From Survive to Thrive: A Toolkit for Getting Through Covid-19, Part II

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Dear Reader,

Welcome back to our toolkit, where we offer insights, questions and coping strategies to help us better survive and ultimately thrive during these challenging times.

In Part I (available here), we looked at very real issues that came with the pandemic: Coronavirus anxiety, dealing with change, isolation and other practical problems, and offered personality-specific guidance and coping strategies. A lot of this centred around the survival side of things; how to deal with this abrupt change and this new way of living and working.

In Part II, we are going to try to make sense of what we have all been going through, and see what we can learn about ourselves from these extraordinary times.  By examining our experience, we might discover another way of coping, one that allows us to move our focus past current fears and challenges to our personal growth.

In other words, we can move from survive to thrive.


Download the toolkit for free here:




Be safe out there everyone!



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My “Inspirational Story of the Month” goes to…

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In lieu of my regular “Brand of the Month”, I’ve decided to feature inspirational individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during these unprecedented times.
This “Inspiration of the Month” goes to

Captain Tom Moore

Here’s why…
This World War II veteran, promoted to Honorary Colonel by the Queen to mark his 100th birthday today, has captivated the nation after raising more than £30m for the NHS by completing 100 laps of his garden. He smashed his initial modest £1,000 target in just 24 hours.

But it’s more than that. Moore has become something of a national hero here in the UK. You may wonder, how could something so mundane like walking laps around the garden be considered heroic?

He’s symbolic

Archetypes, which are often used in branding, are “universal symbols” that may be a character, a theme, or even a setting. The Hero archetype represents the act of overcoming obstacles to achieve specific goals. In mythology, the hero’s objective is often to find a treasure or defeat a villain.

The villain today may be invisible, but a uniformed veteran with three medals on his chest serves as a strong visual cue we can attach to: the good guy taking action. Given our nation’s reverence for both the second world war and the NHS, Moore is indeed well co-branded.

A different kind of hero

In times of crises, we search out heroes. But not all heroes wear capes, as they say. Heroes act courageously, and the meaning of that courageous act is often defined by the spirit of the times. In Moore’s walking, we find an action that would ordinarily be considered mundane reflecting our current limitations. The battleground of the hero has changed.

Given the polarity within politics and the potential for reputational damage over social media, politicians unfortunately don’t make great hero material these days. Moore, however, keeps his politics to himself and doesn’t have a social media history.  Moreover, as the elderly are the most common victims of this invisible villain, it’s fitting that a 100-year-old has become the defiant, heroic face of the pandemic.

Passing the torch

Britain is a country in need of inspiration at the moment, and that’s what Moore has provided. His appeal spans generations, and he’s managed to inspire a following more commonly associated with Instagram influencers. He has inspired artistic tributes, from children sending homemade birthday cards to his local post office to street artists creating large scale murals and artists auctioning his portrait for charity.

Moore has inspired others to take the fundraising torch and courageously move past their limitations. Here are just a few remarkable individuals that Moore has personally inspired:

Moore’s birthday today has been marked by a flypast of a Spitfire and Hurricane from the RAF. The Royal Mail are also stamping all letters with a special message: “Happy 100th Birthday Captain Thomas Moore NHS fundraising hero 30th April 2020.” Downing Street has also suggested it will recognise his “heroic efforts” with an honour.

It certainly sounds like our Colonel Tom is well on his way to becoming a National Treasure.


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Why we need writing, now more than ever.

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I started writing this post “BC” (Before Coronavirus), with the intent of exploring how writing can influence our personal brands. It has since taken on a different shape and significance.

I’ve found journaling to be an invaluable tool during these exceptional times, particularly in processing the changes that are rapidly unfolding around us, and reflecting on my own learnings from these challenges. In addition to specifically exploring writing as a tool during this unique chapter in our lives, I’ve added an additional exercise at the end: the “Isolation Journal”.  If ever there was a time to chronicle our daily experiences, it’s surely now.


Journaling is a vastly under-rated practice. Absolutely free, it can be done almost anywhere. It’s been one of my top tools as a psychologist and personal brand consultant over the years.  I started doing my own morning journaling after it was assigned as a task during a writing course. It is a practice that was made popular after Julia Cameron included it in her book The Artist’s Way, where she called it the Morning Pages. According to Cameron, it is an activity that can help with artist’s or writer’s block, but journaling has also been prescribed by therapists and coaches for many years.

Benefits of journaling …why we need it now.

