This is an interview with image and marketing consultant Linda Travis -- with tips for creating a unique and memorable BRAND for your business.
Q: TELL ME ABOUT YOUR CONSULTING SERVICES.
A: As a corporate marketer for many years, I became well aware of the power of BRANDING to distinguish companies and their services. And I saw the opportunity to extend the same discipline to the way people champion and "market" their own TALENTS. Today, my consulting practice helps individuals and organizations to do just that -- we extend the power of branding to people. For the entrepreneur, that means creating a unique IDENTITY for himself and his businesses to rise above the crowd and get noticed. After all, if no one knows he's there, they can't buy his service!
Q: WHO IS YOUR TYPICAL CLIENT?
A: A service business that has been operational for at least three years and is ready to refine its MESSAGE and focus its brand. With a few years under his or her belt, the business owner is often looking for a way to leverage his business so that it stands out from the crowd in a compelling way. Personal Branding offers the necessary focus.
Q: DO ENTREPRENEURS NEED A PROFESSIONAL IMAGE?
A: Absolutely. Business owners or "solo shows" are walking BILLBOARDS for their services. Everything they do reflects -- good or bad -- reflects directly on their business. And if they don't work to produce a professional image, no one else is going to do it for them.
Q: IS A BRAND MORE THAN JUST HOW YOU LOOK?
A: A name, a logo, choices made in physical appearance and dress, the way someone answers the phone -- and the list goes on. Each of these is a TOOL that can help communicate and reinforce a personal brand. Each tool provides the customer or prospect with evidence of the underlying brand promise.
Q: HOW DO YOU HELP A CLIENT CHOOSE A BRAND IMAGE?
A: Personal Branding is a one-on-one approach that considers (1) exactly WHO the unique person is behind the brand, (2) her particular business COMPETENCIES, (3) the specific nature ofthe INDUSTRY that she is in, and (4) the ENVIRONMENT in which she works.
Q: WHAT STEPS DO YOU TAKE IN DEVELOPING A BRAND?
A: Personal Branding starts with an in-depth dialogue to identify underlying talents and DIMENSIONS of the person and their business. To balance this self-assessment, we include opinions from others who know the client well. Then, we develop the language and look…the PERSONALITY…of the brand. Finally, we identify appropriate tools, including visual tools such as appearance, that will support the desired brand message.
Q: WHAT IS THE BIGGEST IMAGE MISTAKE YOU SEE?
A: Under-estimating how QUICKLY others draw first impressions about us -- we're talking "seconds" here -- and how easily they ascribe those qualities to our businesses. Visual cues, including appearance, should be regarded as tools to support and reinforce one's brand image, otherwise, these we can unintentionally send CONFLICTING signals and create confusion.
Q: ARE THERE ANY GOLDEN RULES ABOUT APPEARANCE?
A: Think of anything you choose to wear as a COMMUNICATIONS tool, because, whether you're conscious of it or not, you're communicating with every choice you make. The look as a whole, as well as individual elements of appearance -- a color, a texture, the condition and fit of a garment, a particular article of clothing (ex. a sweater vs. a jacket) -- is a tool to manage our brand image.
Q: ANY ADVICE FOR SOMEONE DEVELOPING A BRAND?
A: Identify your point of DIFFERENCE -- start by looking at the unique talents you bring to what you do. Be authentic -- authenticity is increasingly rare, therefore attractive. Keep your message FOCUSED -- a brand, by definition, is not all things to all people -- take a stand. Be consistent -- over time, across communication channels, and between words and actions -- it builds credibility. A savvy business-person looks for opportunities to put his "signature" on everything he does!
Linda Travis, Personal Branding Strategist, works with individuals and organizations to extend the power of branding to and through people. She can be reached at or at (404) 325-7959.
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