Hollywood Coming to Your Office?
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Meredith A.C. Roth
Executive Publicist & Image Architect
Hollywood's in town and they're casting a movie. They need an extra to play the part of someone in your profession. So...what would the person they cast look like? What would he wear? How would he carry himself? How would he speak? What would his mannerisms be? What hairstyle would he have?
If you're not 100% sure Hollywood would cast YOU to play the part of someone who has your job today (or the next one you hope to get), you should be worried.
Why? Because all of your business acquaintances are Hollywood.
Imagine when you first meet someone...In those first eight seconds, you've pretty much already summed her up. And right then was her chance to meet or exceed your expectations. If she does not "look the part," you now have your first traces of doubt. Should you trust her judgment? Is she really an authority? That first eight seconds can be pretty costly. In sales we all know the last thing you want to do is start a sales pitch at a disadvantage. Neutral to positive is always preferred. Image is no different. We need to understand our image as a business imperative. If we don't, we very well may be starting each business transaction with an obstacle to overcome.
Here's an example: You're a senior executive in the fast-paced advertising industry. Guess what your prospects might be expecting of you? Well, since your industry is at the nexus of media, publishing and technology, you're going to need to personify immediate currency.
If you're Ms. Advertising Exec, and you expect clients to shell out a big chunk of their budgets to YOU...you better not show up with an image that screams...
This is especially true if Ms. Ad Exec is conducting business outside of Atlanta, where the local "twang" carries its own challenges...
- ladies auxiliary;
- more interested in getting ahead of the buffet line than getting ahead of trends in the industry; and
- never done business above the Mason-Dixon line.
Think This Couldn't Possibly Be You?
I specialize in the kind of advice no one thinks he needs, no one wants to hear and just about no one wants to GIVE. It's too risky and too awkward. Yet everyone I've ever asked has fessed-up to at least one instance of not hiring someone or deciding to "pass" on a candidate who was perfectly competent, but lacking in "image." Imagine the opportunity cost for all of these "passed over" professionals. And I bet they have no idea what really cost them the position.
Something to ponder: On his way to becoming—and long after he became—the richest and most successful business person on the planet, Bill Gates thought it was important to re-tool his image. Why?
There's a business objective behind every professional's image. Unfortunately, many of us choose to ignore our own image, or are the last to know we need help in this area. And don't think it's just Bill Gates. All politicians...All celebrities use image as a device to further their careers. Why shouldn't you?
Here's Where to Start:
- Picture the person who's the absolute best at what you do—real or imaginary. Write down every attribute.
- Consider the competitive landscape—not your company's, but YOURS. If someone were gunning for your job, what weaknesses might you have exposed? Write them down.
- Find at least one person with impeccable professional judgment, experience in your industry and willingness to be brutally honest with you on a regular basis. Lock her in as your "image partner."
- Assign three "brand attributes" to yourself—current descriptors or aspirations. These attributes should be in context to your industry, company and personality. You now have a litmus test for every "image" decision.
- Decide what you have to do to knockout your competitive weaknesses. Assign deadlines. Do it!
- Meet with your "brutally honest" counsel today (and then again more often than you can stand).
If you fully commit to this plan, you will get at least five overt and sincere compliments in the first month (some report all five coming in day one). By month six, most of your colleagues and cohorts will have forgotten that you were ever anything less than "Hollywood material" for the role of YOU in your profession.
©Meredith A.C. Roth 2003