Personal Branding - The Authentic You

 When I explain to my teenage students that they have 7 seconds to make a first impression they catch on fast. They understand they are their brand and represent themselves authentically on stage. They use their clothes, posture, and vocal tone consistently for impact. They get personal branding far better than the previous generation who seem to have a hangover from the days when jeans were loose and t-shirts were large. We all know it's important but how do we make personal branding work for us. Last year I heard Australia's leading personal brand expert Collete Werden share her secrets at Sydney's Wired for Wonder conference and came back inspired.

A study done by Harvard University revealed we subconsciously make 11 rapid-fire decisions about someone within 7 seconds of meeting them, all solely based on how that person has chosen to represent themselves.


Do you look like you’re successful or do you look like you’re trying to be successful?


Within 7 seconds’ people know if your image is a representation of your personality or if you’re wearing a “uniform”?

So now you're a bit worried, let's take a look at what you can do.

Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. ... Marketers McNally and Speak define the personal brand in this way: “Your brand is a perception or emotion, maintained by somebody other than you, that describes the total experience of having a relationship with you.”


And why does it matter?

Gone are the days where keeping up appearances or hard sell wins’ customers. We are in a post-advertising age and the new millennium customer no longer accepts the smiley sales approach or corporate image uniform. They want a personal experience and to meet the authentic you.

“The only successful version is you” 

Colette Werden

Entrepreneurs are stepping out and becoming the face of their brand so their market connects with them and their values. Corporate employees are also expected to represent the company by being relatable and authentic, qualities that are looked for by today's clients. Personal branding leaders are:

Sir Richard Branson is the founder of Virgin Group, entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, and seemingly cool dude. We will buy from him if we are attracted to his values. Yet beyond his obvious success by pushing the boundaries, is an unwavering personal brand.

Michelle Obama, campaigned and started independent initiatives, political, and purely for entertainment. She has even become renowned for her incredible public speaking skills constructing articulate, engaging, empathetic, and relevant conversation and promotes herself with her strong personal brand.

Amy Cuddy, social psychologist and associate professor at Harvard Business School seen in the widely viewed Ted Talk, “Your body language shapes who you are”, and serves as a testament to the heights one’s work can achieve by harnessing tools to reach more people with a strong personal brand.

These people may have brand coaches or I suspect like Richard Branson just have an innate ability for self-promotion.  You see humans are visual creatures. 

“If we have a strong consistent personal brand and use pieces of fabric to elevate self-confidence then no matter what we’re doing the market will follow us and buy what we do.”

 Collette Werden 

Australian personal branding expert Colette Werden coins the phrase “pieces of fabric” rather than clothes because she recognised this word and associated ideas and fears about fashion are a hurdle for her high-end corporate clients, who view clothes as fashion and were intimidated by the idea of being miss represented by their cloth. Positioning clothes as what they are, just pieces of fabric is liberating for both introverts and extroverts. Find out more about Colette Werden here.

 Colette Werden

I've always encouraged my students to give careful consideration to the clothes they wear at exams and competitions. They learn the importance of personal branding and experience the benefits of creating an authentic style when we prepare for their public speaking events. They represent themselves with a slick and stylish image, often leaving their big city peers looking a bit sloppy. They make that 7 seconds work for them with a look that says "yes" to opportunity and dress like they deserve the win. After all, you never know if talent scouts are hiding in the audience!

Helen Morton-Jones is a Deirdre Sneddon Scholar and Speech & Drama teacher in Whangarei she teaches public speaking skills and understands the value of personal branding.

But There's More: Statistics Reveal Our Feelings About Our Confidence and Clothes

550 professional women in Australia were asked how they felt about what they wear:

94% said their confidence increased when they liked what they wore

74.5 said they walk better when they liked what they wore

54.5 said they communicate poorly when they don’t like the clothes they’re in.

Collete Werden says...

“Represent who you are not who you think you should be. The biggest way to smash self-confidence is when we look at how other people are doing it and doing it the way we think it should be done, instead of starting back at us.”


 So how can you look professional yet not lose your personality? Tips from and expert.

Your image needs to reflect your personal brand, personal traits, your values and your strengths.

 When your image contradicts these, it makes it harder for your message to get through.

Werden suggests six ways to think about your pieces of fabric to convey your authentic self.

1) Contrasting colours say you’re a confident decision maker

2 A mix of pattern and colours say creativity

3) Unique outfit combinations say you think outside the norm,

4) Align from top to toe creates trust in your ability to follow through and says you give attention to detail.

5) For a Leader who needs to belong to the group but how they lead the team a stand out colour, unique outfit combo or point of difference in blazer defines your role

6) The vital V (the neck and upper chest area) when closed it is like crossed arms and shows your approachability

What your brand is a visual representation of who you are, the colours, styles, patterns. Added to this are body language, gait, hand gestures and verbal behaviour like the tone of voice, not content create your brand.

“When you present yourself with confidence that your image is an authentic reflection you have the power to influence the perception you create and be assured you image is serving your message.”


Within seven seconds of meeting someone for the first time they will have decided:

If they like you or not.

The personality traits you have.

If you're successful.

If they trust the information you're going to share.

If they’re interested in what you are saying.

Your professional ability and if you are who you say you are.

How are you perceived by your pieces of fabric?


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Jul 22, 2017 Category: General