Updated: Jun 20
Studies show we make a lasting first impression in roughly seven seconds. That initial impact can be extremely difficult to alter afterwards. In fact, we don’t even have to speak for it to take effect. Subtle visual factors, such as our body language, facial expression, attire and style speak volumes for us. They project an aura of both who we are, and who we aspire to become.
This is the essence of personal branding, which is arguably the single most important success factor for anyone working to advance their career or business. It is what makes you unforgettable, and, yes, it can help make you unstoppable too. There are many nuances to personal branding, but here are my favorite unforgettable factors:
Factor #1 – Just Be You
We all have an inner tug-of-war between the part of us that is internally motivated, has big dreams, creates, explores and takes leaps of faith, which is constantly bumping up against the part that wants to be liked, get recognition, be adored, approved of and even envied. That is the endless face-off between our authentic nature and societal pressure. Often I have clients who are aware of the societal pressures, and rebel against them. Unfortunately for these individuals, rebelliousness is just as inauthentic as conformity. Both approaches put the focus on society, rather than on our individual drivers. Rebelliousness is a reaction to them, pointing at the pressures, and not at what is longing to be created from within the individual.
Personal branding is successful when we confidently step into who we are authentically. Curly hair? Own it. Plus size? Don’t fight it. Style it. Soft spoken? Let your undertones speak volumes. Love the limelight? Step into it. Hate crowds? Lead from a space that fits your speed.
Being yourself isn’t about flaunting social norms. It is about leaning into your own pace and style with confidence, grace and ease. Unfortunately, too many of us haven’t been taught how to be our essential selves. Quite the opposite. When we don’t know who we are, what drives us, or how to activate our personal purpose, then our lives lack meaning. The sad result is we miss out on real fulfillment, and instead attempt to create it externally, with more money, possessions and personal acclaim.
In the end, those who haven’t established their authentic self resemble everyone else around them, all doing, saying and competing for the same things. They all become—forgettable.
The good news is that shifting from blending in to standing out can be accomplished at any time. Also, anyone can do it. It can take a lot of effort and a good deal of time, especially when we don’t know exactly what it involved. That’s why personal brand coaching can help accelerate the process, since the world itself does not provide a roadmap to authenticity.
Factor #2 – Know Your Values
Personal brands are built on personal values, and personal values are highly underrated. Personal values are not equivalent to the social values often referred to as “family values.” It is certainly possible that you do value such ideals as love, respect, honesty, fairness, and fidelity above all else. But maybe you value other things, such as balance, joy, strength, freedom, boldness, creativity or adventure – which are not generally seen as family values. They are still values, none the less.
I have a Values Worksheet that can help you identify what values are truly representative of how you want to show up in the world. But personal values also are excellent guides to the right organizations, relationships and situations for you to engage with. This is true because, stated or unstated, known or unknown, we all have personal values, and organizations all have brand values. When we find the right role, right employee, right love interest, etc. there is a strong sense of alignment between what we personally value and what the other people value.
Our personal values are much like our DNA – unique to us individually. When we know and embody our values, we cannot keep them from shining through in everything we say and do. There are those who will not resonate with them, and others who absolutely will. Regardless of the response, you will be 100% unforgettable as a result.
Factor #3 – Live Your Truth
Some people refer to “speaking your truth” and that is certainly a component of living it, but not all there is to it. Each of us has unique perspectives, experiences, insights and talents. Copying someone else’s path to success, viral social media post, or even going along to get along, ultimately becomes exceedingly stressful. This is often because the path in misaligned with your personal brand, or it is just a shady misrepresentation itself.
Personal branding demands that you think for yourself, find your individual path and voice, and then stand up for it. You cannot be unforgettable any other way. There is a caveat to this, though: Too many of us think that standing for something involves screaming whatever we stand for at the top of our lungs, from every social media platform, and in opposition to something else. This is utterly false. Instead, once you know what your perspective and voice are, settle into them. Examine what living fully in alignment with them would look like, sound like, and feel like. Then do that. To quote Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Factor #4 – Be Consistently Memorable
Even in today’s isolated social dynamic, no one is invisible. Our brains are wired to remember stories and sensory experiences, and to be unforgettable you must deliver both. This means, not that there is a right or a wrong way to style your hair, a right or a wrong sort of outfit to wear, or a right or wrong color for you. There is, however, an inevitable message you present when you wear those outfits, style your hair that way, and favor a particular color palette. Those messages are driven by society, and while you may not wish to conform to certain norms, it is vital that you diverge from them with clarity and intentionality.
Naturally, you don’t want to wear see-through blouses to a church function (assuming you want to remain a member of the church.) Doing so is out of alignment. It’s memorable. But being memorable in that way is the rebellious (and thus inauthentic) approach.
Conversely, only wearing formless clothing in neutral colors to avoid being seen (or memorable) does not guarantee your invisibility. Instead you are likely to be remembered negatively, for seeming to have low esteem.
Ultimately, we are creating our own personal brand either consciously, or unconsciously. When we activate our personal brand with the intentionality of authenticity, values-based living, standing for ourselves and our unique perspective, while embodying all this in our personal style, then it is nearly impossible to be anything besides unforgettable. Getting there is often the challenging part.
If you would like help building a strong foundation for your personal brand, let's talk! I'd love to give you a FREE strategy session to grow your impact and influence easily and at an accelerated pace. Message me, or book the session directly.