With much of our lives taking place online, our personal brand of style is more important than ever. Since we are forced to work remotely and connect via our social media profiles and spaces like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Teams, many individuals have become complacent regarding their appearance because they are logging in from home. If anything, we should be hypersensitive to how we are appearing online in our images and on camera for our work and play.
I draw often from my experience as a performing artist in my work as a stylist, and life online has shown these skills are critically important for individuals who want to be successful in this virtual space. Zoom has created a phenomenon that mimics the experience many actors have in their first on-camera acting class. For anyone who has ever done on camera work, you can agree the first time is particularly painful, especially when watching the first playback of your work in front of an audience of your peers. Being on camera heightens our awareness of our own idiosyncratic tendencies and brings awareness to our own physical imperfections. As actors practice skills to master shooting for tv and film (which is different from performing on a stage), they learn to hone their skills to become more natural in front of the camera and understand that even their thoughts can be read through the lens. Things like color, lighting, wardrobe, and make-up can also enhance a performance and be truly transformative in the outcome of what we see in the final product on screen. The question begs to be asked, why aren’t we thinking about these things at home?
When I went to shoot my headshots as a performer, I sat down and created “types” or “breakdowns” for myself so that I would be clear in my images about the roles I was perfect for. The images I took during my sessions were strategically planned out and wardrobed with these “types” in mind because these were the kinds of roles that I knew I was suited for. I needed the right images to get me in the audition room to demonstrate my ability which was part of my personal brand packaging. Like in business, we do not always book the job, but when we are clear about who we are and what we do, it helps attract the opportunities and people we need to be working with.
Why then are so many professionals missing the boat on this opportunity? I’ve seen many professionals post photos of themselves for their work, and while some of the images are fine, it’s obvious that there has been little thought put into creating a look to compliment who they are and what they do. I have also seen branding packages offered by companies that will help with outfitting your enterprise with all of the necessary business tools but there is very little mentioned about developing personal style aside from new headshots. The most important marketing tool we have in business is ourselves; our expertise, our opinions, our processes, and all the other attributes and skills we bring to our work. These can be expressed through our imagery and physical appearance and it has been proven scientifically that it only takes seconds to form an opinion about someone from a first impression. Why are we still seeing corporate headshots of women (and men) in black suit jackets and white button-down shirts that are unflattering and say nothing about the individual? Why do we think we have to honor some of these antiquated notions of what workwear is supposed to be? Why has showing up unkempt in our pajamas or gym clothes on Zoom become the norm? It’s not professional, and it’s not okay. We are all working more than ever because we are at home, but we are lacking clearly defined parts of our day and the morale of individuals in isolation has gone down. Yes, everyone is busy and has had to make adjustments that affect our lifestyle. Getting dressed and feeling good are necessary to recreate the rituals and habits of our pre-Covid lives and it does help to shift our brains into work mode for increased productivity at home.
One of the reasons I developed personal style branding sessions is to help my clients put the same effort and care into their personal image as they do for their work. Image should be carefully crafted and is even more important than a logo or an email signature. We are all in front of the camera now and part of this shift is to accept that we are expected to be “on” when we are online. This does not mean we have to wear suits and dresses and lots of make up; it means we need to show up in a way that honors ourselves, our professionalism, and our clients and colleagues. It means we design our professional space and persona the same way a performer would prepare to arrive on set. This is now part of the way we are working and will continue to work for the foreseeable future.
So what does your personal style branding say about you?