Transforming your Personal Brand: Meet Vicki

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Welcome to our next post in our series of interviews on personal brand transformation!  Meet Vicki Baumann, who, after a life changing injury, brilliantly expanded her personal brand to include yoga teacher.

Tell us a bit about who you were before the change? What was your personal brand (i.e. how other people perceived you)? 

Before ‘my change’ I was DigiPrintVicki. I have worked in print for many years now and that was what
people knew me as. “Talk to Vicki, she’s the one that gets things printed quickly and never lets you down”.

I was always very confident at my job, quick to learn and eager to do well and progress in my career from when I very first started working. But, I had no self-belief that I was academic or could success in any exams. So, whenever opportunities arose that may put me in a position of having to sit a final exam for anything I would not put myself forward.

I was a person that always learnt on-the-job. Worked my way through life, learning from great bosses and colleagues and challenging myself along the way.

My personal brand has always been confident, knowledgeable, hardworking and never wanting to let anyone down. And, unknown to me – I was also viewed as the orange girl! Orange, I love! My Orange jacket I really love! And when at a personal branding workshop more than one person in the audience commented that they had always thought of orange when they thought of me. I had no idea! But from a colour perspective that was what I was. Orange scarf, orange jacket.

But my business-brand – that defined me on a daily basis was –“Vicki’s DigiPrintVicki – she can get your print done quickly and never lets you down”.

I wasn’t unhappy with that. I still am not unhappy with that. I am just changing form a little. Still the orange remains – orange logo for my new YogaWithVickiB.

How would you compare today’s version of you to the one before? 

Today’s version of me?

More bendy .. Yup!

Calmer .. Definitely.

Different .. Yes.

Stronger. And stronger in more ways than just physically, but also mentally. I have finally broken the spell of believing I can’t learn. I will always fail at exams.

I now believe that I can achieve whatever I set as my goals. Finally accepting that I can “Just do it” and excel.

How has my brand changed? I’m still the same. I’m still DigiPrintVicki – but I am also YogaWithVickiB.

I am a calmer, less volatile version of who I was.

I don’t accept negativity around me.

I smile more.

I am more confident of my abilities.

I am less body conscious.

I still have my wonderful print clients that I really enjoy working with. Helping and guiding them get the best job possible. But I also have my yoga students that I teach. I love seeing them develop, gain confidence, enjoy their ‘breakthroughs’ when they finally achieve a pose that they thought would defy them.

This combination of my brand – of myself – is wonderful for me to see.

I am proud.

What made you think you needed to change? 

2012 was a monumental year. 1stAugust was the first week of the Olympics. I was hit by a car in Oxford Street.

“Life changing injury” is a frightening thing to be told by a Doctor.

But I was in great hands! I had ended up in Kingston Hospital ‘week 2’ expecting the temporary cast to be removed and full cast put on my leg to repair what had been thought to have been a simple fracture to the foot. But no… I wasn’t going home, I was going to have an operation. Hopefully the swelling would have gone down sufficiently so the Op could be done before it was too late and it wouldn’t be repaired and I would suffer ‘drop foot’.

One day you are ‘normal’ the next you are contemplating perhaps not being able to walk properly again. It is a time-stands-still moment. A shift in my life. Never to be the same again. “Now I’ve got to dig deep and get through this”.

From that moment on I had changed.

Then came a year and half of rehabilitation – physio, exercise, stretching. Two operations. Two metal plates & screws fitted and then removed six months later to try and get more movement in the foot.

Not able to run any more – I went back to my yoga, to my mat, big time! It was fantastic for my rehabilitation and helped keep me calm.

How did you set things into motion?

Four years later my Yoga Teacher provided me with the opportunity to train to become a yoga teacher. With my previous history of total disbelief of my abilities in learning and exams I was finally persuaded after a few months of can I can’t I and being told by my teacher, other yogis that I trained with and family, of course you can do it. I took a leap of faith and with lots of second thoughts took the plunge.

Six months. 200 hours learning and 200 hours training on the mat, studying, homework, exams plus a full time job – I did it! I passed!

Did you leap in or make the change in increments? 

My main brand is still DigiPrintVicki but I am loving the balance of my day job and my evening and weekend teaching ‘job’.  The two work hand-in-hand for me. The wonderful world of print can be a stressful place – deadlines every day – achieving sales – managing multiple accounts – but when I come to my mat, it is a different story. I am calm. I am home.

I have discovered I love to teach and my students love my classes:

“She is a great teacher, the class is challenging but very supportive”
“Vicki is a fabulous teacher: warm and patient, great at explaining how to do all the poses and moves and not afraid to push you to your limber limits!”

What was the reaction of others? Did they support you or did they resist the change?

Family were surprised, delighted and proud of what I have achieved. My yoga teacher and fellow students with whom I train could turn around and say ‘I told you so’ – they could see me more clearly than I could see myself. Everyone said go for I, even those who usually would have given a catty remarks said “good for you”. I had no negativity at all.

I had such support from my family. We literally had six months of no life other than yoga. I was either at work full time, studying evenings & Saturday afternoons, practicing on the mat, or in class all day every Sunday. No social life and if we did ever venture out it was with the premise of  “I can’t drink and I need to be in bed by 10”.