It’s cathartic
Of course, this is the main way writing serves as a therapeutic tool. Sometimes people aren’t around to help us talk through an issue, and sometimes we face problems we don’t even like to admit to people. Writing gives us the ability to create a private space for these thoughts, and having the space to write about them and perhaps analyse them from a different angle can give us some clarity. Frustrations related to working at home, worry about vulnerable friends or family still going to the shops, or even concern regarding the larger situation may be things you wish to keep private, but they are still there all the same. Think of writing as venting or even “sweating out” your worries or concerns. By getting them on paper, it can help us process these thoughts or feelings and “stare them down”. In this way, these issues are less likely to manifest as obstacles down the line.

It helps problem-solve
Building on the above, sometimes the very act of writing something down can help us see a way through. Some find it helpful to write the pros and cons of a situation, or list out potential solutions to navigating an obstacle or difficult situation. It can also helpful  to “map out” what personal attributes you’d like to exude in the face of the problem. Who would you like to be in this situation that is true to your authentic personal brand?  What values can serve as a compass in the situation, and what strengths can you draw from?

It’s grounding
The ritual of writing can be very grounding, relaxing and comforting, particularly during times of uncertainty. It can also become a habit that is incorporated into a routine or even help to bookend your schedule. Make it into a ritual that you really love – perhaps journal with your favourite mug and a really good coffee, or buy yourself some beautiful notebooks. You could do it in bed in the morning, luxuriating a little longer before hitting the day, or unwinding before you go to sleep. It really is an activity that you can tailor to suit you, and one that can stay with you throughout your life, perhaps helping you chart how your own personal brand changes with your age and experiences.

It’s revealing
It takes a little time, but as you write daily you may notice themes, patterns, habits, and values emerging in your writing. It could be that your thoughts continuously turn to a certain situation or person, or that you notice that you are harbouring resentments but never able to say them out loud. This type of noticing also gives us insight into our own habits and patterns, for example if we are drinking more than we’d like or spending too much time on social media. Certain values might also emerge; the things are important to us – like fairness or creativity – might be important sides to our personal brand. Even if you don’t go back and read your journal you can often pick these themes up by noticing “oh I’m writing about that again.”

“Morning pages map our own interior.
Without them our creative dreams may remain terra incognita.”

Julia Cameron

It fosters creativity
In The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron cites many stories of people who have changed their lives by writing the Morning Pages, such as a man who took up the guitar after years of not playing.

Even if you’ve never thought of yourself as creative, you may notice that a little creativity starts trickling in. You might start off by writing about mundane things like downloading all the bits and pieces you are going to do that week, but end up writing a little narrative, or a silly poem about the bloke you fancy. Just roll with it and have some fun.

Of course, if you are being deliberately creative, like writing a book, journaling activities like the Morning Pages can be a great way to “warm up” your creative muscle, and even create content without even trying.  As I prefer to write in Word, I sometimes cut and paste anything I think has merit and relevance into my book document. And presto, I may have written another couple of hundred words I could use in my manuscript before the day has really begun (this is more of a by-product than an intention!).

Journaling How To’s:

Next, let’s take a look at how to start journaling. There are no hard and fast rules, apart from following what feels right for you.

As mentioned, I personally prefer journaling in a Word document, however others prefer a notebook or plain paper, with pens, pencils, fell pens, etc. Julia Cameron’s suggestion is that the Morning Pages be written by hand as she believes the very physical act of the hand on the page helps unleash creativity. Others might prefer using journaling Apps, of which there are a number:  Momento, Daylio, Grid Diary, Moodnotes, Penzu and Five Minute Journal, and even one called Morning Pages!

You can save it (and read at a later date if you desire), or you can just do it and chuck it away.

You can journal in the morning, like me, which gives you space to contemplate the day, process events the day before, or even process dreams. I find it helpful to avoid news, email or social media before writing. I write off the top of my head, downloading any brain chatter in more of a “stream of consciousness” approach.

You can just as easily journal in the evening, as a reflection on your day, or midday when you have some fee time during  your lunch break.

Some like to start writing for a set amount of time, words, or pages, and don’t stop until they reach their goal.  This is a helpful guideline, but not a hard and fast rule.

Lastly, it doesn’t matter if you write utter garbage, as this is meant for your eyes only — and it’s the process that’s valuable, not necessarily the output. Don’t worry about spelling mistakes, formatting or grammar if you don’t want to. You can do what you like, perhaps even doodling in your notebook, adding illustrations or a mind-map if you like.

