The following is adapted from Find Your Clear Vision.
“What’s catfishing, Mommy?” my daughter asked.
I grew up on a lake in Missouri with catfish in it, but I still felt unsure of my answer. “It’s not fishing for catfish?”
“I don’t think so,” she replied. “It was a man on TV who wore a wig to fool his friends.”
When I see a new phrase on social media, I go to my trusted source: urbandictionary.com. It told me that catfishing is “the phenomenon of internet predators that hide who they really are by fabricating online identities to hook people into emotional/romantic relationships online.”
It’s no wonder we have issues trusting people. We are protecting ourselves, our hearts, and our reputation from cruel deception.
So, how does catfishing relate to you? Simple: when sharing your personal or professional brand, you ideally want to create a space where people feel safe to be with you and your vision, where they can trust that you are who you say you are.
Maybe you’re thinking, “But, Lisa, is anyone going to care what I have to say?” That isn’t the right question. The real question is, “How can I be trustworthy so people feel safe and connected to me?”
Visual Branding and Presence
Branding designers and advertising agencies design icons, symbols, graphics, and messages that, when put together repeatedly, create an emotional response, and over time the hope is that you will get to know them, like them, and trust them. “Know, like, trust” is a bedrock marketing theory that easily translates from big marketing budgets into personal branding.
To start to create that trust, think about what your brand looks like. A picture, or a great outfit, speaks a thousand words. Your visual presence arrives when you enter a real room or an online one. It’s your demeanor, your attitude, energy, and outfit. It’s your visual communication, from the colors you choose to wear to the typography and messaging on your social channels.
People need constant reminders that you are you—maybe even a thousand reminders—so creating the verbal and visual content of your personal and professional brand is time well spent.
There are six key elements to consider when it comes to building your brand: tone of voice, your name, color, typography, photography, and gimmick limit. Incorporating all of them correctly will allow you to consistently carry your vision forward so your presence is memorable and people can get to know you, like you, and trust you.
#1: Tone of Voice
The words you choose and your tone of voice leave a lasting impression. Sometimes they create magic and connection, sometimes heartbreak and confusion. We know this to be true because what you say sticks.
Words have a magnetism that attracts or repels people. Share your Clear Vision, and you become a visionary. Share your Paradox, and you get more of the same. Your tone of voice is your personality shining through your word choice and the message you are sending.
Consider your tone of voice an extension of your personality and expertise. The VP of strategy for a multimedia company will have a different tone of voice than a fitness instructor. Put thought into your word choice and how you choose to say it. It will leave an impression.
#2: Your Name
In business branding, this would be your logo, but for personal or professional branding, you don’t necessarily need a nice tidy logo that may feel too contrived. Instead, think about how you can creatively use your name. I have a client named Barbara Best, and she signs her emails, “Best always, Barbara.”
I took my husband’s last name when we were married, and it’s been tricky. People often get embarrassed because they don’t know how to pronounce Guillot, so they’ll skip over it in an introduction. In my signature at the bottom of my emails, I phonetically spell it out so it helps people remember. Lisa Guillot (Ghee-O).
When I send it to someone who is interviewing me on a podcast, I’ll add a second reference, (Guillot, like Guillotine without the T). This helps ease the embarrassment of not knowing or having to ask.
Color is my favorite element of branding. Bright, beautiful, and bold color is my jam. Literally, think of raspberry jam with a side of orange marmalade. Yours may be more subdued, preppy, traditional, or eccentric.
Color choice weaves into your fashion choices, and wearing certain colors can enhance your natural skin tone, making you look effortlessly beautiful. Color is also a way to create attention in a cluttered online world. Being consistent will make the biggest difference.
An easy way to find your color as it relates to personal branding is to look in your closet to see what color of clothes is most represented. Is your closet filled with warm jewel tones like you see in fall or the cool blues and greens of springtime? What two or three colors show up most often in your wardrobe? What color do people always say, “Damn, Queen, you look amazing! That is your color—you should wear it more often!!”