I am so proud of how proud I have made them feel. They knew I had it in me and encouraged me to take the plunge.

What was your most valuable resource/what kept you going?

Not wanting to let others down. My Teacher was investing so much into the training, I wanted to make him proud. My family and friends for encouraging me; accepting that it was my sole focus and keeping me going when I thought I didn’t have it in me.

How do you feel now that you’ve made the change?

It is nearly a year since I graduated now. I have been teaching since July 2017. I have regular students. This year I ran my first Yoga Retreat with two more planned for next year. I feel so proud of what I have achieved. I have faced my exam-demons and proven to myself that I had it in me all the time.

What’s your advice to anyone contemplating something similar?

Do It! Have belief in yourself. Listen to others – they are probably seeing something in you that you can’t yourself. It is never too late.

I thought I was done with exams when I was 16. Forty years later, I exceeded my expectations and have retrained. I am now a co-brand of DigiPrintVicki and YogaWithVickiB – it’s amazing what we can do when we set our mind to it.

What the future holds I am excited to see. I know whatever it does, I will allow myself to go with it and enjoy the journey.

Thanks for the inspiring interview, Vicki!


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Transforming your Personal Brand: Meet Julia

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We continue with our series of inspiring interviews about brand transformation. Meet Julia Sondack, who’s personal brand changed after divorce. Julia transitioned from partner in an interiors and curtain business to running Holiday Homes Turkey, a boutique luxury holiday home service.

Tell us a bit about who you were before the change? What was your personal brand (i.e. how other people perceived you)? 

I was in a partnership for over 20 years with ex husband in a well established Interior Furnishing business. I was conscious of my brand and how I reflected our brand even in those days.  In that business the colours of the fashion world and the world of interiors were synonymous.  I would know roughly what I was going to show my clients and coordinate accordingly. When we had our website photos shot my husband and I deliberately wore our brand colours for the photos – it worked well. As you can imagine being in business for that length of time I was well known as ‘the curtain bird’ or ‘design lady’ – in better circles!

How would you compare today’s version of you to the one before? 

My personal brand now is probably not too dissimilar because my business is what I enthuse about and I am conscious to portray an image of relaxed, organised, professional but fun approach. Again I don’t want to portray too stuffy a feel. If I was to wear a suit for this business I think I would come across as way too serious to understand people’s desires.

What made you think you needed to change? Was it a bolt of lightning moment or did it happen over time?

I was happy running the interiors business but was offered an opportunity. After designing and supplying the complete interiors down to the last teaspoon of a villa in Kalkan, the owner asked me to market it to potential English visitors. So we came to an arrangement and I was happy to start a business using my familiar skills but marketing something different. It was an exciting time as this was my baby, not a joint venture.

It also came about at a time of change in my life, my husband and I were finding it increasingly difficult to live and work together; our goals and objectives were no longer in unison. For me it was extremely fortunate to have something to concentrate on and develop in a way that I saw fit. It gave me a sense of self worth, which, could have been lost at a time I was having to give up a business which I’d worked so hard in, and, of course was part of my identity, due to our divorce.

It was not a lightning bolt apart from my initial thought of ‘ i need something else”, more of a slow process to reach what I wanted to achieve, not actually knowing too well how I was going to achieve it but having faith in myself to do the job well. I built the business up slowly more by chance than action as from setting up a website to advertise the original villa, other villa owners asked if I could do the same for them. I now have nearly 30 on my books.

What was the reaction of others? Did they support you or did they resist the change?

This was an interesting one. Most people that knew me in business and my close friends were very supportive and confident in my choices and expertise. Where I did feel a little disapproval was from some family members, mostly older generation who don’t tend to adapt to change so well and often see us as being good at just one career. Nowadays very few people stay in one job or career for life; especially us ladies with families, we need to be even more adaptable and quick on our feet! I must add at this point the disbelievers made me want to succeed more, just to prove them wrong.

What was your most valuable resource/what kept you going?

My belief in myself and my reason for wanting to create something new. I was at a crossroads. I could have continued my journey, fairly simply in the way it was going or I could do something for me, that I wanted to make work and own. I wanted to provide for my family and I wanted to be happy, have fun and appreciate life. I did think I may have 30 years left on this earth, I should be doing something I enjoy. So I was passionate about creating this and, because I believed I could, I just got on and did. Don’t get me wrong, its not been a bed of roses, there have been many challenges beyond my control but I still love what I do and I do it for my loved ones – its the perfect combination.

How do you feel now that you’ve made the change?

If you really want to make that change it must be something you truly feel from deep within. Remember your skills are adaptable, don’t be afraid to learn new ones too. Plan well and give yourself as much time as possible to develop your ideas. Be confident and use that confidence to drive yourself forward and show people your passion.

What’s your advice to anyone contemplating something similar?

If you really want to make that change it must be something you truly feel from deep within. Remember your skills are adaptable, don’t be afraid to learn new ones too. Plan well and give yourself as much time as possible to develop your ideas. Be confident and use that confidence to drive yourself forward and show people your passion.

Thanks for the inspiring interview, Julia!


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Transforming your Personal Brand: Meet Paula

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To launch this series of interviews, we start with someone who is near and dear to Golden Notebook, as her PR and business savvy truly helped to propel our brand!

