I’m off to New York this week to land a major piece of business, meet with my agent to deliver my latest book, and give a speech to career professionals. I’m completely prepared to “wow” everyone I’m seeing with the content I’ve created, but without looking the part of World-Class Brand Strategist, no one will listen to a word I say.
To make sure that I’m seen and heard, I carved out a couple of hours on Sunday laying out each outfit--carefully considering my mostly media-savvy audience. I thought about what they would respond to and feel comfortable with. Then I mixed all the pieces in unexpected ways in keeping with my personal brand. In the suitcase went a red sleeveless dress with a lightweight long beige jacket, a tailored dark-grey Jackie-O type dress cinched with a studded leather obi and funky black jacket. For casual client dinners, I threw in a pair of skinny jeans and some fun tops to go under the jackets. Everything went into one small carry-on bag.
If I were in a more conservative field such as finance, politics, or law, I would pack two beautifully tailored suits neatly folded between sheets of tissue with tasteful accessories that tell the world, “I’m confidant about who I am. I have a unique approach and bold ideas.”
When getting dressed for a big meeting, interview, or presentation, it’s important to align with the company culture and visually relate to it with your own unique expression. For example, at MTV, I wear jeans and a tailored jacket. At Lifetime, I wear a dress. At Bloomberg, I’m in a sharp textured or patterned skirt and jacket. When doing business in L.A., I lighten my look and wear high heels. If I’m in the South, I show up in strong colors and statement jewelry. My goal is always to fit in without blending in.
Why should you go to so much trouble packaging yourself with such clear intention? Because you’re branded the minute you walk in the door, so you never want to give anyone a reason to say “no” based on your appearance. That’s why when top professional women come to me for a private branding workshop, we always go shopping as part of the experience. In doing so, we create a personal brand that’s authentic inside and out.
How you dress should express your professionalism and creative energy--fearlessly communicating your personal brand at a glance. Does your dress say "school teacher" when it needs to say "business development"? Does your hair say "wild child" when it needs to say "capable executive"? Does your computer bag say "accountant" when it needs to say "web designer"? Are you wearing jeans to a meeting when a suit or adding a jacket would speak volumes about your professionalism?
Research shows that 65 percent of all communication is visual, so if you are not looking the part and play with your own special flair then you may be running the risk of being forgettable. And, in this economic climate, that is not something you want to be.