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



You 2.0: Making Tech part of your Personal Brand

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As we usher in a new decade, the digital world continues to advance all around us. It’s not uncommon to feel a bit overwhelmed by it all! Should we  adapt to these advances, upgrading our personal brands to a more techie version?

Our guest blogger this month, Heather Black of is an advocate for women in tech, and actively develops new talent. She was named one of the 100 most influential women in tech in the UK last year, and is open and passionate about balancing her career with her family. Here she talks to us about how to “tech up” our personal brands.

Photo: Pixabay

Here’s Heather…

If there’s one thing that will make your personal brand feel up-to-date and equipped for the future, it’s adding tech to your brand. Good tech skills are in shortage worldwide. recently said “research shows seven in ten businesses in the sector have found it more difficult to hire staff in past year.” But tech skills are needed everywhere: from animation to teaching; from AI driven marketing to digital publishing.

This shortfall in appropriately qualified and able people is the perfect opportunity for you to upskill and make yourself more desirable. Think about being the go-to person for something technical and what respect that can add to your own personal brand. My own business Supermums focuses on reskilling mums (not exclusively, we have some dads and some non-mums too) in the Salesforce ecosystem, rebranding themselves as tech savvy and so able to find work that is well paid and flexible – probably of interest to just about everyone, not just parents!

Tech can be a key

Tech can be the key to getting into hard to break in industries like fashion or film or even landing work with big names that you’d love to have attached to your personal brand. One of our Supermums graduates, Emma Johannsson, retrained as a Salesforce admin with us and now works for Aston Martin, something that will forever look impressive on her CV. Emma says, “For those thinking of retraining into tech, I would say do it. Don’t be afraid to try it out and don’t be scared if things seem complicated. Just keep trying and don’t be afraid to fail. You will fail at things but it’s not a big deal. If you hang in there and keep at it, you will succeed. There are lots of jobs out there.”

Move with the times

Finally, one of the most compelling reasons to do it is that perhaps soon, you may not have a choice. Take marketing for instance. Marketing is fast becoming more and more sophisticated: we can track users around the internet with AI, we can automate the customer journey from sign up to sale and beyond, building up a relationships that just weren’t available to us previously. Our Salesforce Marketing Cloud course takes traditional marketers and upskills them in all the tech they need to be at the top of their profession today and hopefully tomorrow, helping them future proof their careers, as long as they keep on top of new trends and innovations.


Getting over the mystery

Words like “tech”, “cyber” and “digital” may sound as though they are for the left brained chosen few, but these are just words. Tech is all around us: from the App that lets us order in a takeaway to the framework that takes a payment from our phones, to the electronic sign-in machine in the Dr’s office. Cyber is just another word for Cyberspace, a.k.a., the Internet, and Digital means an online version of something. A great example would be Marie Claire magazine which has now gone completely digital, i.e., online as that’s where they see the future.

You don’t have to completely change your brand

Adding tech to your brand is just that, adding it to how people already think of you. One of our graduates, Simon Des Forges, is now currently the Salesforce manager for a charity called Education and Employers, but he talks about how his “old” brand was still very valuable and how important it is to think about your transferable skills: “My old job was around user involvement, getting people with mental health or drug and alcohol problems views included with commissioners and providers which must seem very far away from Salesforce. Part of the role of admin, however, is to have a good understanding of what people’s needs are and to balance those and integrate those into the org and with each other so you’re working together as a team. It’s useful for people to take a little step back if they’re worried that they might not fit into doing what seems a technical role and consider the skills that they already do have and how useful they are. Mine have most certainly have benefited me here as far as working in different projects and teams and knowing how to work those views into something manageable.”

Becoming confident with Tech

For the very non-technical this can feel a bit daunting, but I have some observations of our course participants that may make it a little easier:

  • Start off with a course that will get you into the learning mindset, but also provide support. Perhaps your employer can even send you on one as they’ll reap the rewards too. Simon Des Forges was sent on his first Salesforce Admin course by his then employer and that opened up a whole new world for him
  • Accept that, like everything new, there is learning to do. You will get there. It’s just a matter of putting the time and effort in
  • Get excited. Think about all the opportunities your new tech savvy personal brand can offer you – and all the frustrations you can now bypass (having to get someone else to upload onto your blog for instance)
  • There will be times when you fail or just don’t get something. A break and a clear head can sometimes work, but do remember that you can always ask for help

The Tech community and your Personal Brand

Joining a tech community in one way or other is a perfect way to accelerate tech into your personal brand. You’ll get the support you’ll need, new contacts and over time, start to feel more and more comfortable, pushing yourself as you reach goals and see them disappear behind you. You can find these communities in real life and online and I urge you to take advantage of what they have to offer.