Writing Exercises

Exercise 1: Trying on the Morning Pages

Write as close to waking up as you can manage, preferably before you engage with the outside world through news, emails, or social media. Decide beforehand how and where you are going to do your writing and what your measure or target is going to be, if you have one. Scribble down (or type out) whatever comes to your mind, even if you think it’s just dribble. Do not go back and re-read or edit your work.

If needed, some writing prompts might include:

  • What can you observe around you in the present moment?
  • What are you feeling and/or thinking?
  • What are you worried about?
  • What did you dream last night?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • What did you do yesterday?
  • What are you planning to do today?
  • What are you looking forward to?

Commit to doing it for at least a week. You may be surprised by the results!

Again, this is just for you.

Exercise 2: Keep an “Isolation Journal”

The aim of this diary is to chronicle your unique experience during a very unique time in our lives.

You may wish to write about the challenges each day brings, the rules or parameters by which you now must live, or perhaps your feelings about the wider situation. You may find yourself choosing not to focus on the wider pandemic and instead gravitating towards a more intimate account,  just chronicling how Covid-19 is specifically affecting your life and those around you.

Resist a rigid structure or rules for writing. Allow yourself to experiment and be playful with your writing.

Some writing prompts if needed:

  • What’s happening to you?
  • How are you feeling in this moment?
  • What has been taken away?
  • What has been gained or discovered?
  • What are you grateful for? *
  • What are your larger fears
  • What are your daily worries?
  • What are your hopes for the future?
  • What do you miss about life “BC” (Before Coronavirus)?
  • What are you discovering about yourself?
  • Who would you like to be coming out of this?

*Another tool to consider is a gratitude list. Each day, list out all the things you are grateful for.

There’s no pressure to keep up this diary, the aim is to try to keep at it while isolating. If it carries on, great.

Whatever shape your writing takes at the moment, you might find that it not only becomes a great coping tool, for the present, but also a real gift to yourself for the future.

So keep calm and write on everyone!


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The “Inspiration of the Month” goes to…

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In lieu of my regular “Brand of the Month”, I’ve decided to feature inspirational individuals who have gone above and beyond to help others during these unprecedented times.
My first “Inspiration of the Month” goes to

Joe Wicks 

Here’s why…
By now, you’ve probably heard about Wicks, also known as The Body Coach,  and his online fitness sessions. To help kids stay active during the UK lockdown, Wicks is currently hosting live fitness classes for children on his YouTube channel. In the first two days of offering his programme, Wicks’ YouTube channel, The Body Coach TV, had more than five million viewers.


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Words can’t express how happy and proud I have felt every day this week as the nations P.E. teacher. I’ve been overwhelmed with the response and the support it’s had from everyone. ❤️ As a result of so many people viewing the #PEWithJoe workouts on YouTube the advertising revenue generated has been unlike anything I’ve seen or experienced on my channel before. So I’ve decided that as long as I’m the nations P.E. teacher, every single penny of the money generated on these videos is going to the place where we need it the most right now. All of it is going straight to the NHS, to support the real heroes right now. Thank you for watching, joining in and sharing… I’m loving being your P.E. Teacher and now you can watch again, knowing you’re not only staying fit, you’re also helping raise money for the NHS. See you Monday at 9am 😃

A post shared by Joe Wicks (@thebodycoach) on


“It’s about giving people that 30 minutes in the morning to get up off the sofa, move your body and get your heart pumping.” He went on to say that “this isn’t about getting people lean, it’s about saying, ‘Do this today to feel good’. Then, when your kids sit down to do some academic work, they’re energised and mentally prepared for a lesson at home.”

Wicks shared that his channel had seen advertising revenue “unlike anything I’ve seen or experienced on my channel before”. He is therefore donating “every single penny” of money made by his online sessions during the coronavirus pandemic to the NHS:

“So I’ve decided that as long as I’m the nations P.E. teacher, every single penny of the money generated on these videos is going to the place where we need it the most right now. All of it is going straight to the NHS, to support the real heroes right now.”

Before finding fame on YouTube, Wicks originally trained to be a PE teacher at St Mary’s University. He has now become the (virtual) PE teacher for the entire UK during a time when staying activity and healthy couldn’t be more important.

We at Golden Notebook salute you, Joe.  THANK YOU!


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From Survive to Thrive: A Toolkit for Getting Through Covid-19 , Part I

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Dear Reader,

We at Golden Notebook have decided to do what we can, and have created a quick and dirty toolkit to help us deal with the changes that are occurring almost hourly. This part of the toolkit will look at the very real issues that are affecting us right now: Coronavirus anxiety, dealing with change, isolation, and other practical problems. In addition to general tools to manage these challenges, we also offer insights and tools specific to your personality type. 

