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Inspiration Not Replication: Avoiding Copycat Personal Branding

How many times this week, have you been inspired by a celebrity, colleague or even just a random stranger on the train? Looking to others for inspiration in how to dress, decorate our homes, choose what books to read or communicate with others is only natural. In fact, much of what we learn throughout our lives is acquired by observing and modelling others – from learning our own language to picking up on the office etiquette in a new job.  

What’s vital, however, is that you bring enough authenticity into the mix so that you can continue to create your own unique personal brand, one that is inspired by others, not one that is a carbon copy of others. Clinical psychologist and personal brand consultant Dr Lisa Orban of Golden Notebook explains how we can do that just that.

Using inspiration to express yourself

An important part of our personal brand includes outer branding, which involves how we communicate our personal brands, through things like personal presence, communication, personal impact and personal style. It is also the part of our personal brand that is most susceptible to the copy cat trap. If you’re not really sure of your personal brand and how to communicate it, you may find yourself (consciously or unconsciously) outright copying the outer brands of others. Doing some work around inner branding attributes such as your personal values, strengths, passion, purpose and vision, and how you’d like those attributes to be perceived, is an ideal foundation for identifying how you’d like to portray yourself. So, if you’d like others to see that you’re actually a little edgy and creative, you may like to orient your personal style to communicate that.

While you may admire someone for their outer brand and sense of style, it’s important to be true to your own body shape and the environment and culture you find yourself in.  You may like that 50s Marilyn Monroe look with the full skirt, but it takes a certain figure to carry that off. Likewise, even if you love David Beckham’s tattoos you may have to concede that they won’t go down well at the board meeting…at least in your present organisation.  A great example of someone being a true original is celebrity New Yorker Iris Apfel, who mixes high end with cheap and cheerful, along with those trademark glasses, to create her own signature style.

Creating an inspired lifestyle

Our lifestyle can also communicate volumes about our personal brand, as it includes everything from our home and office environments to how we travel, work and play.  The media is often a rich source of lifestyle inspiration and ideas and can be used as a launching pad for creating a lifestyle that best reflects you. For example, if you find yourself inspired by a celebrity’s home make-over in a glossy interiors magazine, perhaps you can use that inspiration to motivate yourself to plan and embark on your own home improvement project…anything from adding on an extension to re-doing the living room in a way that draws inspiration from others yet feels authentically you. Even adding new accessories such as plusher throw pillows, designer candles, sleek coffee table books or a vase of fresh flowers can glam up the décor and communicate “a look” that expresses your personal brand. If you find yourself coveting Anna Wintour’s lux office, ask yourself what it is that attracts you to her aesthetic, and would this style of décor be appropriate for your work environment (or perhaps you work in a setting where your office needs to feel more welcoming)?

Understanding what draws you in

If you’re continuously drawn to someone, whether it’s a celebrity or real life acquaintance, this could be a prime opportunity for a little self-discovery. What makes others so interesting and compelling to you? Try to pin down what it is that is attracting you. Perhaps it’s their outer branding such as the way they wear colour or the way they walk into a room with presence. How can you uniquely develop and express similar qualities? If you already have them, what can you do to bring them to the fore? This could be anything from booking a session with a personal stylist to trying out activities like Toastmasters or acting classes to help cultivate more personal presence. Or are you reacting to inner branding attributes such as their values and strengths? If you recognise these attributes in yourself, how can you best exude them? Similarly, how can you also let your unique values and strengths shine through?

Or perhaps you are attracted to a sport or activity they support, or their participation in an interesting fundraising event, or a charity run. Then it’s time to start being more interesting yourself! Do an inventory: Start general…what things interest you in life? What gets you angry or passionate? These may reveal particular causes to invest in. What about hobbies or sport you can try out? Perhaps this calls for visiting that Dojo that’s always piqued your interest on the way home or joining that yoga class you’ve been meaning to try.  

Cultivating your own personal brand is such a rich and personal adventure: why would you want to make it about anyone else?

Bringing together her extensive training, experience and passion in both psychology and branding, Lisa Orban founded Golden Notebook. A chartered clinical psychologist, Lisa trained and practised in New York City for eleven years before relocating to London. Lisa helps clients make a name for themselves by discovering their distinct and authentic personal brand. She takes a unique approach to personal branding that combines psychological assessment and theory with branding strategies to create for powerful and enduring individual change and personal impact.

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