As well as the Supermums project, Heather runs webinars, attends panel events and speaks on flexible working, retraining, working parenthood and women in tech.

To learn more, you can see a video she recorded here.

The Supermums’ Marketing Cloud course launches in early 2020 and you can find out more 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

Sir Patrick Stewart

Here’s why…
Sir Patrick Stewart is of course widely known for his iconic roles in television and movies, most notably Star Trek’s Jean-Luc Picard. There’s also his illustrious onstage career. I’ve always admired him as an actor, but a discovery earlier this month made me fall in love with his personal brand.

It started with a poster. I’m not a huge Star Trek fan, but an advert for the upcoming series, Star Trek Picard, recently caught my eye. It shows a stoic Captain Picard standing in front of a vineyard with a dog by his side. What an unexpected detail: Picard has a dog, and a pit bull nonetheless!

I did a little research into this, and the popular consensus was that Picard’s four-legged companion was Stewart’s idea. It turns out that Stewart has been a champion of rescue dogs, particularly pit bulls, for some time now. He and his wife have fostered several pit bulls themselves, and Stewart often shares photos of his foster dogs on Twitter. I may be late to the party with this one, but upon discovering this, I connected with his brand in a completely different way. We shared a cause.


Not only does he foster rescue dogs, but Stewart has embraced this cause in different ways. For example, he works hard at changing perceptions about pit bulls, by effectively being his own anti-stigma campaign, educating us about the breed over social media. He has also spoken out about the cruelty of dog fighting, highlighting the work of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) in finding new homes for dogs previously used for fighting. He shared on Facebook: “We know dogs are born to enjoy walks in the park, play with toys and enjoy belly rubs – but not fight.”

Here in the UK, Stewart has called for the repeal of the Dangerous Dog Act of 1991 in favour of better education on dog ownership. His involvement came after he and his wife were not able to bring their beloved foster dog, Ginger, to the UK, as the UK (where they live for part of the year) does not allow pit bulls into the country under the Act. He shared on Twitter: “We learned about the UK’s antiquated and tragic breed-specific legislation that includes “pit bulls”. The legislation itself is opaque, draconian, and truly hard to decipher.”

He candidly talked about leveraging his personal brand for the cause: “There aren’t many times when I’m comfortable leveraging the “Pstew Card”, but this was absolutely an instance where I wanted to pull out all the stops. We called the British Consulate and we called the RSPCA. We spoke with every expert we could, and as it became clear that there in fact was no “clear” answer, we realized we just couldn’t take any risk with Ginger’s life. I could go into more detail about how we came to this decision, but the short version is that we chose to do what was best for Ginger.”

From this personal experience, Stewart has become a vocal opponent of the Act: “It is essential that the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991 be re-examined. Caring, good-natured creatures are being denied homes and their owners and potential owners deprived of a healthy and loving partnership.” A few years ago, he backed a petition signed by more than 200,000 people which demanded that Michael Gove repeal of the Dangerous Dogs Act without specific permission from a court.

I truly applaud Stewart’s efforts here, particularly as this Act nearly deterred my husband and I from moving here in the first place (our gorgeous rescue boy at the time may very well have been crossed with a Pittie breed, and we were very fortunate to have gotten him through)!

In closing, I hope this Brand of the Month shows just how important it is to share the “personal” side of your personal brand — your values, passion, purpose, what you stand for. It’s a great way to leverage a brand’s relevance and establish a sense of connection on a deeper, more meaningful level.


Bravo, Sir Patrick!


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The “Brand of the Month”…is in conflict

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In lieu of our traditional Brand of the Month, I’m taking this month to explore a brand conflict, that of…

Jamie Oliver

Here’s Why…

Our favourite cockney Naked Chef often comes to mind during the festive season. Whether it’s for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for Americans, Christmas recipes, dinner parties or just quick dinner ideas, Oliver has become our trusted go-to gourmet guy. And just this month, he announced his plan for international expansion, with the Jamie Oliver Group opening 19 new branches and rebranding two Jamie’s Italian restaurants in Asia. This comes just months after the UK chain’s collapse.

As many will know in the UK, Oliver has become a figurehead for campaigns for healthier kids and a healthier planet. His brand has made tremendous strides in the last decade, positively impacting school meals, government initiatives on obesity, and climate change. As such, both his personal and corporate brands have become synonymous with a healthier future. Not to mention his impressive range of cookbooks, TV shows and restaurant chains that have helped make him a household name.