Paula Gardner of pivoted from being a PR and marketing consultant to a business psychologist and executive coach with a special interest in visibility and exploring what stops us being more visible. She tells us about her journey to a new personal brand here…

Tell us a bit about who you were before the change? What was your personal brand (i.e. how other people perceived you). What were you known for? How would you compare today’s version of you to the one before? 

I was a PR coach, helping business owners to do their own PR. My personal brand was probably very
tactical…I.e. encouraging people to take action, use specific tools and technique to achieve a certain amount of profile, It was very action based, gung ho, and let’s get on with it. I wouldn’t say it was superficial, but it was looking at things from a surface point of view, at what actions you needed to take to raise your profile.

Today’s version is much more thoughtful. I go much deeper in my work, looking at the blocks people might have to being visible, and exploring those. It’s much more satisfying for me, and at the same time, people get real insight into their motivations and what might be keeping them stuck.

From an outer brand point of view, this is also reflected. My previous brand, Do Your Own PR, was all about doing. Scarlet Thinking, my brand as a business psychologist and coach, brings in “thinking”. Even my name reflects the new approach. Also, having Scarlet in the name has allowed me to have a great fun, creating a whole new wardrobe to bring in my brand colours.

What made you think you needed to change? Was it a bolt of lightning moment or did it happen over time?

I had been feeling unsettled for a while. I know my stuff and got good results for my clients but it wasn’t enough. It certainly didn’t go deep and I kept coming up against the question of how some people were able to take up my PR suggestions and run with them and others struggled, perhaps even doing nothing. I had realised that there is more to raising your profile than meets the eye.

I had been planning to study Psychology at University many years ago, but got side-tracked into studying English literature, which led to my training as a journalist. It was really only when I went on a date with a psychologist who was retraining to be a barrister at the age of 52 that was inspired. I realised I could still change career, it wasn’t too late.

So, to answer your question, it had been brewing for a while, but seeing someone else do something inspirational had given me the impetus to do something about it.

How did you set things in motion? Did you leap in or make the change in increments?

Just getting on Google! I promised myself that I would only look at my local University, half giving myself a way out if I got cold feet. However, they not only had the perfect course for me in business psychology, but they also had a scheme where I could apply to the EU for some funding to help pay towards it. Everything fell into place. Of course, that was only the start. Actually doing the masters was a whole other thing. I had been out of studying for over 20 years. Not only that, I was jugging my studies with being a single mum to three and running my own business. However, I was determined to make it work. It reminded me of something else about my personal brand – I have great resilience!

What was the reaction of others? Did they support you or did they resist the change?

It was mixed. My mum was dead against me spending so much money but my Dad supported me. Some of my friends thought it was just a whim whilst others were really encouraging. I think the split was probably 75/25 with most being supportive. My own kids were probably the most of supportive of all.

What was your most valuable resource/what kept you going?

The support of my children. They were cool about me having weekends away from home to study, plus working on essays over the weekends. Most of my friends regularly asked how things were going and a couple, more used to the academic world, even read over my first essays which gave me a lot of confidence.

Actually putting my knowledge into action by creating my mastermind groups for business owners helped me really embed what I was learning. It also proved that I could make money out of it and I had paid for my degree before I even finished.

How do you feel now that you’ve made the change?

A lot happier and authentic. This really feels like me. I feel like I’m intellectually challenged in a way I have never been before, and I love it.

What’s your advice to anyone contemplating something similar?

I’ve got so much out of Uni on so many levels, including social, but I know it’s not for everyone. A few people dropped out whilst I was there. I would say listen to your gut. Somehow, I just knew that this was right for me and everything seemed to fall into place. If it’s a struggle, even at the beginning, I would question if it was the right path.

At the beginning, I was terrified of not being able to handle it academically, of not being able to cope with the pressure, of letting my paying work slip. I managed it all and learned a lot about myself in the process. One of the main things is not to let fear stop me. You may not be able to stop the fear, but sometimes you have to go through it.

Oh, and be prepared to make sacrifices. I do feel as though my social life has suffered, and I wasn’t able to read a novel for two years as I had too much academic reading to do. However, my friends were understanding and it’s all getting back on track now, so it doesn’t last forever. It’s been worth it!

Thanks for the inspiring interview, Paula!


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Transforming your Personal Brand: Stories of Inspiration

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Transformation. That process of profound and radical change that orients our life in a new direction. We all go through it in some form or other, and often multiple times throughout life. But what happens when the time comes to actively transform your personal brand? We decided to interview some fascinating women who have transformed their personal brand to discover just how they accomplished this.


You’ll find these stories are quite diverse, but interestingly, many are connected by a common thread; most women took steps to transform their brand after some trigger or life event served as a catalyst. These women chose to take control of their circumstances by transforming their personal brand.  Other women we interviewed decided to actively steer their personal brand in a completely different direction, while a handful of others added a transformative dimension to their existing brand.

The latter describes my own personal brand. Before we launch into our series of interviews, I thought I’d share my own story of brand transformation.

