VP of Brand and Corporate Marketing at Fuze, overseeing brand strategy, public relations, customer advocacy, content and creative.
As we approach the one-year mark since the onset of Covid-19 and with the possibility of widespread office reopenings on the horizon, now is the time to revamp and refresh our personal brands. As I’ve written about before, a strong personal brand is one that is authentic, recognizable and appropriate to your environment. Your personal brand defines how coworkers, executives and prospective customers view you. In the new normal, which is just around the corner, you’ll need to have a personal brand built for the hybrid workforce world — one that translates from your on-screen remote workdays to in-person interactions.
Here are some digital-first ideas for revamping and upgrading your personal brand in 2021.
1. Focus on the waist up.
Whether you like it or not, an important aspect of your personal brand is your personal style and presentation. My company’s survey of 100 tech leaders found that over half of respondents said employees will be returning to the office 1–2 days a week or less post-pandemic; and, according to Korn Ferry research, only 30% of professionals surveyed believe they’ll go back to working at their office when it reopens. So, your appearance from the waist up will likely matter most often.
Make sure you dress to impress. Just because you’re working from home doesn’t mean you need to let your personal style slump. Make an effort to dress up from the waist up to sharpen your presentation on screen. Invest in accessories that punch up your look, such as blue light glasses (I recommend opting for anti-glare), and invest in an on-brand headset or headphones that look good on-screen and give you a better meeting experience.
It also might be a good time to upgrade your lighting — one of the most important aspects of looking good on camera. Avoid facing away from a bright window, as this will likely cause a backlit shadow on camera. To take it up a notch in 2021, I also recommend investing in tools like the LumeCube light or Dracast Ring Light to help properly illuminate your space.
Overall, take a step back and think about how you appear to your colleagues when you speak or present. Evaluate and then adjust as needed.
2. Remember that your background matters too.
Of course, how you look on screen isn’t the only factor you should take into consideration. In my experience, people are tired of fake backgrounds and filters. A curated, real-life background is a great way to put your personal brand on display to your colleagues and peers.
It also helps to establish a dedicated work space. If you are on video calls often, create a work area to take your meetings from so that you can be consistent with your background presentation, and set boundaries for any “unwanted” visitors. I’ve seen colleagues use privacy screens and noise-canceling apps to create the illusion of a dedicated, serene space — when, in fact, I know there are kids hanging from the rafters mere feet away.
Also, identify your “at-home look.” Create a space that makes you happy, that reflects who you are and that you are excited to show off. I had a colleague in Nashville who displayed a piece from a local artist in the background of his workspace, and it was always a conversation-starter with customers and colleagues alike. I’ve seen others use their background space to show off their home team or alma mater pride, family, hobbies or other things they feel comfortable talking about as an ice breaker. But also remember that your personal brand environment, in a work setting, should be rated G. This is not the time to show off your home bar or political cartoons.
3. Translate your digital-first brand into real life.
As the world reopens and more in-person experiences become available, it will be time to take our refreshed digital selves back into the real world. Pick a few key elements of your personal brand to cross the chasm into your in-person office, networking and development experiences.
For example, what does your mask say about you? If we’re wearing masks through 2021, you have a prime piece of real estate to make a personal brand statement that you have not had in your video conferencing bubble. Develop a suitable “for work” mask collection that brings some of your video meeting background elements out for a spin. That could include your favorite sports team logo, a quote from a mentor or maybe a little seasonal flare.
Also, pick a few statement pieces. Whether it’s a travel mug that matches your at-home sidekick, a signature clothing color or a statement necklace, there should be a few pieces that translate from your video conference look to your in-person brand.
Always remember that less is more, so pick a few things that reflect who you are — do not go overboard. Remote work has given us the opportunity to showcase much more of ourselves than we have in the office, and it’s time to decide which elements can move between both worlds.
We can do this.
As someone who has been living in sweats and dry shampoo for the past year, I am challenging myself as well as all of you to take things up a notch when it comes to our personal brands. Despite the uncertainty that 2021 brings, and the many aspects of everyday life that are out of our control right now, we can still make professional goals for ourselves. Our personal brands are something we can control, but we should also remember that we’re not perfect and that we’re still in the midst of a very troubling time. So let’s all commit to putting our best foot forward in 2021 and push ourselves personally and professionally to be the best versions of ourselves — on screen and off.