But Jamie Oliver has had a tough year, and both his corporate and personal brand have taken a big hit.

The most glaring is of course is the loss of his restaurant empire back in May. His 25 restaurants went into receivership, a British form of bankruptcy protection, at a cost of about 1,000 jobs. Oliver followed the announcement with “a high-profile apology campaign, admitting his glaring faults as a business owner and vowing to keep going with the food ventures that made him a star at just 24 years old”. This collapse comes after months of financial struggle, which may explain his co-branding misstep earlier in the year…

Regardless of whether you drive or not, you’ve probably heard about Oliver’s “healthy” deli range at Shell Petrol Stations, Jamie Oliver deli by Shell, by now. The range was made available in 500 Shell service stations since early this year.

Truth be told, when I first saw this branding partnership early this year, my initial thought wasn’t a thought at all. It was a cringe. This isn’t all that surprising considering the visceral reaction that strong brands can elicit. But if we take a moment to think about this co-branding, on one level it does make sense. Healthier on-the-go options at petrol stations are much needed, and Oliver is a huge advocate for making healthy food choices more available to the masses. As a result of this partnership, 80 healthy food items are now available to a wider range of consumers.

But there’s another dimension to this co-branding that just feels off. A huge part of Oliver’s personal brand is being a vocal UN environmental campaigner, and paring with an oil giant feels like a gross misalignment between his corporate brand and his personal brand, and it’s tarnishing both. Jamie Oliver deli by Shell feels like a different brand to that of the Jamie Oliver who lobbied hard for the sugar tax, campaigns for climate initiatives and wants to save the world one school lunch at a time. Strange bedfellows indeed.

Shell’s marketing strategy on the other hand was a shrewd one, given its mission to shift its image, particularly as the brand has consistently topped the list of the most hated brands in the UK. The marketing team have also been clever, clearly having fun with this venture: ‘From A to BLT’, ‘A new direction for food on the go.’ Partnering with a brand like Oliver’s could certainly work to improve Shell’s reputation, however Oliver appears to be getting the short end of this branding stick.

In defence of this £5 million partnership, Oliver shared, “I think I’ve earned trust over the last 20 years and I would hope that people think I’ve thought about it correctly. I can stick up for what’s in the stores and where it’s come from.”

It’s true that Oliver has built an admiring following over the past two decades, and we know in branding that such a reputation is steadily earned over time. However we also know that it can be wrecked in a heartbeat.

But if Oliver does in fact go back to his celeb roots – the Naked Chef days and what made him a star at age 24 – our celebrity chef’s brand just might emerge stronger and healthier in 2020.


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Dressing your personal brand

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November. The month we start to think about the festive season and all of its frills. It’s the season that comes with gift giving and all its fun wrappings. But if we take a second to think about it, what exactly is it that makes a gift instantly stand out to you? Typically it has something to do with the packaging. Our guest blogger this month, personal stylist, executive presence coach and author Lizzie Edwards, invites us to think about our own packaging…our outer brands.

Here’s Lizzie…

Lizzie Edwards

To stand out and show people what you have to offer, and to reach the top of your profession, you need to consider yourself as a brand.  And as with any brand your packaging tells the consumer what quality they can expect, setting the expectation for what is on the inside. The more expensive and high quality the product, the more attention to detail goes into its packaging.

Your appearance is your packaging. It creates perceived value and sets the expectation of your personal brand, telling others what kind of qualities they can expect from you, and what you are about, before you even speak. The clothes you choose to wear therefore have a huge impact on others, particularly when you meet them for the first time.

In a fraction of a second when they first see you, another person can perceive your personality, level of intelligence, competence, affability, self-esteem, power, and success. They decide whether you are like them, whether they like you. It’s harsh, but it’s human nature. We are hard wired this way, and it’s happening to all of us, by all of us and this is why what you wear is so important when considering your personal brand.

As a business owner or an employee, it’s important your appearance is not only communicating your personal brand values, but also takes into account the brand of the organisation you work for; its philosophy, culture, and standard of service.

You can also use your wardrobe to help you embody your brand values. How you dress impacts how you feel and perform. Studies into ‘enclothed cognition’ have shown that it is the association we have of an item is where the power lies, be it personally, or culturally or societally. Therefore, if you feel that the wearing of a suit shows professionalism, power, intelligence for example, when you wear a suit you will feel and act like a person with those qualities.

