Lisa

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Remembering a Beautiful Mind: A tribute to Stephen Hawking

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This month, the world lost one of the greatest minds in science. In lieu of our “Brand of the Month”, I wanted to post a tribute to renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, sharing some highlights of his remarkable story.

Stephen Hawking gives a lecture entitled: “A Brief History of Mine”, Canary island of Tenerife, 2016. Photo credit: DESIREE MARTIN/AFP/Getty Images

 

Stephen Hawking with his bride, Jane Wilde, in 1965. Photo: Reddit

His story is one of beating the odds.
Like Hawking’s mind, his ability to live so long with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was exceptional. Most patients with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) are diagnosed after age of 50 and succumb to the disease within five years.

“I have been lucky that my condition has progressed more slowly than is often the case. But it shows that one need not lose hope.” – Stephen Hawking

Hawking was first diagnosed at age 21, and was not expected to see his 25th birthday. He lived for another 51 years, managing to shape modern cosmology and inspire audiences worldwide along the way.

Which brings us to…

His story is one of incredible resilience.
Not only did he beat the odds, his crippling disease never seemed to have slowed him down. He may have been confined to a wheelchair, required a computer system to speak, and needed around-the-clock care, however he still managed to accomplish a thing or two!

Hawking spent 30 years as a full professor of mathematics at the University of Cambridge and director of research at the school’s Centre for Theoretical Cosmology. He also had at least 12 honorary degrees and was awarded the CBE in 1982 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009 by President Barack Obama. And let’s not forget how incredibly prolific he was. In addition to his  academic publications, he authored an impressive list of books, including international best seller, A Brief History of Time.

“However difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at. It matters that you don’t just give up.” — Stephen Hawking at an Oxford University Union speech in 2016.

His story is one of great character (and what a character he was!).
Hawking was one of the most beloved scientists of our generation, not just for his intellect, but for his wit and humour.  He had a knack for looking at the bright side, in spite of his daunting condition. His positive mental outlook was remarkable, and seeing the humour in life seemed to be key.

Hawking in Princeton, New Jersey, 1979. Photo: Santi Visalli/ Getty Images 

His work distinguished him as one of the greatest physicists of our generation; his character distinguished him as one of its greatest men” –Yuri Milner, Scientific American

His story is one of always looking up… at the stars and to his inspirations.
Perhaps his remarkable outlook on life came from just that…looking out. Hawking certainly wasn’t a navel gazer; instead he showed us the importance of curiosity and outward focus.

“So remember, look at the stars and not at your feet.” — Hawking at the Sydney Opera House, 2015.

Keeping it light. Hawking in zero gravity aboard a specially-modified Boeing 727-200 aircraft, 2007. Photo: Jim Campbell/Aero-News Network

Like many great minds, he also looked to his inspirations. “Each generation stands on the shoulders of those who have gone before them, just as I did as a young PhD student in Cambridge, inspired by the work of Isaac Newton, James Clerk Maxwell and Albert Einstein” Hawking explained.

His story is one of knowing what you stand for…and taking a stand.
Hawking is described as embodying the scientific values of courage, honesty, curiosity and rebelliousness, values that often took him beyond the bounds of academia. They led him to speak out about culture, politics and the existential risks facing humanity.

Most recently, in 2016, Hawking joined 375 “concerned” scientists in signing an open letter to (then-presidential candidate) Donald Trump. The letter cited the threat of climate change and blasted Trump for pushing for the US to leave the Paris accord. He has also spoken out against Trump’s travel ban, amongst other things…

His story is one that transcended boundaries.
From academia to pop culture, Hawking permeated our collective consciousness. He was not only a hero to mathematicians and scientists everywhere, but also a pop-culture personality, guest-starring as himself on “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and “The Simpsons.” His life was portrayed in the 2014 movie, “The Theory of Everything.”

Hawking in The Simpsons

“Unfortunately, Eddie [Redmayne] did not inherit my good looks.” — Hawking on the Oscar-winning actor who portrayed him in “The Theory of Everything.”

Hawking and Eddie Redmayne attend the UK Premiere of “The Theory Of Everything”, in London, England, 2014. Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage

His story is one that will live on.
There’s no doubt that Hawking’s outstanding achievements and significant contributions to modern science will continue to shape the direction of science and our understanding of the universe for generations to come.

