What’s Your Credibility Factor?

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As part of my series of guest posts from colleagues here is contribution from Kim Foley, president of Professional Image Strategies. Kim teaches credibility workshops for organizations, as well as being a television stylist and author. In a world filled with casual Friday attire, I though she could shed some light on the relationship between branding and credibility.

Everyday my challenge is to help my clients be seen as the credible experts they are. Whether my client is on the cover of a magazine or professional journal, being interviewed on television, or executing a presentation or speech, it is critical that their visual message supports and enhances their verbal message. Think about it – have you ever been watching a TV interview and wondered, “Where in the heck did they dig this person up?”

Your credentials and reputation are only part of the story when it comes to credibility and branding. It is far too easy to dismiss those who do not conform to the picture we carry in our heads of a credible person. All societies and tribes have cultural, unspoken rules about what communicates integrity, and garners trust from those around us. Everyday we all have the opportunity to either enhance or to sabotage our personal brand. The hard truth is – it is impossible to inspire or persuade others if they do not see us as having credibility.

The fight or flight reaction is still part of our primal response. The result of this response in modern times is to either confront or disengage from those whom we do not trust. Everyday in the workplace there are lost opportunities and derailed dreams all because of a person’s credibility. Those with questionable credibility will not get the job promotion they are seeking; those running for office will not get elected; and those trying to sell, persuade or lead will be left feeling confused about why they are powerless.

So how do you assess your own credibility factor, or the credibility factor of those who are representing your organization? Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  1. What is driving your ‘look’? Is it style? Comfort? Or is it (as it should be) credibility. Successful people are intentional about their choice of clothes, shoes, hairstyle and accessories, and credibility is their motivator.
  2. What are the cultural expectations for your profession or position? When you are introduced to a person of influence, do you fit their view of what a “_____” should look like? Is your look too casual? Is your wardrobe up to date?
  3. Do you understand the subliminal statements of color? Everything from the color of your tie to the color of your organization’s logo should be chosen with care. They are making impressions on the minds of those you meet, visit your websites and receive your brochures. What is the message you want to communicate? Is it strength and power? Is it reliability and trust? The color and design you choose will either support or negate that message.
  4. Do you know what your clothing is saying? Your outward appearance is like the frame on an artist’s masterpiece. It should be complementary, without distracting the eye of the viewer. You want them to remember you, not what you were wearing. Your visual message must support your verbal message.

The assumptions that people make about us when we are first introduced are critically important. These assumptions, or stories, that are constructed in people’s minds, strongly influence whom they do business with, whom they take seriously and whom they desire to build a relationship with. We need to take control of that story. We need to carefully craft the message that we project.

If we want people to perceive us as a person or an organization of value and integrity, someone they can trust, then we need to understand the value of appearance when we are planning and implementing branding. When we don’t take the time and effort to create the visuals that match the message we desire to portray, we make a subliminal statement to everyone around us about how little value we place on ourselves and the organization that we represent.  When we acknowledge the role appearance plays, we can support our personal and professional brand.

–Kim Foley

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