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I 'failed' at first impressions… and what I did to fix that.

23 April 2016

Back in my early thirties I believed that my work should speak for itself. And I worked really hard. Some mornings you’d find a dinner plate on my desk, due for return to the restaurant near my workplace. One time when I had terrible tonsillitis, I had my laptop couriered to my house so I could work from bed.

In those days I didn’t give a lot of thought to how I was perceived. I was in PR so it was my gig to get the big brands (think Hallmark Cards, VB and Crown) I worked on loads of (positive) exposure. I was supposed to be behind the scenes.

Whilst there were many terrific people I was close to at work (and many are still in my life to this day) those relationships were built over time. I realized I wasn’t consistently nailing first impressions or building rapport quickly. And when you’re in business for yourself – those skills matter.

A colleague confirmed my suspicions.

“People often don’t like me when they first meet me,” I said. Expecting her to dismiss my theory.

Instead she said: “Yeah, I didn’t like you when I first met you.”

Houston we have a problem.

Here’s what I did:

1/ Got clear on my personal brand. I spent time considering the impression I wanted to make. I developed my brand values, voice and pillars and gave thought to how this supported my work and the clients I wanted to attract. And I nailed my niche. I also developed my brand story – so gave thought to the how, what, when, where, who and the all important why. BTW – this is a handy checklist when writing media releases too.

2/ Evolved my behaviour. I love reading and an airport bookshop is my happy place. The self-development books that have made the biggest impact on me include: “The 7 Habits of highly effective people”“The Big Leap”, “Playing Big” and “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. The biggest changes to my behaviour saw me learn to react less (I got fired up very easily) and to engage more on first meeting people by smiling and listening.

3/ Cleared out my wardrobe. I had a colour consultation and loved it so much I went on to study and become a colour stylist. Over time I weeded out all my black clothes (head to toe black was my uniform) and anything that didn’t flatter. I now buy less and better. A well-fitted wardrobe that flatters benefits my personal brand and not to mention my bank balance, the environment and self-esteem. Anyone not enjoy a compliment? If you’re not getting them often – you are doing something wrong.

And here’s my work in progress stuff

Mastering names
I am pretty good with faces but names less so. I have been guilty of listening to an introduction and then not being able to recall the person’s name 10 seconds later. Terrible right? I agree. I go to a lot of events and meet scores of amazing women. Remembering names is important to me.

Listening more
I still chomp at the bit to share my stories. But listening to someone intently and without anticipation of what you will say next is a priceless skill. The art of listening is one I wish to master.

Building my profile as an expert in just one area
Getting comfortable with self-promotion can be tricky, particularly for women, and yet it’s so important. You also need to get clever with how you promote and avoid the serious temptation of a scattergun approach. I have numerous passions and talents and even though I ‘preach the niche’ I sometimes find it hard to focus on just one thing too. Right now I am promoting my personal brand and profile building work through Facebook advertising and am soon to start pitching for more guest blogging opportunities.

What about you… what is working? What’s not so hot?

If you’re not making the impact you would like, despite delivering great results, it could be your personal branding is all over the shop. It’s important to consciously curate your personal brand – enabling you to confidently share what you do and make a bigger impact amongst peers, influencers and potential clients.

If you’d benefit from a compelling personal brand (and I know you would) I invite you to join me for “Personal Presence” a workshop on Saturday 4 June 9.30am – 1pm at The Cowork Collective in East Brunswick.

In the workshop we will cover a number of valuable principles. In particular we’ll spend time:

1/ Developing your personal brand.

2/ Learning how to step into the spotlight with confidence.

3/ Creating your signature style (via your wardrobe) and using the principles of colour psychology to help you stand out from the crowd.

Joining me will be the delightful Louise Weigall from Style With Substance. Louise is a stylist and fashion specialist who is passionate about empowering women to dress with confidence each day. Her work is distinguished by her ability to identify styles that fit each body type perfectly. Louise will lead you through creating your signature style.

Early bird tickets are on sale NOW. Buy yours here.




  • Jade McKenzie

    Jade McKenzie 4 years ago

    Fabulous article Felicity! So lovely to see you in here!