“His passing has left an intellectual vacuum in his wake,”. “But it’s not empty. Think of it as a kind of vacuum energy permeating the fabric of spacetime that defies measure.” – Scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson 

Perhaps Hawking’s children, Lucy, Robert and Tim, said it best: “He was a great scientist and an extraordinary man whose work and legacy will live on for many years. His courage and persistence with his brilliance and humor inspired people across the world.”

Credit: Sean McCabe; photograph by Abe Frajndlich

 

 

Lisa

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Conveying your personal brand…in front of the camera!

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As part of our personal branding, many of us have regular professional photos taken for our social media or websites. As not everyone is a natural in front of the camera, it can really be an ordeal for some. Perhaps that why so many people update them so irregularly. However, old, out of date pictures aren’t giving people an impression of the authentic you and it’s that authenticity that is so important for your personal brand.

Our guest blogger this month, photographer Yolande de Vries of www.yolandedevries.co.uk, has worked with BBC News, London Fashion Week, and Look magazine, as well as shooting hundreds of professional photos, wedding shots and following her first love, photojournalism. All of which make her the perfect choice for me to turn to for some insider professional advice on how to better express your personal brand (and just look better!) in photos.

Photographer Yolande de Vries

Here’s what Yolande says…

Hair and make up

It is good to get this done, but do make sure that you ask for a more polished, groomed version of you. This isn’t the time to play around with a new style, colour or make up look that could go drastically wrong. Even if you are merely feeling uncomfortable and not yourself, it will show in your photos.

Smiling

Have you head the term “Smizing” ? Basically, it’s making sure that your smile reaches your eyes to give a more natural, connected look.  Try to embrace the camera like a friend. The more natural your expression, the more you will draw people in.

Colour

If you have a business which has a brand colour, do wear that. You don’t have to come dressed head to toe in turquoise if that’s your brand colour, but make sure it’s there for us to see.

Also, think about the setting. If you are being photographed outside, you want to choose colours that will pop against the greenery, such a bright pink or red.

Your photographer

Listen to your photographer and their suggestions for how you should sit, stand and pose. At the same time, do tell them if you have a best side or would like them to try to hide or minimise something you don’t like. Most photographers know some tricks and techniques for this kind of thing.

Preparation

Don’t drink alcohol the night before, get a good night’s sleep and load up on plenty of H20.

Timing

Think about your body clock and schedule a time of day when you feel your best. So, even if a
photographer is keen to get the early morning light and you know you don’t really get going until much later, tell them.

Clothes

Choose clothes that you feel comfortable in. You need to feel yourself and at ease too. You certainly don’t want to be worrying about sucking your tummy in over the waistband!

 

Above images are by Yolande de Vries. To contact Yolanda, click here!

 

Lisa

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A Year in Personal Branding, March Edition

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Welcome to the March edition of A Year of Personal Branding“, where I’ve broken down key branding concepts as part of a month-by-month guide to help you with each step of growing (and implementing) your personal brand. I invite you to use these monthly Year of Personal Branding posts as a map that will allow you to navigate the whole arena of Personal Branding.

In earlier posts, I asked you to look at your own brand attributes, including some of the ways you differentiate yourself from everyone else. However, as your personal brand is best seen through eyes of others, it’s important to better understand how others perceive you. I am now going to challenge you to take a bold step this month by asking others for feedback. Without it, we may never truly know how others really perceive our personal brand.

In my personal branding assessment, I ask clients to conduct a 360 Degree interview specifically for personal branding. This allows others to offer anonymous input about a client’s attributes, skills, greatest strength and weakness, and which team role most suits them. But you don’t have to do a formal online survey to get a sense of how you are perceived. The easiest way to do this is to put out an email asking for feedback.

What to ask

You can always start the email with a very basic explanation. Perhaps something like:

“I’m going through a personal (or professional) development exercise which requires me to analyse how I am perceived by others.”

Some simple questions, tailored to what you’d like to assess (personal or professional), can reveal perceptions of your core personal branding attributes:

Brand attributes:
What three words would you use to describe me (professionally or personally)?

Strengths and Weaknesses:
What do you feel are my greatest strengths?
My greatest weaknesses?

Differentiation:
What (skills) do you think sets me apart from others?

Team Role:
What team role do you think I would best play?

Open-ended:
Can you offer any other feedback that might be helpful for my personal development?

Who to ask

Invite people who know you well enough to give meaningful (as well as honest!) feedback.