This is why the statement ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ is so true, but dressing for a more senior role than you currently inhabit is also beneficial as it enables others to imagine you in the role. If you look like you can run an important project, lead a team or present to the shareholders, you are more likely to be given the opportunity to do so. When you dress your best you become the person who stands out from a crowd and when an opportunity arises, among those of equal level and skill, it will be offered to you – the most capable and professional looking employee.

It’s up to you to ensure that what you wear is telling others what you want them to know. The good news is that now you’ve been reminded you of this, if you feel your current image isn’t doing an amazing job of representing you to the world, you can easily do something about it.

You may already know your personal brand and have a list of values. Once you know how you want to be seen, you then need to consider your wardrobe and ensure that you are projecting your brand values and qualities and undertake an image audit and to be as objective as possible to try to uncover any appearance blind spots you may have.

Put on an entire outfit, top to toe with any added layers, accessories, coat and bag as this is often how you are seen out and about as a first impression

If you wear it, apply your make-up and style your hair as you normally would, in the same amount of time.

Stand in front of a full-length mirror (if you don’t have one, I advise you to get one immediately!) with your eyes closed at first, then open them and take yourself in for a minute, remembering to view yourself from all sides. Also take an honest look at your grooming to see where there may be room for improvement in your hair, make up, nails or teeth.

Ask yourself: Does your image say what you want to? Does it tell people about your personal brand; who you are, your qualities, your position? Do your clothes look like ‘an outfit’; considered and well put together, or like individual items worn together with little relation to each other? Does your style show your personality and look up to date? When you see yourself, do your personal brand words come straight to mind? If not, there is work to do! Do this a couple more times so you have seen and assessed a few different looks.

Awareness is the first step, and once you have made an assessment you’ll have a better idea of how much room for improvement there is. When looking at clothes, remember to consider what you want people to know about you and keep your brand values in mind. When you do this you are not leaving your impression to chance, but ensuring others see you accurately, as your best, most authentic self.


Lizzie Edwards is a personal stylist and executive presence coach, and the founder of the UK’s leading style and wardrobe consultancy for senior female professionals, executives and business owners. She is also the author of the best-selling book, Look Like the Leader You Are; A 7 Step Style Strategy for Ambitious Women.

To learn more about Lizzie and her services, check out her website  or follow her on Instagram!


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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

Diane von Furstenberg

Here’s why…
Earlier this month, I received an invite to a shopping event that piqued my interest: TVF for DVF. Once I decoded the initials, I discovered it was a pop up of Talita von Furstenberg’s collection at the Diane von Furstenberg London Flagship store. Talita is the granddaughter of von Furstenberg. It appears that our legendary brand has a legacy co-brand!

Find it here:

I find von Furstenberg’s brand fascinating on many levels. But this new dimension of her brand introduces an interesting concept, one around creating sustainability around a brand, in both the label and the person.

Here’s what jumps out at me with von Furstenberg’s personal brand and sustainability:

Fresh and forward thinking

What better way to express your beliefs and personal values than to get visual about them? Von Furstenberg shows us just how masterful she is at this. Since founding her fashion house in 1972, von Furstenberg has come to represent the forward-thinking, modern woman, showing us she’s ahead of the curve, with her progressiveness reflected in her designs.

Her iconic wrap dress of course comes to mind. As she explains, “it’s more than just a dress; it’s a spirit.” Given its wide-reaching appeal, the wrap dress came to be seen as a symbol of women’s liberation in the Seventies, and her distinct design is still going strong today. “I created a sustainable dress 40 years ago,” she says of her dress in a recent Evening Standard interview. “It is being sold in vintage shops for more now than it was then.”

She continues to bring fresh ideas promoting sustainability and eco-forwardness into her brand. There are “scrap wrap” dresses, created from the leftover material from wrap dresses. A reversible wrap dress will be launched next spring, “so you can have two dresses in one”, and even a rental service for her dresses. She has also brought eco-friendly practices into her factories, including solar panels and recycled water, the use of more sustainable fabrics and ecological dyeing and printing techniques.

Vision and determination

Firmly at the foundation of her personal brand are her vision and determination, which can be summarized with the motto “in charge”.