Color creates emotion; that’s why artists go through their “blue period.” That’s why there are so many shades of eyeshadow at MAC Cosmetics. Search for color trends online and find something that sticks with you and your personality, then start to “try it on” in your wardrobe and your personal marketing.
Typography styles come in two forms: serif and sans serif. Serif fonts have little feet on the end of the letters and have a more established feel to them. Think of Times New Roman, Garamond, and Bodoni.
A lot of high-end fashion brands like Dior, Prada, and Versace use serif fonts. Mercedes-Benz and TIME Magazine also use serif fonts. It gives off a certain timeless feel, which is what these companies are aiming for in their typographic choices.
Sans serif fonts, on the other hand, don’t have the little feet at the ends of the letters; instead, they use crisp lines and either sharp or round edges, which make them feel modern and clean. Sans serif fonts are popular with tech companies like Google, Amazon, and Spotify. Popular sans serif fonts are Helvetica, Gill Sans, and Futura.
When choosing typography for your personal or professional brand, which will probably be seen in your social media posts, consider your tone of voice and how you want to visually communicate. Loud and proud? Consider a bold sans serif font. Traditional and academic? Consider a serif font.
Feeling shy about showing your face online?
“Toughies, kid,” as my dad would say.
You are the face and “personal” part of your brand. Photography invites people into a real, or online conversation; this is why dating apps work, and this is why candidates land interviews from LinkedIn. Period, end of story.
People want to connect with you. Personal photography of your smiling friendly face is crucial to enhance the know, like, and trust factor.
What audience you are trying to attract will determine what photography style you are going to need. If you are building a professional brand because you are a thought leader, author, or executive, you’ll need professional photography that is clear, clean, and impressive. Maybe it’s you next to a whiteboard doodling a brilliant idea, or at a modern white desk with a coworker brainstorming on a project together, or giving a talk with a microphone in hand.
#6: Gimmick Limit
The final element to build a personal or professional brand is actually one to not overdo: your gimmick limit.
A gimmick is one detail you use to attract and retain attention. “Be Bright” is my gimmick. The name of my coaching practice is Be Bright Lisa, and I use it as my signature in emails. I wear bright colors and use vibrant juicy watermelon, electric blue, and warm yellows in my social media.
If I posted a photo of me meditating in a grassy field on a dewy morning with an airy script that shared an enlightened Buddha-like quote about peace, it would confuse people. It wouldn’t be recognizable as my brand; it’s too many gimmicks.
You get one gimmick; that’s it—one thing that makes you stand out that’s yours, and you own it. Any more and you look silly.
Share Yourself with the World
Visual branding is happening all around us. Paying attention to these six elements—tone of voice, your name, typography, photography, color, and gimmick—are an easy way to kick off your visual brand to support your vision.
Sharing yourself with the world in a bigger way can be fun, and it certainly doesn’t have to be perfect. Play with it and choose elements that bring a smile to your face and that you are going to enjoy seeing and working with over time.
It’s not fixed in stone, and you can update as you would update your wardrobe, but do your best to find a brand look and feel that you can maintain consistently across all platforms you are engaging with for at least a year. That will give your audience time to know, like, and trust you—which is exactly what you want for your brand.
For more advice on creating an authentic, powerful brand, you can find Find Your Clear Vision on Amazon.
Lisa Guillot is a certified transformational life and leadership coach and branding expert and the best-selling author of Find Your Clear Vision: A New Mindset to Create a Vibrant Personal or Professional Brand with Purpose. She helps her clients find their Clear Vision and bring it to life through her Clear Vision Framework. Her clients include senior-level executives of Fortune 500 entertainment and media companies, leaders in marketing and tech, and ambitious entrepreneurs.
Lisa is the founder of Clear Vision U, a mindset and personal brand training program, and Be Bright Lisa Coaching. She is also the host of Find Your Clear Vision, a personal branding and mindset podcast.
Lisa and her family live just outside of Chicago.
Connect with her at:
Be Bright Lisa Coaching: https://bebrightlisa.com/
Clear Vision U: https://bebrightlisa.com/clearvisionu/
Find Your Clear Vision Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/find-your-clear-vision-podcast/id1567483541