Is the authentic you actually coming through?
How do you know if your personal brand is resonating?
We’ve spent a lot of time talking about the importance of authenticity when it comes to building your personal brand. After all, people are buying you. That’s what they find compelling—and your willingness to share what you’ve got, whether that’s experience, expertise, or vulnerability can make all the difference. But it’s not just a matter of putting everything out there and waiting for clients and collaborators to come flooding in. Like it or not, their perception of you plays a pivotal role in the success of your personal brand, and that means authenticity only gets you so far. You’ve got to make sure your messaging is coming through as intended, calibrating your intentions with their observations to achieve the impact you’re looking for.
With that in mind, let’s talk about how to read the room—and win it over.
Harness the Influential Power of Appearance
I’ll never forget walking into a meeting with a brilliant C-suite leader when he stopped me in my tracks. “What the hell are you wearing?” he asked. I’d shown up wanting to be taken seriously. My goal was to make a real connection—to go past the small talk and understand who he truly was, what I could learn from him, and what I could offer in return. My outfit said otherwise.
Fortunately, he was willing to look past my fashion faux pas and we ended up having a great conversation. I’ve come to consider him a mentor and a friend, but I was this close to blowing it all. That’s because, like it or not, appearances matter. Much of human connection is built on first impressions because they’re rooted in evolutionary principles. We developed quick judgment mechanisms for survival—our ancestors had to suss out whether we had just run into a friend or foe in a matter of seconds—and that instinct hasn’t gone anywhere. Research says that first impressions are formed in as little as a tenth of a second.
That’s not to say the only way to show you mean business is to don a suit for every big meeting that lands on your books, but you should think about who you’re meeting up with and what you want them to glean from you before you even open your mouth. Then, dress accordingly.
Know that All Your Actions Define Your Brand
You may have heard of the “halo effect,” a psychological principle that explains how positive qualities in one area can influence our overall perception of a person. But the flip side is also true. If you’ve ever spent time with someone you’ve long admired, only to find out they’re a jerk to the waitstaff when you go out to eat or dismissive of their wife or kids, you know what I’m talking about. It can shake your confidence in everything you’ve ever thought about them. That means it’s crucial to be consistent with your behavior, regardless of who you interact with. The same goes for doing what you’ll say you do. You’ve got to “walk your talk,” as our executive coach, Mark Green, says. If you don’t, people will definitely notice. And you’ll be that much farther from becoming who you want to be.
Hone Your Voice
Have you ever heard of “impression management”? It’s a psychological concept that underscores the strategies people use to influence the perceptions of others, for instanc,e by presenting a carefully curated persona to achieve the outcome you want. That’s not quite what we’re talking about—the goal of personal branding isn’t to manipulate others into buying whatever you’re selling. But communicating in a consistent manner, with a deliberately developed and strategic approach, can help you land a sale—or hundreds or thousands of them. That’s why we spend so much energy getting voice and tone right at Arcbound: we know, when it’s done well, it’s one of the best representations of your brand—and by extension, a reflection of you.
Now, if you haven’t yet, figure out you want to reach and what you want them to understand. Then, do your best to get on their level—identifying where they are and which of your messages and values will resonate most—so you can bring them to yours.
Invest in the Currency of Trust
Trust is one of the most valuable currencies out there. It’s an essential cornerstone of human relationships and societal interactions, serving as the foundation upon which we build connections and partnerships. Trust fosters a sense of security, reliability, and predictability, allowing us to engage in open and honest communication with people we know and those we don’t. But you’ve got to earn it yourself—and there aren’t any shortcuts.
If, for any reason, your past doesn’t align with where you want to go, acknowledge the discrepancy and reassure your audience that you’re doing the work to get there. For example, a frequent misstep in reputation management is neglecting the impact of past actions. Focusing solely on current behavior while ignoring the consequences of past mistakes can hinder personal brand growth. Recognize the importance of addressing and rectifying past missteps and use it as a means of moving forward. Otherwise, those past moves are bound to hold you back.
Capitalize on Cultural Intelligence
You’ve got to be true to yourself, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adapt—quite the opposite. Your audience wants to feel like you get where they’re coming from, and that will take some awareness-building on your part. That’s exactly why I probably should have done a bit more research into the company culture before I barged into my C-suite friend’s office dressed for a day playing frisbee in the park. Demonstrating that you’ve done your homework helps to engender trust and shows that you care about their perspective, which will open them up to yours. With that in mind, don’t lose sight of your core values and identity in an attempt to fit in. You’ve got to hold onto those as you adapt. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself with those trust issues we just talked about.
Ultimately, your personal brand is about more than just content; it’s about everything you do. That means you’ve got to do more than just show up and wield influence effectively online. You need to take steps to strengthen and clarify your communications, show up in your relationships—online and off—and think innovatively about what you’re bringing to the world. When you take those steps, combined with what I’ve shared here, you’re far closer to achieving your goals.
Like anything else, personal branding is a complex journey with its share of pitfalls, but understanding these principles and potential blunders allows you to navigate the art of perception more effectively, crafting an image that aligns with your true self and resonates with your target audience to help you both get what you need.