Mine was more of a “slow burn” than a lighting bolt moment. I first became intrigued by the intersection of psychology and branding while training for my doctorate in clinical psychology. Lured by the bright lights of Manhattan, I quickly realized I needed to supplement my research stipend in order to afford to live in the Big Apple as a PhD student. Unfortunately, my part-time record store gig on St Marks (although very cool) just wasn’t cutting it. I thought I’d try my luck pursuing some contacts on Madison Avenue, and before I knew it, I was working in branding research at Young and Rubicam (you know, the agency Mad Men was based on). During my time at Y&R, both in NY and during a stint in London, I became versed in the branding research and strategy that forged strong and enduring corporate brands.

I also discovered how much psychology went into branding; personalities and archetypes, the emotions they evoked, not to mention the loyalty and esteem they earn from their audience. As a psychologist in training, I found these concepts fascinating and inspiring. I began to think about the inverse…the effectiveness of applying branding strategy to psychology, or more specifically, personal growth. Some years later, I would discover that there was a name for this concept: personal branding.

For the next few years, I mostly worked in medical and research settings. It was through my charity involvement, however, that I started to witness first hand the power of celebrity personal branding, when volunteering with the American Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR) in New York. Social responsibility had become a big part of my own personal brand a few years earlier in Philadelphia during my Master’s program, where experiences of “otherness” were part of our cultural awareness training. My five years with amfAR was a real eye-opener to the power of celebrity brands. Serving as the committee auction chair for one of their biggest fundraising events, I worked alongside of their events team to harness celebrity support for the benefit. Co-founded by researcher Matilde Krim and Dame Elizabeth Taylor, amfAR has always had huge celebrity muscle behind it, including the likes of Sharon Stone, the Global Chair, and Richard Gere, an honoured brand ambassador, both of whom I had the privilege of meeting. By just lending their names to the organization, these celebs were using their personal brands
to raise amfAR’s profile as one of the most famous HIV/AIDS charities in the world.  But, at the same time, it was clear that the amfAR name was just as big a part of their brand, too.

More valuable lessons in personal branding followed during a volunteer stint as a consultant for MAC (cosmetics) AIDS Fund’s VIVA GLAM campaign. The first lipstick created to raise money and awareness for AIDS, VIVA GLAM chose a provocative spokesperson for each campaign. In helping to create HIV testing messages for campaign materials and celebrity media engagements, I learned very quickly that the effectiveness of the campaign largely hinged on the chosen celeb and the power of their brand.

When I moved to London nearly ten years ago, I finally realized my dream of opening a private practice in the City. It was here in London that the pieces seemed to fall into place. Alongside of my practice, I decided to bring together my training, experience and passion in both psychology and branding to found my personal branding agency, Golden Notebook. Drawing from my doctoral training in research and assessment tools, I developed a unique approach to personal branding, one that combines psychological assessment and theory with branding strategies to create for powerful and enduring individual change and personal impact. In short, I help clients make a name for themselves by discovering their distinct and authentic personal brand.

One of my favourite dimensions of my personal brand is expressing my voice through writing here…and providing a vehicle for others to tell their own stories. I hope you will find the series of interviews that follow thought-provoking and inspiring. Perhaps they might even help spark a little transformation in your own personal brand!

In London with my favourite cuddly co-brand, Clyde! Photo credit: Bobby Cray




Your “Year of Personal Branding”, July Edition

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We have spent the first half of this year really drilling down and focusing on your own authentic personal brand, one that most accurately represents both the inner and outer you. This month, we take a look at Brand Positioning, which involves identifying a precise group of consumers that a brand will target. In personal branding, this target audience consists of the people who are in the best position to help you reach your career goals.

Identify your Target Audience and Competitors
Remember that your target audience can include your ideal clients or people who can influence your career path.  They are the key people who need to know your brand.

Who is in your target audience?

What opportunities do you have to interact with them? How often?

Who are your competitors?

What are you competing for?

Who else might be competing for this same thing?

Describe your competitors and colleagues. What makes you different (i.e., how do you stand out)?  What advantage do you have to offer that will make your target audience choose you over your competitors?  This can include your background and qualifications.

Position and adjust your brand (authentically)
With this in mind, positioning your brand involves looking at what your target audience wants, how you are differentiated from your competition, and in what ways you may have to tweak or highlight certain parts of your brand accordingly.

For example, if you are looking for promotion, you may have to highlight the driven or more extrovert sign of your brand. If you are writing a novel and want to get it published, yes, you need to tap into your creativity, but you will also need to show potential publishers that you can bring an understanding of marketing and promotion to the table, so could start by growing more of a brand presence on social media.

Your action this month is to research exactly what your target audience wants to see.

Of course, this goes back to your own aims and goals and first identifying your target audience. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to do a little homework. Turn to the internet, books, forums, social media and even straight forward questioning: asking people directly is often the simplest, unambiguous way to get the information. Even by doing that – for instance, asking “What do I need to do to get promoted” – you are positioning yourself already.


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When personal branding meets con artistry: A look inside Scam Brands

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Just as Ocean’s Eight hit the big screen, the Female Con Artist seems to be having a moment. A handful of professional scammers have made their way into the media recently, most famously “Anna Delvey”, the 27-year-old European sham heiress who immersed herself in the world of New York’s elite, scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars out of friends, banks and investors.

In lieu of our “Brand of the Month”, I felt compelled to visit darker side of personal branding: Scam or Con brands, which, I have to admit, is perhaps the most fascinating (and disturbing) intersection between psychology and personal branding yet. But how do con artists like Delvey pull it off?