We hope this toolkit will not only help you as an individual, but also allow you to better understand why and how others might be coping around you, and provide some insight into how we can help each other.


Download the toolkit for free here:



Be safe out there everyone!


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One man’s journey to discovering his authentic personal brand

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This month’s guest post is a story of inspiration. It’s a story that encourages us to step back and look at where our compass is truly pointed. Following it takes courage, but you may just find this journey realigns your brand, providing it with direction, purpose, passion, vision, and values direction.

Our guest blogger, David Harden, started travelling aged sixteen when he hitch-hiked to Greece from London during a school summer holiday. After leaving school he set out from the UK to travel overland to Australia, but only made it as far as Afghanistan.

Returning home he went studied Management and Engineering before carving out a career in the car industry.

(But) After spending fifteen years in the corporate world he returned to what drives him forward, namely taking photographs and recording ambient sounds, interviews and narratives which he publishes on his personal blog –

Here’s his inspirational story.

It was not a straightforward journey nor a particularly quick one. However, after about a year I can say I got there.

But let’s start at the beginning. The very beginning. I’ve always thought I had a creative streak in me. As a young boy you are not aware nor inhibited by the labels adults like to define you and each other by. To me, being creative was just ‘doing stuff’.

I got my first reel-to-reel tape recorder when I was seven-years-old and an old box brownie camera the following Christmas. My earlier years consisted of many happy hours with my mates recording dramas that we devised which, on reflection, seem to be solely about battling the forces of evil in one guise or another.

Around the same age I spent hours in the local library fuelling my curiosity for far flung countries and cultures. And from that early age I decided that I was going to travel the world recording people and taking pictures. But then life got in the way. Or to be more precise, the education system got in the way, which in my day, restrained creativity to an hour’s art class a week.

Don’t get me wrong, school was good. I enjoyed learning, so much so that I did not notice how less often I was ‘doing stuff’. Later, I was like most other students at university, intent on maximising social enjoyment whilst minimising academic effort. And before I knew it I had gestated into a corporate worker bee.

Soon enough I met a wonderful women and together we had a couple of children. At the same time my career steadily progressed. I worked as an engineering and commercial development manager for a well-known car brand. I do remember once being told by a boss that I had a ‘creative’ approach to my work. It wasn’t meant as a complement. In the car industry the ‘old ways’ were the only ways.

When the children were growing up we encouraged them to be both creative and expressive. And through that wonderful period in a child’s life when experimenting is all, it slowly dawned on me that I was vicariously being creative through our children.

So I bought a camera, started taking photos and began looking at the world in that slightly different way I had so long before. Still, it began to niggle that the photos I took just languished unseen on SD cards. It felt like I hadn’t quite closed the circle.

The vibrant Kalasha community in Pakistan. Photo by David Harden

In parallel with the children getting older and more independent, my small area of expertise took off and with it my reputation and status within the industry. So I set out on my own as a consultant, quickly becoming very busy as I became known as a ‘creative’ problem solver. I was working full-time, often travelling and generally enjoying the sense of freedom working for yourself gives. But, to me at least, that sense of freedom was illusory inasmuch as I was working just as hard as I had when employed full-time.

Then over a few months the stars began to align. The children had all but left home; the mortgage was paid off and I was just finishing a tough assignment working on a project for a Chinese company. On my last flight back to the UK from China I decided it was time to step back. I would work on fewer, shorter and smaller projects so that I could use the time in between to get back to ‘doing stuff’.

I didn’t know it at the time but that became the first stage in weening myself off work entirely.  Between projects I managed to travel for extended periods through those countries I had read about so long before. I spent weeks making my way across Uzbekistan on one trip. Travelling through Iran on another and further afield to South East Asia on yet another. All the time writing notes, taking pictures and recording sounds.

Eventually, I stopped accepting any projects in order to dedicate my time to work on project ‘doing stuff’.

Kalasha woman in Pakistan. Photo by David Harden

But stepping back was not as easy as I may have made it sound. For me stepping back was not so much about risk (loss of income) but more overcoming conditioning. I don’t know if it’s a ‘man-thing’ but during your working life it is easy to be defined by your job. To give an example. Often when meeting someone new you are asked what do you do for a living. Up until a few months ago, I would always tell people what I used to do rather than what I am actually doing. Which for the past year or so has been travelling (Pakistan, overland through Bulgaria and Turkey), taking pictures, recording sounds, producing podcasts and creating my own personal blog.

