be who you are, and then some

My organization hosted an event this last weekend, with about 150 people — artists, business leaders, community leaders, etc. — in attendance. In the days leading up to the reception, several people called me to ask me what the dress code for the event was.

Now, things are pretty casual on Cape Cod, as a rule. Even fancy events don’t get that fancy. It’s just too much of a beach-and-leisure culture.

But many of the folks asking the question were artists who were being honored or featured in some way, and so my answer to them was “dress like an artist.”

And then they asked me what that meant.

I’ve been thinking a lot about personal branding, both because we just finished leading a class on this (and other) PR-related topics at work, and also because some of my favorite people have been writing about personal brand management lately, too.

A lot of folks get turned off by the idea that they should have a personal brand — that this all sounds way too market-y and salesman-y, especially for artists and other creative types.

Fact is, you have a personal brand. The only question is whether or not you’re aware, and are doing anything actively to manage it.

Your personal brand is nothing more or less than how you present yourself. This means in person, in writing, on the phone, online, at the grocery store when you don’t think anyone is looking — anytime you’re visible, you’re creating an impression.

Does this mean you have to always be “on?”

No, not as long as your personal brand is in alignment with who you actually are.

A friend of mine says of one of her favorite people that, no matter where you slice her, she’s the same through and through. It always makes me think of Neapolitan ice cream. No matter where you slice it, it’s always strawberry, vanilla, chocolate

Beyond this basic premise of Be Who You Are it’s just a matter of polishing yourself up a bit for public consumption.

For this polishing job, I lean on a second mantra: Be Who You Wish You Were.

I wish I were kinder, more thoughtful of others, more generous, less critical, and just generally nicer.

So I act as if I were.

I hope I am as responsible, helpful, and dependable as I like to think I am.

So I act as if I were.

What does it mean if I tell an artist to dress like an artist?

Be who you are. And then some.

(By the way, Chris Brogan really does have this one nailed as far as what a personal brand is, and why you should care. Please do read.)


2 responses to “be who you are, and then some

  1. You’re so kind for the shout out. And I’m grateful for your ideas and insights around the post.

    I don’t know that you have to always be on. I do think that you have to be who you really are, and not too far afield of what you’re portraying. It’s hard to play a role, I guess I’m saying.

    But your point about acting like a responsible person is a great thing. I do that often. I’m a big fan of stretching myself beyond reality.

  2. What weird timing. This past week Alyson Stanfield of has asked about dressing like and artist, and this very evening I had a private view so had to dress up. I’m not into clothes and fashion and all that possibly because I’ve always been one step behind. If I could I’d wear a skirt with my cycling top and Shimano shoes all the time! (and I sometimes do)

    Tonight I decided I wanted to wear my little black dress, which has been in my closet unloved for nearly 10 years. But I don’t have the ‘right’ shoes. Sod it – I pulled on my high suede boots, through a knitted shrug over it and showed off my little dress. I think my random mixing of things is probably artsy in itself?

    I’d remind artists that whatever your ‘look’ remember to be comfortable too. Talking and mingling and acting yourself is your brand too, and that’s harder to do if you’re self-conscious or uncomfortable in an unusual outfit.

    Oh, and at the end of the day it’s only about the shoes anyway. You can tell about a person by their shoes. 😉

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