 “When I was young I didn’t know what I wanted to do but I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be — I wanted to be a woman in charge,” she shared. “Meaning I could pay my bills, I could choose who I go out with.”  She didn’t chose badly in fact, by marrying her first husband, the German Prince Egon von Furstenberg. While this officially made her a Princess, the lifestyle she chose was far from Princess-like. She continued to desire a life of independence, one that launched her career. “The minute I knew I was about to be Egon’s wife, I decided to have a career. I wanted to be someone of my own, and not just a plain little girl who got married beyond her desserts,” she explained to the New York Times in 1977.  Divorcing 14 years later, she kept the regal surname.

Getting her voice heard

Another effective strategy in sustaining your personal brand is by sharing your voice, such as by writing a manifesto, autobiography or memoirs. Von Furstenberg has several out there already, and most recently, she wrote her “in charge” manifesto, in which she shares some of her philosophies to live by.

–      Commit to yourself. “Before anything else, being in charge is a commitment to yourself, it’s owning who you are,”

–      Connect and use your position to help others. “The more you use your magic wand, the more strong and the more powerful your wand is”.

–      Believe in vulnerability and show hints of humanness. “Talk about your vulnerability. Talk about your failures. Talk about your insecurity and you will help other people.”

Putting words into actions

This philosophy deserves its own point, given how strongly social responsibility is correlated with effective personal branding. Von Fursenberg believes that we need to pick and choose causes that we believe in and fight for them.

She and her husband founded the Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation, a private family foundation which provides philanthropic support to various non-profit organisations. She launched the DVF Awards in 2010, a scheme supported by their foundation which recognises women whose leadership and vision has positively impacted women around the world. She and her husband are also prominent supporters of the US Democratic Party.

Von Furstenberg appears in, and served as executive producer on, a newly released HBO documentary, Liberty: Mother of Exiles, telling the story of her fundraising efforts for a new museum on Liberty Island. The documentary that takes on particular significance in an era of anti-immigration. “I’m an immigrant, my parents were immigrants [her mother was a Holocaust survivor], this country is built on immigrants, and there will be a switch,” she explains. “You wonder when, but there will be a switch — there’s always a pendulum.”

Careful positioning of successors

As a likely successor, Talita shares the same passion and progressive thinking her grandmother has embraced for decades, and there’s little doubt that von Furstenberg has shaped and inspired her.  In her interview with the Evening Standard, von Furstenberg explains that Talita is taking “highly relevant, forward-thinking classes” in fashion business at NYU.  “She’s learning about the new luxury, about social entrepreneurship, about sustainability.” In other words, she fits the DVF bill.

But von Furstenberg also shows us that you don’t have to turn to family for a legacy. At 72, she just stepped down from her 13-year tenure as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA). This was a decision she did not take lightly…or quickly.  “I’d been wanting to leave for a while,” she explained. “But I had to find a replacement and I wanted the replacement to be an upgrade.” Her upgrade was Tom Ford, clearly already an established fashion brand legend.  She shares, “I was the mother of the CFDA, and he is the statesman. He has a real presence, and he’s much more demanding than I am.” Now that’s some careful selectivity!

And that’s the progressive personal brand of Diane von Furstenberg in a nutshell. What a stunning example of “walk the walk, talk the talk…and wear the frock!”. And long may she (and her name) live.


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The Villain Inside: Exploring the “Shadow Side” of your personal brand

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With the controversy around the film The Joker going on at the moment, and this month’s release of the new Breaking Bad film, I started  thinking about the personal brands of villains in our culture, our changing attitude towards them, and what we could learn here from a personal branding perspective.

Photo: Fortier/Daily Bruin

From Darth Vader to the Wicked Witch of the West, we’ve always had a thirst for villains. Villains serve a vital part in the role of the protagonist’s growth: a personification of the opposition and obstacles that the hero must overcome in order to evolve. They are what the hero risks becoming if they start to wander down the wrong path, and are often a mirror image of the hero: the Joker to the Batman, Darth Vader to Luke Skywalker.

Our attraction to these villains and what they represent seems to be growing…what is it that we find so appealing?

Exploring Our Shadow Sides

One theory ties into Jung’s shadow selves, which suggests that villains help us come to terms with those parts of ourselves that we would prefer to keep hidden. However, we are attracted to these shadows at the same time. After all, who hasn’t secretly found pleasure in a villain saying or doing something we would never actually contemplate in a million years (Hannibal Lector eating a musician because he played badly and spoiled his evening!)?