But now I’m here. I now allow my mind to wander. I daydream. I stare out of the window and revel in the joy of watching trees swaying gently in the wind and autumn leaves dancing on a cold breeze instead of wishing I was somewhere else.

As I’ve already said, it was not a straightforward journey nor a particularly quick one. At times it felt like I took two steps forward and one back, but to my mind that was still going in the right direction.

Knowing what I know now, would I have done anything different when I was younger? Well, of course, 20:20 hindsight is a wonderful thing. But, to be honest I’m too busy ‘doing stuff’ to worry about it.



To learn more about David Harden, his inspirational work, vibrant photos and to discover his ambient sounds, visit




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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

Billie Eilish

After picking up five Grammys, landing the coveted James Bond theme (the youngest singer to get the gig) and sending it straight to #1 in the charts, Billie Eilish is having a moment.

Her hauntingly beautiful voice, unique personal style and refreshing authenticity certainly make her brand a distinct and memorable one.

But what caught my attention this month was a recent interview with Louise Minchin on BBC Breakfast.

No Time to Die can be purchased here:

In the interview, Eilish spoke out about the impact of social media on her well-being, particularly the negative comments on Instagram, where she has around 55 million followers. She shared that she made the decision to no longer look at her followers’ comments. “I stopped reading comments fully because it was ruining my life,” she said. “Once again.”

She continued, “It’s weird, the cooler things you get to do are, the most people hate you. It’s crazy.”

Eilish was being interviewed alongside her brother Finneas O’Connell, who co-wrote No Time To Die, the new Bond track.

Billie Eilish The Ultimate Fan Book can be purchased here:

“The internet is a bunch of trolls. A problem is that a lot of it is really funny. I think that’s the issue, I think that’s why nobody really stops.”

Eilish highlights a growing concern. We’ve recently seen how the toxic side of media has impacted Meghan and Harry, and more tragically, Caroline Flack. While the media’s invasive and negative side has long been a societal woe, social media opens up a whole new can of trolls, cyberbullying, fake news and witch hunts. It’s now well known that young people and those with underlying mental health issues are particularly vulnerable.

Given that social media is an important part of personal branding, how do  we stop its dark side?

The first step is for us to raise awareness around these issues and do exactly what Eilish did, speak out.


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Swipe-rightable branding: Making your best first impression online

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It’s the big V-day, so we’re taking a look at using your personal brand to find that special someone online. Part of whether Cupid will strike online is down to chance of course. That numbers game. But there’s part of it that’s down to what you can control: your personal brand.

Our guest blogger this month is Lucy Williams, founder of My Heart Skipped photography. Lucy is passionate about helping people to quickly transform their online dating experience with authentic portraits that attract amazing people. Here she shares her top pointers on how to get noticed online.

Here’s Lucy…

It’s estimated that 1 in 3 couples now start their relationships online. It’s where over half of us will meet our potential future partners by 2031 (eHarmony).  Whatever your thoughts on online dating you can’t ignore that it’s a great place to meet someone, but with over seven million of us using online dating in the UK, how do you make sure your online dating profile is one of the ones that stands out?

Here are three easy ways you can enhance your dating profile…

1. Professional Photos

As a professional dating photographer one of the questions I get asked most is ‘do people actually pay for their photos?’ Yes, they do, And with amazing results. I couldn’t quite believe it myself when I first started offering the service! If you are serious about a) meeting someone like-mined who you connect with, and b) not wasting hours and hours on online dating sites, then having professional photos is the top way you can boost your online dating profile.

A good professional photographer will go to great lengths to help you feel relaxed in front of the camera. I particularly love taking time and building a connection with my clients because I believe that is what gets the ‘real’ you across in your photos.

Professional photographers are also adept at noticing all aspects of your photos from what’s happening in the background to whether your outfits are sitting right. They’ll give you a range of photographs from headshots to full length, and most importantly they’ll give you a set of photos that are visually interesting and eye-catching. Photos that will stop potential dates in their tracks and invite them to click on your profile. We all know the phrase ‘you never get a second chance to make a first impression’ and nowhere is that more true than on online dating. You have literally seconds to have your photo clicked on, so make sure it’s a great one!

I already have photos but don’t know which to use…
Choose well-lit photos with you central in the frame and aim to use smiling photos that look friendly which are statistically the most attractive on online dating. Try to avoid selfies, photos where you can’t really see your face (sunglasses/ hats/ too far away etc) or ‘tiger-stroking’. 😉

If you are getting a friend to take some shots for you then choose locations that have good natural light. Make sure you check out what is happening in the background and avoid visual distractions like lots of people, trees/ lamp posts appearing out of your head, photo bombers, etc.!