Depending on how brave you are feeling, you can invite colleagues and clients as well as friends and family. If this exercise proves to be a difficult task for you, perhaps start with close friends who you know will be supportive and widen your net further as you gain in confidence. The larger your sample size of course, the more meaningful and robust the data.

What to do with your feedback

First, digest the results.

Ask yourself:

  • Are you surprised by the results or are they pretty much what you expected?
  • If you feel yourself being triggered, ask yourself why. That’s valuable data as well!
  • Try to be honest with yourself about whether feedback sounds credible. Be wary of extreme outliers.

Look for congruence or discrepancy in the data.

  • What three words would you use to describe your ideal self (how you would like to be seen)? Do these come close to the three words others used to describe you,  or are they completely different? If there are discrepancies, it’s time to do some focused personal branding work!
  • Are you aware of your perceived strengths and weaknesses? How can you build on your strengths while making weaknesses irrelevant?
  • Are there strengths you have that others haven’t recognized, and if so, how can you showcase them?
  • Are you in a role (or have responsibilities) that others believe you would excel at?
  • How are you using your unique position (what differentiates you) to set yourself apart and get noticed?

This can also be a great exercise in handling criticism…and making it work for you! Paula Gardner of Scarlet Thinking conducted this exercise last year as part of an MSc course. Here’s what she had to say about it:

“I was incredibly resistant at first. To be honest, I was terrified of anything critical, but asking for positive feedback really boosts your confidence. You can see where you are getting it right and where you can improve. After the first reply, my anxieties dissolved and I realised that by holding myself back from finding out how people saw me, I was keeping myself stuck.”

This part of the personal branding process is typically not an easy one for most. But as Paula pointed out above, it’s well worth it as the results can be rich and rewarding.

Lisa

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The “Brand of the Month” goes to…

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Each month I give my verdict on who has shown the world an interesting and distinctive brand. My latest personal brand of the month goes to…

Lulu Guinness

Here’s why…
For the first time in her career, British designer Lulu Guinness, OBE presented a ready-to wear collection at London Fashion Week this month, giving not only press and buyers but also consumers the option to “buy off the runway”. But what caught my attention was her incredibly candid interview in the Sunday Times Style Magazine this month, which beautifully illustrated many facets of her strong personal brand.

Lulu Guinness in The Sunday Times Style Magazine this month

Here’s what I find most striking about her personal brand:

She’s not afraid to take risks

The luxury handbag and clothing designer lives by the motto of her hero, Surrealist artisan and fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli: “Dare to Be Different”. And that she does. Lulu Guinness, who’s  accessories are in the V&A’s permanent collection, is not afraid to make some risky co-brand moves, even with mundane household items such as toasters. “The PR told me I shouldn’t do it, but it’s one of my favourite things” she explained in a recent interview with The Sunday Times Style Magazine.  The toaster, a collaboration with Comet in 2009, featured Guinness’s trademark red-lip print. And it turns out to be symbolic of Guinness’s attitude towards the fashion industry.  She explained that she has never had a fashion ego and sees delight in commercial opportunities where other designers may not.

She also takes risk on the runway. Her “buy now” ready-to wear collection at London Fashion Week gave consumers the option to buy there and then. Sharing with Style, “What customer isn’t buy-now right for? It’s what we all want.”

Models pose during the Lulu Guinness Presentation at London Fashion Week 2018. Photo: luluguinness.com

She personifies her brand

Since age 16, Guinness loved the glamour of lipstick and how it made her feel; so when she started designing accessories, red lips were the focus. Her obsession for a bold red lip became her signature, and it hasn’t waned. And you will never catch her without her trademark red lipstick.

Photo: JUDIT-GARCIA-TALAVERA

Described as a “witty, pretty English eccentric”, she is the living, breathing personification of her brand. Guinness creates what she loves, and follows her gut when she creates. She also has a refreshing indifference to following trends. As she told Style, “I think it’s almost unfashionable to be on trend.”

What’s important to Guinness? She explains, “I want to entertain; I want to help you forget about your normal life for a bit.” This attitude is  reflected in her marketing savvy, which is also intuitive and values driven. Long before the age of social marketing, Guinness was connecting with her market and instinctively put herself at the forefront of her brand. And she understands her target audience. She told Style, “we are a tribe, and we know each other.”

She’s an impressively socially responsible brand

Reflective of her aforementioned brilliant co-branding, Lulu’s charity collaborations are a plenty and typically encapsulate the brand’s sense of humour and wit. These include tote bags in aid of Comic Relief and Friends of the Royal Marsden hospital, one-off auction items such as this clutch, and even a fab repurposed chair in aid of the Duchess of Cambridge’s charity, The Art Room.