This certainly helps explain the push-pull we can feel for villains: how we can loathe Voldermort and his complete disregard for muggle life, and yet hold our breaths in anticipation of his next appearance on the screen or chapter.  One fascinating plot device JK Rowling used with Harry Potter was to create a connection between Harry and Voldemort that allows Harry to share the sensations and experiences of Voldemort as he kills his victims, something that enables Harry to come to terms with his shadow side. While his friends and Dumbledore implore him to learn a magic art to shut down this connection, Harry has a strange resistance to the idea. This provokes his character to grow by coming to terms with the dark side of himself. We can see the same device used in Lord of The Rings, where Frodo is increasingly tempted to wear the ring which not only makes him invisible, but takes him to a dark place inside himself.

Villain or Hero?

As public attraction to villains seems to get stronger, the personal brands of villains seem to be becoming more heroic, creating a more blurry divide in popular culture today. Take Killing Eve’s Villanelle, who at times shares the status of heroine with Eve, our heroine from M16. Villanelle is no doubt a psychopath, displaying little or no empathy for her victims and colleagues, and yet her quirks of personality and stylish dress sense inevitably mean we warm to her. Her gruesome killings no longer shock us, in fact we sometimes even root for her. Even her name, Villanelle, a softer, Frencher version of Villain, is a massive tongue in cheek hint.

Interestingly, both Killing Eve and Peaky Blinders are dark worlds of blood and guts, and yet both are highly stylish, stylised and delivered in a way to delight the senses. Of course, this isn’t something that’s just happening today. Coppola’s The Godfather did the same thing back in the 1970s, creating a film that depicted a warm, loving family set with a score that almost everyone can hum even today.

One way our heart warms to these villains is by having an even worse villain on their tail. Villanelle’s often fighting for her life, whether it’s against some weirdo who has captured her, or her own people. In The Godfather there are rival families who show less “honour” and more brutality than the Corleone family, a device that was also used in The Sopranos.

Then there are the characters who meet criteria for a personality disorder, but use their shadow side for good. ITV’s Sherlock, for example, has turned their Sherlock Holmes into a sociopath. He himself embraces the diagnosis: “I’m not a psychopath, I’m a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research.” He of course turns his sociopathic traits into strengths…and we are hooked.

This blurring and blending of hero and villain creates for more human, relatable characters.

Engaging the villain inside your personal brand

As I hope I’ve conveyed above, every good story has a villain. This includes our own brand stories. Let’s start by taking a look at some content strategy.

While the hero archetype is a great storytelling device to communicate the shiny, more noble sides of yourself, the villain archetype can add that extra dimension of interest and relevance into your brand. These villains represent that relatable shadow side of the heroic part of our brand.

So how exactly can you bring a little of that shadow into the light to make your brand story more appealing?

Here are my top tips for bringing some villain content into your personal brand:

  • Step into the shadows. Identifying and getting to know your villain is an essential (and often difficult) branding task. What parts of you do you keep hidden, or can “rear their ugly heads”? Are these traits holding you back in some way…and why?
  • Examine the flip side. What’s on the opposite side of these traits? If your anger were a double-sided coin, would passion about something or a personal value that’s been compromised reside on the other side? Does jealousy in a situation represent aspiration or a strong drive towards a goal?
  • Flip the story. Once you’ve recognized the flip side, how can you spin the villain in your story into something positive? How has your villain inspired you to grow?  What has your hero learnt from your villain? How has it helped the hero in you develop and shine?
  • Know what works and when. Are there traits from your shadow side that can be helpful or useful in the right context? For example, when upset by something, you tend to be challenging and direct – your inner villain shows up. These traits may be unhelpful on the home front, but what about in the boardroom when standing up for something you believe in? Or can you use this confrontational side in your writing, when you are impassioned about a topic?
  • Use your villain powers for good. This builds on the strategy above. It also relates back to the earlier example of Sherlock Holmes, using the positives behind a diagnosis or emotion. Another example might be someone with bipolar disorder channelling their energy on the manic side into something creative or constructive. Or perhaps you might want to redirect the energy of your anger about an injustice into an initiative that will make a difference.
    Another version of this strategy involves using something in your past that you overcame, such as a health condition or difficult circumstance, to help others in some way; for example, by sharing your story to inspire others facing similar villains, or getting behind a related cause.
  • Fit the villain into your larger brand story. Lastly, how can you reconcile your villain traits with your larger brand? Is there a way to present that side so it’s more relatable and/or likeable (without compromising its authenticity)? For example, is there a story of a worse villain, such as a ghost from the past or a difficult defeat, that’s behind your villain trait?

A defining characteristic of a good villain is their relatability. We all have these shadow traits, and by adding a little villain in your personal narrative, you may find that others will be more engaged with your story. And that’s a villain worth embracing!


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