A good tip is to use at least four or five pictures including a close-up or mid-length photo as your ‘opening’ portrait, a full length photo which shows your body shape, a mid-length of you in a different outfit or location, and a ‘conversation-starter’ photo like you doing an activity you love or amongst a group of friends (ensure you are visible in this shot and that you stand out).

I hate myself in photos
If I had a pound for every time someone has said this to me…

I do understand. Unfortunately, it’s a necessity for online dating so take a deep breath and trust that your photographer will take the time to make sure you are looking at your best and that the photos reflect who you are.

I need to…. lose weight / get fit / buy new clothes, etc. before I book a shoot
This is an entirely personal choice of course, though do bear in mind that it could also be a way of avoiding getting on with dating. Often, we never feel ready for photos, especially ones that are for attracting a date! In my experience your smile and how friendly you look are what will most attract those matches.

Where should I have my photoshoot?
Somewhere you love to go can be a great place to start. Consider the kind of person you’d like to meet, will they be someone urban, arty, outdoorsy, sporty, etc.? If so, choosing locations that may subconsciously speak to them can also make your photos more appealing. Natural light is often best for portrait photos so think outdoors with interesting or non-specific backdrops.

If you are having a professional shoot make sure you discuss locations with your photographer as they’ll have plenty of ideas of places that will work well for your pictures and give you lots of variation in shots.

Do professional photos look too professional?
Professional photos are well-exposed and visually attracting. They will look natural and help you stand out. I guarantee that potential dates won’t suspect (or care) that you’ve had a professional shoot, especially when it’s led to them finding you.

2) An inviting written profile

Once you have photos that are making potential dates stop and take notice, you’ll need to put together a bit of blurb that enhances the picture they are building of you. Most people find this difficult to do! On Tinder you’ll need just a paragraph, on other dating sites you may need lots of paragraphs. Do fill them all in.

My top tip for enhancing your written profile is to embellish.

Instead of writing ‘I like to cook, read books and do yoga’ consider WHY you like those things. Here’s where your personal brand can really come out.

‘I love cooking especially Italian food to share. In my spare time I like reading, the last book I read was ‘How to be more Pirate’ which gave me lots of useful insights!! Once a week I do yoga, it’s amazing how zen it makes me feel for the rest of the week’.

I just wrote that quickly, but you get the idea. Already it’s starting to tell a story of who you are, how you live your life, invites somebody in (who can resist sharing Italian food?) and, most importantly, gives a potential date lots of ways to open a conversation with you.

3. Update your profile regularly

After all that hard work putting your online dating profile together, it’s tempting to never change it…BUT online dating works best when you do! Changes indicate to the dating app that your profile is active so, even when you make small adjustments, the algorithms will ensure you’ll come up higher in new searches.

Changes can include swapping in one photo for another or altering words in your profile. Having a wide selection of images helps because you can use different photos across a variety of dating apps and also changeover photos on one dating app to keep your profile looking fresh and ‘up there’ in the searches. Some dating sites also give you questions to answer, if you can fill in one a day that will really help keep your profile visible.

Thanks Lucy! When it comes to online dating, perhaps a picture really is worth a thousand words!




Lucy Williams is a portrait photographer who offers eye-catching online dating photography and support with writing natural, engaging dating profiles. She founded My Heart Skipped photography in 2010 and initially photographed couples and weddings before falling in love with dating portrait photography.




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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

Ed Sheeran

For the last decade, Ed Sheeran has been a powerhouse. In fact, he was just named the UK’s artist of the decade by the Official Charts Company. This milestone came on the heels of a combined run of 12 number one singles and albums between 2010 and 2019 – more than any other artist. During this period, he’s held the most weeks at number one (79 weeks in total) on both album and singles charts.

Impressive indeed, but that’s not why he’s my Brand of the Month.

Ed Sheeran’s No.5 Collaborations Project available to purchase here

Sheeran also decided to use launch his own foundation, the Ed Sheeran Suffolk Music Foundation (ESSMF) to help young musicians in his home county with “small but hopefully useful grants” that can be “used for anything from buying an instrument to funding music studies”.

Fantastic stuff. I’m a huge advocate of adding social responsibility into your brand. But there’s something else that shone through this month — his announcement to take a break from music — and for me, it aligned beautifully with his authenticity.