Guinness with her three limited edition totes for Comic Relief. Photo: Loulouguinness.com

An installation of chairs transformed by artists, designers and architects to raise money for The Art Room. Guess which one’s by Lulu Guinness? Photo: Artsy

Guinness for National Aids Trust, 2014. Photo: Kit Lee

Guinness also created limited edition Red Ribbon brooches to help increase awareness of HIV leading up to World AIDS Day in 2014. Designed by Guinness herself, the brooch is a modern twist on the traditional red ribbon, complete with her trademark lips.

She also celebrates philanthropic modern day icons on her website. Most recently, she applauds some of her favourite women’s world-changing initiatives, including Emma Watson’s He For She campaign, and Leoni Kibbey’s not-for-profit film festival.

She’s open and authentic…and a role model

Guinness is open about her bipolar disorder. In the Style interview, she disclosed, “I’m still learning, but I’ve managed it for years. Accepting that you need to be on medication for ever is a big one, I was always trying to come off them, and I caused total crisis — it was hard for the family, but I’d be so insistent. You feel so well, ‘I don’t need these’.” What also helps, she explained, is showing authentic vulnerability, to “talk about how difficult life is, rather than showing a persona”.  Guinness shared that it may not be very “English society”, however it’s becoming easier to open up. “It’s so exhausting being someone else, making out that everything’s perfect.”

Guinness further shared that she is keen to be a vocal mental-health role model. “The princes do amazing work, but it’s for men, isn’t it? Adwoa’s thing with Gurls Talk is brilliant, but it’s for young people. I’m a good example of an unlikely person because I’m an eternal optimist with an illness. People have such a narrow idea of depression, but my thing is to show people depression needn’t define you.”

Respect.

Guinness in front of her signature “Pucker Up” clutches

 

Lisa

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The secret to standing out as a blogger

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Blogging is probably one of the easiest ways to illustrate your personal brand, and yet it is also one of the areas where it is hardest to stand out. With thousands of bloggers out there, how do you get readers to notice you? How do you communicate who you really are in words and pictures?

Look at any successful blog and you will see that they are all uniquely personal, many times a window on the blogger’s own world. Of course, opening yourself up like this is a brave thing to do, not to mention all the other things that go with it – the eye for photos, the endless hours on social media and the conviction and confidence to keep going to gain traction with it. Fascinating!

I chatted to a number of bloggers to find out how they go about sharing their own personal brand through blogging and what their secret is to standing out online.

The Lifestyle Blogger

Laura Summer is a lifestyle blogger over at Laura’s Lovely Blog.

How do you build your personal brand through blogging?

“I think as a blogger, unless you have multiple contributors, your personality is the brand. Your audience follows you to find out what you think on certain subjects, your views, your life, your style and your honesty. Because of this your integrity is very important as is consistency. As a blogger I regularly work with brands, but whenever one approaches me I always consider if it is a brand that I would work with if I was out purchasing for myself anyway. If it’s not, more often than not I will politely turn them down. When I began to be commercially successfully, I spent time and money working with an illustrator to make sure my blog was a reflection of my personality, that the design was right and to create a Logo and branding like any company would. My blog is my brand and it is important that the look and feel as well as the content is right and this is reflected across all of the channels I am represented on. But the heart of a blogger’s personal brand is most definitely their voice.”

What is it that you do that attracts your audience? I.e., what is the X factor that makes you successful?

“The real buzz word in blogging at the moment is niche. There are thousands of blogs out there and it is hard to compete and make yourself different from the rest. There are some bloggers that come across their niche quite quickly and others that see what their readers respond to over time and reflect their content accordingly.

I have found that three years into professional blogging I am still learning about my content and adapting it. But at the same time it is important that this is in keeping with your personal brand otherwise your blog can lose its way. For me personally, I know now that people value my opinions and honesty and directly contact me on occasion before purchasing something I have reviewed. People know of my love of handbags and genuinely love items I have shared with them and have messaged me to say they have gone on to purchase bags I have put on my social media. Over the last year I have worked very hard at improving my photography and now have brands that specifically want to work with me for this reason.

But I do honestly believe that a successful blogger has to be adept and multiple skill sets. From writing, branding, social media and photography to building business relationships and contacts for work. As with branding the ‘X-factor’ is about consistently working hard and building on your content while learning and assessing it over time. As with any business success comes from hard work and you have to be prepared to put them time in.”

