by David A. McKnight – author of The Zen of Executive Presence and founder of DAMstyle
Lately, the B-word has been bandied about more than any other in the business world. Whether you’re part of a large established corporation or a stay-at-home “mompreneur”, branding is now a part of your daily vocabulary. But what exactly is the distinction between branding and image, and how important is it—as an individual—to maintain your brand?
We all know the importance of making a great first impression and that the way we present ourselves determines whether or not we do this. Personal branding takes this a step further; it is the collection of all the images and impressions that you impart on the world. This creates lasting impressions. It cannot be captured in a logo or picture because it is not a singular thing but rather the continuum of messages that convey who you are and what you stand for. For example if you act like a professional but go to meetings dressed down, your brand will lack consistency. However, if you are well-dressed, punctual, ethical, and friendly day in and day out, you will create a personal brand that reflects that. It becomes much more than your image: what people see. It becomes a perceived part of your identity: who you are.
For some this becomes difficult when “who you are” is, first and foremost, a mother. You must carefully manage the way you are perceived. The trouble is that it can be difficult to step outside yourself and accurately interpret how you are viewed by other people. For most people who take the time to question how they’re viewed, there is a disconnect between how they believe their image is interpreted and the reality. Few people have the self-awareness to separate their own intentions from what the outside world sees. The only effective way around this is to turn to an outside perspective – someone trusted – who can give an honest account of the image you portray. Often we think we’re sending one message but are being interpreted entirely differently.
We all have an image, an identity, and a brand. While most of us know how important these are – be it at home, work, or socially – few people actively manage them. This doesn’t just mean wearing the right clothes. It requires a much greater attention to detail than appropriate attire. Not only should we assess how we represent ourselves on a daily basis, we should analyze exactly what is working and what isn’t. Building a reputation takes decades, and ensuring that you represent yourself authentically is worth a few hours of self-analysis. Most importantly, as a mom, it takes a lot of care and attention to be perceived as a professional at work but as a mother at home.