“Anna Delvey”. Photo from, Getty

Chances are you’ve already gotten hooked by the wild story of Anna Delvey. But if the name is new to you, I strongly suggest you check out these captivating pieces in Vanity Fair and New York magazine detailing her extensive con artistry, which included everything from“cheque-kiting” (depositing bad cheques and then withdrawing the money before they bounced) to scamming companies into giving her money for elaborate “projects”, all while living a lavish lifestyle well beyond her means.


A quick synopsis of this grifter gal: the daughter of a truck driver, Anna Sorkin grew up in Russia and spent her adolescence in a small German town. After rebranding herself as Anna Delvey, a German heiress, she hatched an elaborate scheme, allowing her to scam enough money for the launching pad she needed to make a splash in the Big Apple. And what a splash she made. As New York’s Jessica Pressler documented, “through a web of lies, wire transfers, and the right RSVPs, Delvey secured hotel rooms and nearly founded a ‘Soho House–ish type club’”.  She spent long stays in five star hotels, took luxury holidays, and injected herself into the art, fashion, and banking circles, while conning professionals such as architects, lawyers and investors to help found her private members club, “The Anna Delvey Foundation”. Eventually the gig was up, as banks and hotels did their due diligence and exposed Delvey as the fraud she was. Delvey is currently incarcerated without bail in Rikers Island jail and faces multiple grand larceny charges.

The burning question everyone on everyone’s lips is how in the world she got away with it for so long. From my view, it certainly looks like good ol’ sociopathology meets some impressive personal branding strategy, mixed with a little luck (and maybe a knack for forging or repurposing bank documents!).

As Josh Glancy describes, “she needed a heavily curated brand, one that people would find familiar enough not to query. In this case, jet-set Euro trust-fund baby with grand plans to open a knock-off Soho House-style club.” She spent years cultivating her fraudulent brand, posing as a well-connected heiress who was seen at the most happening parties and events and lived out of luxury hotels, all while not actually having any money.

In addition to curating the right personal brand for the scam, she positioned it exceptionally well.

The right moment, the right signals

Delvey at Paris Fashion Week after party in NYC, 2013. Photo: Joe Schildhorn/BFA/REX/Shutterstock.

Delvey got her foothold when interning for Purple magazine in Paris, when she latched onto the social circles of the magazine’s editor-in-chief. Delvey saw an opportunity that gave her the veneer of credibility she needed to launch her brand in New York. Soon Anna had become a figure on the NYC social scene and was seen at the most happening parties. She managed to be at the right place at the right time, and always looked the part. One acquaintance who met Anna in 2015 at a party thrown by a start-up mogul in Berlin comment that “She was wearing really fancy clothing” — Balenciaga, or maybe Alaïa — “and someone mentioned that she flew in on a private jet.”

She’d taken to hosting large dinners at the swanky downtown restaurant Le Coucou, which were attended by CEOs, artists, athletes and celebrities. She also dropped the right names; those of the New York elite, such as Aby Rosen, giving off a signal of status to those in the know.

A ripe zeitgeist

Delvey was also savvy enough to target the right city as her mark, and at the right time. Josh Glancy points out that she possessed an instinctive sense of how to exploit contemporary New York: “Con artists reflect the time they live in because they demonstrate what people want to believe. So Anna Delvey was the perfect scam merchant for the age of the influencer. If Kim Kardashian can waltz into the Oval Office to discuss prison reform, might Delvey not also acquire the life she longed for by creating a seductive avatar? Aside from the criminal fraud, this is what other influencers do all the time.”

Today’s social media also provided the perfect platform for exhibiting her elaborate hoax. Take, for example, a selfie posted on Delvey’s now defunct Instagram (where she had over 40k followers): her trademark oversized sunglasses, with a private plane behind her; #Basel (the lavish art fair); a comment from a follower: “Nice jet. Yours? Impressive.”

Delvey’s selfie on Instagram. She once managed to hire a private jet for $35,000 with a forged wire transfer confirmation.

A marked target audience (or “targets” in this case)

At a CFDA after-party in 2014. Photo: Matteo Prandoni/BFA/REX/Shutterstock

Delvey honed in on her targets and seemed to have an agenda for each of them. Flashing cash (she wasknown for handing out crisp $100.00 tips like leaflets), hosting extravagant parties and picking up the tabs (or so people had thought) gave credibility to her brand. As Jessica Pressler pointed out in her expose: “Anna looked at the soul of New York and recognized that if you distract people with shiny objects, with large wads of cash, with the indicia of wealth, if you show them the money, they will be virtually unable to see anything else. And the thing was: It was so easy.

Delvey clearly used the right props – people and money – and knew the right tricks. The “friends” and hangers-on she accumulated served to enable Delvey to perpetuate the myth around her brand, essentially by being paid off or getting sucked into the bright, shiny world of the rich and famous. As her former friend described in Vanity Fair: “It was a magic trick—I’m embarrassed to say that I was one of the props, and the audience, too. Anna’s was a beautiful dream of New York, like one of those nights that never seems to end. And then the bill arrives.”