The Business Blogger

Judith Morgan of Judith Morgan: The Small Business Oracle is a business coach who has been blogging for over 12 years – even before WordPress started! She is the author of Your Biz Your Way, which you can find on her site.

How do you communicate your personal brand through your blog?

“I write in my own unique voice. I don’t follow any received wisdom about how blogging should be done, I just get on and do it my way. I want to showcase me, my work and my clients so that those considering working with me can get a really good sense of what it’s all about, who I am and how I work before we speak. I don’t worry about what people will think, although I believe I have a good personal filter and don’t share anything which I consider to be inappropriate, though others may disagree and that’s absolutely fine by me and one of the ways of connecting best with my ideal client.

I aim to achieve rapport by writing about topics which arise during my real work with other micro business owners, and which I know will be of value to other readers and potential clients just like them.”

What is it that you do that attracts your audience? What is the X factor that makes you successful?

“What you see is what you get. I communicate my brand values in word and deed and try to live up to those in everything I do, not just on my blog and website and social media but in the delivery of my services especially, and to get all of that to collide beautifully, honestly and truthfully and in a way which feels – and is – real.

I am razor sharp and blunt, there’s no point in pretending otherwise. I don’t do pretend. Yesterday a woman described me as having “got it right”, that to her I appear to be happy doing what I’m doing. That’s absolutely true, I am and that message is clearly getting through. That’s joyous for me, and that sort of feedback is very useful so I know what’s working and for whom.

Recently a writer I respect described me “funny, direct, straight to the point and always insightful.” Again, this is spot on. If I am communicating that and readers are getting it, I’m doing something right. My goal is to keep improving on that communication and connection, and making even more delicious Marmite-y matches.”

The Travel Blogger

Susan Schwartz is the founder of two travel blogs, Best Bits Worldwide and A Lush Life Manual.

How do you communicate your personal brand through your blog?

“Communicating who you are and what you stand for is easier than one might think. Since I write in the first person, every bite of food, every sip of champagne, every bed I sleep in and every experience I have is authentic. I am always aware of providing what is right for me and the Best Bits Worldwide and A Lush Life Manual brands. I write only about those experiences and choose them according to my personal brand, revealing who I am and what I stand for in the process. I was really one of the first Luxury travel bloggers in London. People love to dream about luxury so I have hit the sweet spot.”

What is it that you do that attracts your audience? What is the X factor that makes you successful?

“When I began blogging, I realized one important thing, Best Bits Worldwide and A Lush Life Manual had to be all about me and my personality. I had to make people fall in love with who I was, what I represented and the information I was providing. My About page and photo were the most important “Bits” of both blogs.  Writing in the first person was a must in order to connect with those who read my blogs. I am always aware of how my readers might see me. The authenticity of what I write and what I stand for is what I hope makes me successful.  I am one of the only people doing what I am doing in London. I think that’s why it is growing.”

The Parenting Blogger

Nicky Kentisbeer blogs about her family life, amongst other things over at Not Just The 3 Of Us

How do you build your personal brand through blogging?

“It takes time to build a personal brand through blogging.  Consistency, showing up and being authentic (although a slightly over used word of late) is key.  Readers have come to know what to expect from my blog, my style and my content and everything that I talk about will always link back to one of my key blogging themes.  My individual style and core values are reflected throughout all of my posts.  It is also important to remember that someone is actually reading a post and to engage with that person throughout.”

What is it that you do that attracts your audience? What is the X factor that makes you successful?

“Talking about matters that resonate and saying what others may be thinking.  Regular readers know what they are getting when they visit.  I always come from a perspective that if I am experiencing something at least one other person will be.  I always aim to bring value through my content, whether that be an experience or a situation. Any posts and reviews will always be true to my content and core values and are delivered honestly and thoroughly.  There is also a fine balance between providing a useful resource to the reader and allowing your blog to become a selling vehicle.  None of us like being sold to.  I also support business owners with their content creation and strategy and the business section of my blog is also used by these visitors as an information resource.”

And so lovely readers, the secret is revealed! You’ll probably notice that the three things that cropped up the most are authenticity, consistency and have a unique proposition, i.e. something that differentiates you from the other bloggers.  And of course all of these are core elements of successful personal branding for everyone, not just bloggers.

 

 

Lisa

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