In a vast sea of shiny pop stars, Sheeran has always stood out as our boy-next-door, maintaining a sense of genuineness in all aspects of his brand. His songs in particular capture that authenticity, connecting with listeners in an honest and powerful way.  Sheeran’s last album, No 6 Collaborations Project, essentially represents his struggle to maintain this authenticity while globetrotting and hobnobbing with “the beautiful people”, preferring to be back at home with his wife. Perhaps this was another signal to his audience that it was time for a break.

There’s a refreshing authenticity to knowing when to step back, put yourself first, and take a take a break from it all.

This month, I wrote about brands that “step back instead of stepping up”. Like Prince Harry and Meghan, Sheeran may be stepping back this month, and in a way that will likely strengthen his brand. His announcement to take a break from work and social media “until it’s time to come back” on the back of his wild success is a surprising but understandable one. Then it’s about how you deliver the message.

Unlike Prince Harry and Meghan, Sheeran’s communication isn’t constrained by Buckingham Palace of course. He also doesn’t risk upsetting the balance of an entire institution with his announcement! While the messaging may have been less challenging, the decision behind it likely wasn’t an easy one.

Here’s his post on Instagram, shared right before Christmas:


View this post on Instagram


Brb x

A post shared by Ed Sheeran (@teddysphotos) on


Sheeran’s Instagram profile picture has been changed to a black-and-white image of BRB – for “be right back”.


There’s another probable factor in his decision, reflecting an important dimension of branding: knowing when you are satiating your target audience. If you are, you risk losing them.

Sheeran’s manager Stuart Camp seems to get this. He admitted that Sheeran’s ubiquity ran the risk of “overkill”. “We are very conscious of too much Ed Sheeran,” Camp told BBC Music Introducing’s Does My Music Suck? podcast.

To “know thyself” is an important part of authenticity, and authenticity is an important part of personal branding. This includes knowing your limitations, knowing when to disengage, unplug, and knowing when to take care of yourself. It comes from the opposite place of ego (which certainly could have been inflated given recent accolades!). This also involves having an honest look at when to step back when becoming “too much of a success”. And ultimately, that’s not a bad problem to have.


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Stepping back instead of stepping up: When brands do the unexpected

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The year has just begun and we’ve already had our fair share of personal branding bombshells.

Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s surprise announcement to “step back” from their high-profile duties as senior members of the royal family has left the country in a tizzy, dominating headlines and causing a social media meltdown. For some, this “new arrangement” deepens pre-existing negative sentiment or prejudices towards the couple, particularly Meghan, the outsider. For others, their renegade move elevates the couple to hero status.

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex and Prince Harry on the official birthday of the British Sovereign. Photo: Pete Maclaine

Regardless of personal opinion, reasoning behind their decision and a path forward remain decidedly murky. We may know the broad brushstrokes — they plan to “carve out a progressive new role”, “work to become financially independent”, etc. — but the driving factors are still unclear. Was it the royal pecking order restraints Meghan encountered, or even something more insidious? Strains that may come with primogeniture? The intense scrutiny of the media? A deepening division in the family? Rumours abound about this unprecedented royal divorce.

Their surprise announcement has had a significant knock-on effect. There’s the disappointing breakdown of strong joint-branding (“the fab four” royal team of brothers and their wives is now fractured), but also an overall destabilizing effect on the entire royal family. The Queen’s response to the Sussexes’ announcement has also set the mold for a new form of royal history. These shake-ups can change also our perceptions of an entire institution and how we relate to it.

The royals may have taken center stage this month, but we’ve also seen Ed Sheeran taking a step back from his music, announcing an undetermined hiatus after he was named the UK’s artist of the decade by the Official Charts Company. An unexpected move indeed, as was Lord Tony Hall’s recent announcement he is stepping down as director general of the BBC in the summer, two years early than expected.

Whether it’s leaving a longstanding career, culture, religion or even gender, surprise announcements can be confusing and leave your personal brand in limbo. When the motive seems shrouded in mystery, people are left to connect the dots, and as a result, you can lose control of your personal brand.

Assuming you’ve taken a careful look at what’s prompting this change (have talked it through with the right people, done enough soul searching), how can you effectively deliver your announcement in a way that doesn’t diminish your personal brand or the likelihood of transitioning into a strong, new personal brand?

Soften the blow

Take a look at whether your “step back” needs to be a bombshell announcement in the first place. Such bombshells can of course work if your aim is a radical change in your brand. But if not, ask yourself:

Can you plan a slow build-up so as not to shock and awe your target audience with your decision?