Delvey scammed a top NY architectural design firm into creating a visual identity and pitch deck for her “Anna Delvey Foundation”. Designer Marc Kremers stated on Twitter: “As a designer I find it so crazy that my services were used to trick banks and hedge funds out of $28,000,000. I still have the keynote. It’s not a pitch deck, it’s a work of fiction. It’s graphic design weaponised as an instrument of grand larceny.”

But pull a thread…

Once you pull a thread, however, scam brands tend to unravel quite quickly.

Putting all the personal branding, business savvy and artistry aside, let’s not forget there was significant psychological disturbance at play here. When sociopaths are called out, they often default to a disassociated response…think deadpan, emotionless expression and vacant eyes. Like others in my profession (and in the courtroom), I’ve seen this firsthand in my clinical work. This is also what former friend Rachel DeLoache Williams reported when she confronted Delvey: “Against the raised voices and direct accusations, Anna’s face assumed an unsettling blankness. Her eyes were empty. I suddenly realized that I didn’t know her at all.”

She certainly didn’t. Aside from the destruction they do along the way, perhaps the most unfortunate part of a scam brand is the shallowness that’s often left after their scam brand inevitably crumbles. Despite the shiny facets to their strong (but deceitful) brand, a weak foundation often resides underneath;  you almost certainly won’t find core branding attributes like authenticity and empathy (and certainly not remorse), as these are mostly foreign to the sociopath’s brain. Justice Diane Kiesel has already noticed this in the courtroom with Delvey: “I see no remorse…She seems more concerned about who is going to play her in the movie than what she’s done to the people she allegedly took advantage of”.

So the patina of the personal brand that once dazzled New York has now faded. But I’m certain this isn’t the last we’ll be hearing of Anna Delvey. Even from the confines of Rikers Island, this grifter continues to make a name for herself in the media spotlight, but now there’s a new twist to her brand. There’s even talk of a Netflix series and a Hollywood movie. After all, given the success of past blockbusters like Catch Me if You Can (also based on a true story), perhaps it’s not all that suprising that Delvey’s story captured the attention of Hollywood.

And as unsettling as this all may be, just like a car crash, I’m sure there are plenty of us who will want to slow down and take a peek…



What your bag says about you: A look at an outer branding essential

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This month’s guest blog covers a topic I personally love – handbags! What do bags have to do with personal branding? If look to “outer branding”, those outward representations of our personal brand, then they can say quite a bit!

Our guest blogger is Sarah Haran, founder of luxury handbag company Sarah Haran Accessories. Sarah designs bags that are very much a reflection of her own personal brand, so she knows a thing or two about what handbags can communicate about us. And fear not gents, while this was written with the ladies in mind, a lot of this could be applicable to men who sport bags as well!

One of Sarah Haran’s gorgeous handbags: The Dahlia in tan. Photo:

Here’s Sarah…

The wardrobe staple, the necessary fashion accessory and the piece that has the potential to say a lot about a woman … the handbag. It is our most reliable fashion accessory, the one that we can never walk out of our homes without!

I started my luxury handbag company, Sarah Haran Accessories, because I could not find the perfect handbag that would take me from day to night, that I could use every day and could be stylishly accessorised.

As my customer base has grown I have become more aware of how important a handbag is to my customers. It can say so much about you and your style. Our handbag choice is so personal that the type of handbag that you choose can almost be personality driven. Although I am not a psychologist or anything like that when observing my customers’ handbag choice, I have noticed that there are certain customers that prefer a certain type of handbag. For instance:

The Tote – great for people who like to be prepared for every occasion or situation that life throws at them. They tend to be organised and find joy in a tote handbag because of the space it affords them to carry around just about everything that they think they will need to get through a day. I have seen customers with everything from headache tablets to dressing up clothes in their tote handbags. They are always the one colleagues go to if someone in the office has a bad headache or needs a plaster!

The Shoulder Bag – a bag that is often seen as a status symbol and one of the most popular shapes that high end luxury designers use. Think Dior, Gucci and Prada. A covetable handbag that really is the ultimate mark of success and status. This type of handbag is a status symbol and generally users care about function but also want a handbag that displays all the bells and whistles so that they can turn heads and impress people. The more “IT” the bag is the better.

The Dahlia tote in yellow. Photo:

The Cross Body Bag– tends to be worn by fun, and free spirited types. The type of woman who loves a versatile bag that is perfect for a night out, yet suitable for the office. They are not afraid of spontaneity and tend to only carry the essentials – phone, wallet keys and a small amount of makeup. They don’t like to be weighed down. I have also noticed that those who are in the habit of wearing their handbag across the front of their body you tend to also be quite cautious, preferring to keep their personal possessions close to them at all times.

The Clutch – I have noticed that my more outgoing customers with busy social lives love to use clutches. They definitely tend to be the life and soul of the party. They love dressing up and love a range of different clutches in their wardrobe. They are also quite practical carrying the essentials rather than needing a larger tote bag.

How to Choose the Best Bag for You

As mentioned above, the handbag can allow you to easily change up your look without actually changing your outfit; it can add personality and character and transform your physical appearance. But as much as a handbag can enhance an outfit and really define your style, it can also spoil your look. The wrong handbag can draw the eye to areas you are self-conscious about and make you look bigger or smaller and even ruin your signature image.

