I recently joined a panel of women business professionals at the Thread to talk about personal branding. I really enjoyed the opportunity to get a hold of this big juicy topic. Fellow speakers included Tammy Allen, CMO for Foulston Siefkin; Jillian Carroll, host of KSN TV’s Good Day Kansas; and Angela Green, Wichita Moms. Emily Juhnke, VP of marketing and communications for Keycentrix served as moderator. Most were friends before this event. All are now. Check out my lessons learned – and shared..

Q. Has it been a conscious effort to establish your brand? How have you done it, and what is the benefit?

A. In the early days when I was just starting out, personal branding was not even a thing. I just organically did it. It has always been an extension of my personality and my business. Arty, creative, opinionated, fun-loving. I love fashion, so that part was delightful and gave me an excuse to shop. After all, who is going to hire a designer who doesn’t display a current aesthetic?

Q. How do you show up as your authentic self while maintaining your brand? 

A. It’s easy because it’s one in the same. I show up as me. I might tone it down a bit occasionally, but I have found that being my authentic self works out well. Realistically, not everyone will always like you. You need to be okay with that and not try to change yourself to suit them.

Q. Are there challenges for women in particular?

A. I found that being the only women in the room for the first 20 years of my career was more of an advantage than a disadvantage. I stood out. Also, the guys seemed to like me because I spoke up and contributed. I quickly learned to be strategic in my comments. I usually chose to be the last to speak so I had time to think through my comments and refine my points. I read the room carefully and never repeated points others had already made. Today, I’m happy there are more women at the table. I enjoy our kindred spirits and ability to get stuff done. Women tend to do what they say they will do. I like that.

Q. How have you chosen boards community activities to support your brand? 

A. At this point in my career, I only choose organizations I can get fully behind. I must believe in their mission, like the leadership, and see that they are making a difference. I choose carefully and limit the number so I can show up for them with my time, my endorsement and investment.

Q. Let’s talk about social media. Boundaries? Advice?

A. I want to be taken seriously so I avoid sexy photos and save those for my husband. I take another minute to proof my work and make sure I am using active verbs and expressive words. My rule: I post interesting, well-composed, nicely lighted images. I use light retouching. I abhor goofy filters and effects. I also stay away from politics and religion. 

Q. How much does the way you physically present yourself matter? 

A. It matters. Design communicates visually in seconds. Your physical presentation also makes an immediate statement. I make a daily effort to be healthy and in good shape, making time for real foods, exercise at least four days a week, home facials, meditation and laughter. If I am stressed it shows, so I do not overbook myself like I used to. I found that lifestyle is not sustainable. I make an effort to stand out by choosing artistic, interesting clothing that not everyone else is wearing. The older I get, the more emphasis I put on comfort and fit. I like classic, quality fabrics, and easy-to-care-for clothing. Jeans and tennis shoes have become a go-to as long as they are great jeans and hip tennies. I shed high heels a decade ago and now watch women traipse through airports, ruining a beautiful stride, their posture and their feet. I also have a serious relationship with my hairdresser.

Q. What insider secrets do you want women to walk away with?

A. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that proportion. Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. Life begets life. Energy creates energy. It is by spending oneself that one becomes rich. 

Interested in joining The Thread, a women’s leadership collective? You can do so here.

Images courtesy of Jenelle Robinson Photography.