Who can you talk to and what early messages can you send to alert people to not leave them blindsided?

In all fairness, Harry and Meghan did show us glimmers of discontent. However, given that a royal step back of this sort is unprecedented, many of us never saw this one coming.

Get your messaging straight

Craft a statement for your target audience clearly stating why you are making this radical change…and why now. Be honest, without dragging names (of individuals or institutions) through the mud, unless you have an agenda to do so (e.g., naming and shaming, Harvey Weinstein type stuff).

If you are still experiencing some ambivalence about your decision, this messaging can also serve as an exercise to help you work through uncertainty and solidify your decision, perhaps even strengthening your resolve.

This was another obstacle for the Sussexes, as the royal family have historically been restrained by careful, tightly controlled statements coming from Buckingham Palace. Hopefully this will prove less of an issue for the rest of us.

Know when an apology is in order

This is about managing the emotionality around your decision.

Will you be letting part of your fan base or target audience down? If so, recognize this. Acknowledge that transition can be difficult on both ends.  Again, this is part of clear and effective messaging.

How can you mitigate the disappointment and reactions of others?

Remember that you may not be able to control the reactions of others, just how you relate to it. If this is a well thought out decision, one that is congruent with your personal brand, such reactions may be more about them and their loss than what’s best for you.

Harry deserves some credit with this one. Here ITV reporter Chris Ship captures Harry giving a heartfelt speech at a dinner for Sentebale, a charity for children and young people affected with HIV in Lesotho and Botswana:

Let core branding attributes shine

Personal brand core attributes include your passion, purpose, vision, strengths and values.

How can you continue to live in accordance with these attributes after this transition? What are you determined to take with you or hold onto?

Which of these attributes (e.g., passion, purpose, values) can you consistently highlight?  Communicate them…over and over.

The Sussexes appear to be maintaining some values inherent in the royal institution. For one, they have agreed to uphold the values of the Queen (essentially refraining from any commercial deals that are likely to compromise the Queen’s brand or Buckingham Palace).

By being allowed to keep their charitable links, they are also in a position to exude their own personal values. Meghan has been an advocate of rescue dog adoption and has committed to issues of female empowerment, and is likely to continue to support such causes on both sides of the pond. Harry is also focusing on several causes, including mental health awareness projects such as his upcoming Apple TV series with Oprah Winfrey. There’s also his involvement with HIV/AIDS initiatives (particularly in Africa), a legacy to his late mother Diana, Princess of Wales. They will likely be expanding their charity portfolio, and it will be important for them to repeatedly broadcast their initiatives, stepping up media exposure around social responsibility to strengthen their brands.

Harry and Meghan Attend Wellchild Awards.The event is held to praise the courage of seriously ill children and their families, and thank those who care for and support them. Photo: Pete Maclaine

Reevaluate your target audience…and your relationship with them

This step involves taking a look at the receiving end of your message, in particular those individuals who matter the most for your brand — your target audience.

Do you need to completely shift your target audience? If the answer is yes, take some time to define your new target audience, those individuals who will become instrumental in helping you to reach your new goals. Think about your new ideal clients, colleagues, managers or members of the appropriate group or industry.

If the answer is no, who can you bring with you on this journey?  Identify the subset (if not the entirety) of the target audience that you’d like to maintain during this transition.  The previously mentioned steps (clear messaging, apologizing when needed, maintaining and exuding your core attributes) will certainly help here.

The Sussexes may be able to retain their own joint trademark brand, Sussex Royal, as a vehicle to cultivate their relationship with their existing fans, however this remains unclear. There will be other challenges for Harry, whose brand not only has a strong association with Buckingham Palace but also the UK military. Given he is now restricted from being involved with the military in the UK, he will need to find another way to maintain this important part of his brand and its target audience.

Better late than never

If your “step back” was a sudden one and few of these proactive steps were achieved, it’s never too late, particularly in terms of messaging.

While the Sussexes may not have given us that initial clear and consistent messaging around their decision, it still has the potential to be a good branding move if they can communicate effectively. This will need to be done carefully and respectfully. If they do decide to come forward and “tell their story”, the type of format in which they do so can of course make or break their brands.  Do they want to put a light spin on it? If so, then perhaps a talk show format like Ellen might be the best fit. If they want their brands to move in a more serious direction, then a format like 20/20 might be more appropriate.

Only time will tell how Meghan and Harry decide to redefine and position their brands, but one thing is for sure, the world will be watching.

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle at the Endeavour Fund Awards ceremony, London. Photo: Pete Maclaine