  • Choose a handbag that works with your lifestyle, body shape and personality.
  • The handbag should be versatile enough to go with more than one outfit, particularly if you purchase a luxury handbag.
  • Always “try on a bag” – look in a full length mirror, from all angles to ensure it compliments you.
  • Make sure the handbag is proportional to your size – for instance mini bags look better on petite girls, and larger bags look better on bigger girls.
  • Someone who is tall and thin should choose a larger handbag with a shorter, slouchy shape like the hobo.
  • Petite girls should avoid shoulder bags with a long strap as they will weigh you down, making you look even shorter. Our Dahlia handbag comes with a mid-length strap that can be extended easily.
  • Curvy girls need to look at picking a large structured or boxy bag to balance out their curves. Look for handbags that include vertical details which will draw the eye up and down and avoid carrying tiny bags as they will only emphasise a fuller figure. Both the Dahlia and Daisy are ideal handbag choices.
  • Bear in mind where your bag ends will accentuate that area. So ending a bag on your hip will emphasize your hips, wearing a cross body slung across your bag landing on your bottom will emphasise that. You get the drift….
  • If you are self-conscious about your body from the waist down, select a smaller bag with a short strap as this type will draw the observer’s eye upward. Girls who are big busted should consider a larger bag with a longer strap that takes the attention away from their top.

The style of a handbag is also important and I always recommend that you purchase a handbag in a simple and timeless style that will cover the majority of your daily activities. The beauty of a Sarah Haran handbag is their versatility so a couple of our styles will more often than not cover your entire handbag wardrobe requirements.

Sarah Haran working in her studio. Photo:

Nowadays handbags do not have to match your shoes, so be bold when complimenting your outfit. Seek to balance your look with your handbag. For instance, if you are wearing dark colours then consider adding a lighter handbag or a bright colour pop to add colour and interest. If you are wearing bright colours then it’s a good idea to “tone” down your look with a more neutral handbag colour choice – navy or off white are always good choices as black can often look too stark against bright colours.


Thanks Sarah! So ladies (and even gents…), the next time you throw something over your shoulder, think about what it might say about your personal brand!

To find out more about the talented Sarah Haran and her gorgeous bags, check out!




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FAQ: How do I know if I need Personal Branding?

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You asked, we are listening! Here’s the first answer to your questions in our new FAQ section.

Q: “How do I know if I need Personal Branding?”

A: Everyone has a personal brand, even if they are not aware of it. As you may have read before, it’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room. However, there are some clues that your personal brand might need a little loving attention.  Here are some indicators that suggest your personal brand could do with some development.

You may want to consider personal branding work if:

*  You are looking to stand out and differentiate yourself in your industry (or life in general).

*  You dread (or flounder at) the question “so what do you do?”.

*  You’re not sure you are effectively communicating who you really are. This could be at work but equally if you are online dating and other social situations.

*  The people that matter don’t know who you are and what you do (this includes your online presence!).

*  You want to put yourself out there in a certain way to advance in your industry.

*  You are struggling to make meaningful connections with people (e.g., your target audience).

*  It feels like there’s too much of a discrepancy between “who you are” and what you do. They just don’t fit well together.

*  You feel you have difficulties being heard, noticed or understood.

*  You’re not sure your reputation is reflective of who you really are.

*  You don’t actually know what people are saying or thinking about you…or at least have a good idea.

*  Part of you feels like it is being stifled or needs to be developed. Another side of you may be yearning to come out, but you’re not sure what it is or how that’s going to happen (or both!).

*  You are already making a name for yourself but want to take things to “the next level”.

If any of the above resonate, you can always spend some time on our site for personal branding tips and advice. And if you feel you need a little help, don’t hesitate to reach out to us!


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Your “Year of Personal Branding”, June Edition

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Welcome to the June 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.

This month we will be doing a little more de-cluttering, this time of the habits that are holding you back from achieving the personal brand you want. This could mean something like having one too many nights out drinking with friends and waking up feeling tired and “off your brand” the following day, or perhaps a habit like perfectionism that’s slowing you down or leading to procrastination.

Here are some ways to help yourself get unstuck:

