“You either create a brand that is distinct……or you become extinct”.

Tom Peters, In Search of Excellence.

Guest Article, by Shannon Smith

According to a UCLA study, 85% of all decisions are made with our eyes. This holds true when we meet people for the first time. We make an impression in three ways: Visual, Verbal and Vocal. What’s most interesting is that the visual component is the most important by far.

Whether you like it or not, the image you project, what we call your personal brand affects other’s decisions about you — your intelligence, character and ability — and further determines if they want to do business with you. Clients have told me that, because they dismissed the importance of personal branding, they lost promotions, deals fell through, memberships were denied and friends disappeared.

If your personal brand is not congruent, attractive and attracting, you will be passed over – guaranteed. Therefore, to be competitive, to have a greater influence on others and attract more business, it’s important to project a unique personal brand.


Before you sell anything — your product, company or service — you sell yourself first. Just like branding a product, when your personal brand is powerful and congruent, it’s natural that you are perceived to be more desirable and “in demand”.

A recent survey in the Wall Street Journal notes that the more charismatic the CEO, the better the firm performs, from 10 – 15 percent better. The CEO’s “image” influence translates all the way down the line to the reception area. Not only do we pay higher salaries and commissions to CEO’s, lawyers or architects who have a powerful personal brand, we put a higher value on their property.

Large, successful companies understand the power “branding” gives their products. They spend a lot of time, money and energy to create a brand that is eye catching and appealing enough to sell their product through to market. The buyer must feel a strong connection with their brand to buy it.

Do you think of yourself as a company of ONE?

How much time, money and energy have you spent in developing a personal brand that is unique enough to sell “you” to your market? Perhaps, like many of our clients, you dismiss personal branding as frivolous and unnecessary until (like they did) you hit a brick wall, experience a downturn in business, a big contract falls through or you fail to get the next promotion.

An individual who has a well-defined personal brand has more status and a tremendous advantage over the competition. Whether you want social or business success, when you are well branded you are pre-sold, giving you a huge advantage over others selling themselves.


In the beginning it’s about selling yourself first. After all it only takes 30 seconds to make a first impression. To get someone interested in you, it’s enough to give away a few pieces of info. You want to tease them, whet their appetite and make them drool for more. It’s simply the outer packaging — substance comes later.

Here’s a short story about a woman I met recently while attending a business networking function. She seemed pleasant enough when introduced and began to chat. Her out of date clothes (at least by 15 years), her badly scuffed shoes, lack of make up and long stringy hair gave the impression that she was probably behind the scenes in business…maybe in a junior support position, on the order desk or in shipping. It wasn’t the case, she was the president of her own PR company, and was attending the event to meet potential clients. She had absolutely no idea how negatively she was being perceived or what her image was saying about her ability, knowledge and credibility. Without even trying she was sabotaging her chances for success. She hadn’t given a thought to her most valuable asset – her personal brand… but left it to chance. Within 60 seconds I had decided she was not someone I would do business with.

Have you given thought to how you are being perceived? If not, it may be time for you to take a personal assessment in the privacy of your home. Let’s start with a just few questions (part of our larger Image Audit) to determine attitude, knowledge and goals. It’s important to BE HONEST.

1. Has your business changed? Has your position or responsibilities changed?

2. Has your personal life changed significantly?

3. Is your “personal brand” in line with your position and lifestyle?

4. Are you keeping up with your business and life goals?

5. When was the last time you took stock – seriously – 5, 10 maybe 15 years ago – or never? Weight, mannerisms, attire, habits, etc.

6. When was the last time you changed your hairstyle, your habits, treated yourself?

7. Does your wardrobe and how you use it reflect the trust and responsibility placed upon you by senior management?

8. How would your clients or associates describe you?

More importantly – would you do business with you?

Perhaps your answers to some of these questions gave you a jolt, or perhaps not. Where do you rate on the scale of one to 10?


As image strategists, we are being hired by companies to train their employees in personal presentation, appropriate dress and grooming, the fine art of manners, business etiquette, dining and how to maneuver in other countries. Even though intelligence, experience and education count, employers tell us they are simply not hiring people who lack these important “soft” communication skills, ethics and manners.

In today’s global economy, competition has increased dramatically and business has become more conservative in attitude and business attire. Even in corporate America, the suit has now returned. The hallmarks of successful individuals are their confidence, manners and poise. Mediocrity is dead, and it’s about time. It’s no longer acceptable to dress inappropriately or eat with the wrong fork. In business and society today, there is a return to formality, elegance, manners and sophistication. It’s evident in what is happening all around us. People are getting dressed up again and fine dining is on the rise. People are entertaining clients and being entertained more often.

It’s all about the “Brand You“. If you want to get noticed, be more persuasive, attract new clients and acquire greater success, now is the time to pay attention…

Shannon Smith, President of Premiere Image International. Her corporate slogan “from unnoticed to unforgettable” captures the essence of her business. Her first book “Power Manners” is now available. For more information please call 416.324.8955 or visit this link.