  • Awareness is half the battle. You may not need to do too much digging to be able to spot the obstacles in your daily life, but some habits are a bit trickier to uncover. Becoming more aware of these unhelpful habits (where they come from and what’s maintaining them) will go a long way in helping you change them. Of course, keep in mind that dropping such ingrained self-sabotaging habits often takes time and plenty of patience.
  • Add competing habits. Breaking habits isn’t just about stopping but substituting. Think about what you can add in (vs. just dropping the habit). So, for example, if drinking with friends becomes too regular, an alternative may be to suggest doing something else instead. This could range from nights out at the cinema to even a walk or run if you’re keen to replace a bad habit with a healthier one. Things like procrastination or perfectionism may require a little more work on the front end, but even leaving things at a good standard (vs. perfect) to get the job done on time can become a habit if you consciously practice it. Check out my piece on perfectionism here along with some strategies for addressing it.
  • Pay attention to cues or triggers, in other words, things that make you fall into familiar patterns. Take the example of that chocolate bar after lunch. One way to address this is to initially just wait a few seconds when you feel the urge and try to assess why this has become a habit. What is the habit addressing or associated with? For example, is it a sugar hit? The walk down to the canteen or shop so you can get away from your desk? Something to look forward to in the afternoon?  Once you know you can start to do something about it – be it get some fruit from the canteen instead or reassess what you’re eating for lunch so you don’t experience a sugar drop in the afternoon. Needless to say, if what you are struggling to kick is readily available, the harder the habit will be to break. Make it as hard as possible to succumb to the habit. For example, you might want to walk the long way home to avoid that corner store!
  • Get support (and go easy on yourself). Think about getting a gym buddy, or having someone you can call (to support your abstinence at a party for example), or an online forum you can access when you those old urges start to creep in. Of course if you feel like you’ve done all you can and are still struggling, consider seeking professional advice from someone like a mental health professional. At the same time, remember to be a support to yourself. Breaking habits can be extremely hard stuff and most people struggle with it. Be kind to yourself and don’t get too down on yourself if (when!) you slip. This type of work takes time and patience…and it will be easier with a little self-compassion in the mix. And give yourself loads of credit, remember you are taking action here to improve your life!
  • Build, build, build. By focusing on building healthy habits, old unhealthy ones can often get crowded out. I’ve had some fantastic guest bloggers recently post on this very topic. For example, Jo Dodds of has some excellent strategies to help with creating productive habits, and Rachel McGuiness of shares some great ideas for implementing good habits to boost your health. It will of course take time for new patterns to replace the old. So keep building and keep at it…patience and persistence is the name of the game here!


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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…

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle

Here’s why…

In past posts, I talk quite a bit about the power of co-branding in personal branding. When co-branding is done right, it typically results in an amplifier effect for both brands; in other words, 1+1 can be > 2. But what happens when two very different brands collide and create a very different co-brand with such synergy and magnetism that it sweeps us right into its orbit?  This month, we witnessed a thoroughly modern couple from radically differing backgrounds unite in a royal marriage, and many were, quite simply, transfixed.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in St George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the name Prince Harry and all of the British-ness, royal history (both good and bad) and pageantry it evokes. You also probably know that he breaks the royal mold in many ways, including developing a reputation as a rebel in his younger days, then going on to serve as a frontline soldier in Afghanistan, and more recently, becoming an advocate for mental health awareness and going public with his own struggles. Harry has become the Royals’ rock star. With that said, his brand has always stood firmly within the very British framework of the Royal Family.

Enter a driven self-made actress and activist hailing from the “land of opportunity”, where raw talent and ambition, mixed with a little luck, can launch one’s brand to mega-status. Markle grew up in an affluent suburb of Los Angeles, went to top-notch schools and eventually got her big break in acting; still a far cry from Kensington Palace and Highgrove, where her future husband was being educated and groomed.

US and Union flags wave at Windsor Castle, the eve of the Royal Wedding. Photo: AFP

And of course there’s their differing ethnic backgrounds. Markle, now Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Sussex,  speaks proudly of her mixed-heritage, sharing how her great-great grandfather created his own identity when he was freed from slavery. As she shared in Elle, “While my mixed heritage may have created a grey area surrounding my self-identification, keeping me with a foot on both sides of the fence, I have come to embrace that. To say who I am, to share where I’m from, to voice my pride in being a strong, confident mixed-race woman.”

The couple during a visit to Cardiff Castle. Photo: Ben Birchall/Reuters

The Royal Wedding was an unmistakable example of their two worlds colliding, and with magnificent effect. Aspects of Markle’s American and bi-racial background where present throughout the service. There was the gospel choir who sang “Stand By Me” during the service (however it is said that Prince Charles had initially approached the choir, being a fan of gospel music. Who knew?), and a performance of Etta James’ civil rights anthem, “This Little Light of Mine”, marking the end of the ceremony.

The newlyweds leave after their ceremony at St. George’s Chapel. Photo: AP.

But the highlight was without a doubt the electrifying Chicago-based Bishop Michael Curry, whose sermon quoted from Martin Luther King Jr. and referenced slavery. It was described as the sermon that “brought the house down” and set social media ablaze (when was the last time a ​sermon ​was talked about like that? No, I can’t remember either.). As one journalist stated, “No one does royal pageantry like the British, and no one delivers a sermon quite like a fire-breathing revivalist preacher.” Perhaps this all may have been a bit “full on” for some Brits (after all, the British are known for embracing carefully controlled change, especially the royals, and a stiff upper lip), but while the couple injected both diversity and modernization into the royal event, they also carefully adhered to British royal tradition, striking a tricky balance. And one thing is for sure, Markle walked down the aisle and straight into the history books.

Photo: BBC News

“Two people fell in love and we all showed up” – Bishop Michael Curry

This brings me to something I find most captivating about this co-brand: their joint potential to bring a new and refreshing angle to the Royals. One thing we know about Markle is that she likes to be on the front lines, similar to her late step-mother, Princess Diana. It’s now well known that Markle has spoken out about race and gender equality since she was a child. More recently, she became a UN women’s advocate and supported the #HeForShe equality campaign. Markle once said in one of her blog posts: “I’ve never wanted to be a lady who lunches – I’ve always wanted to be a woman who works.”

I think we have a winner here, folks. Not only has their partnership resulted in some phenomenal co-branding, but it also has the potency to make a much larger impact on that of the Royal Brand, and even that of our world. If you’ll forgive the hyperbole, a new British era dawns…

Photo: AP



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