Do you walk your talk? Is the image you portray to the world in alignment with who you really are? Does this image work for you? It may not be the way we want things to be, but people do make assumptions about you based on your appearance, attitude, and the words you choose. And these assumptions can affect whether or not they buy your book, or work with you in any other way. Therefore, presenting an authentic image that is appropriate for your brand and true to who you are is very important.
Try out this thought experiment: What is your first impression of someone who:
- Talks about homeless children?
- Brags about their drinking exploits?
- Dresses like a stockbroker?
- Dresses like a plumber?
- Dresses like a rap star?
Do you immediately have a positive or negative thought about them? Why is that? From those single characteristics, you don’t actually know enough about that person to make a character judgment, however, you pretty much can’t help yourself.
This is why, as an Authorneer, you need to present yourself in a way that depicts your values, especially your book-based business’ values. Not only do you want to make the kind of impression that will attract your ideal readers and clients, but people also find it disconcerting when they can’t quite figure you out. For example:
- “This author writes about investing and wealth management, but he looks like he works in a factory.”
- “She says she’s all about helping the poor and the homeless, but she drives a $100,000 car and constantly posts on social media about her extravagant spending habits.”
- “This author writes about family values, but his Facebook page is full of pictures of him boozing it up with his buddies.”
When the image you present to the world clearly isn’t accurate, it raises a lot of red flags, and others won’t trust you.
You Authentic Image Can Vary with the Situation
Your image not only needs to fit with your values, but it also needs to fit the situation, as well. The self you present on social media might be more conversational than the self you present when on the stage talking about your topic of expertise. The way you post on Facebook and Twitter might be a bit different than the way you post on LinkedIn.
I’m not saying to be different people in different situations. I’m saying be the appropriate version of you in different situations. Your authentic self is like a color that has different shades. Blue is always blue, but sometimes it is powder blue, and other times it is navy.
What does the image you present say about you?
Here are some tips for making sure that you present an authentic image and that your image and your values line up:
1. Be realistic regarding the situation and how it relates to your authentic image.
Is this a book signing at a local beach-side bookstore? Or is it a presentation for a corporate audience? Your Hawaiian shirt might play well at the former, but not at the latter. Presenting the “shade of you” that doesn’t fit the situation may create challenges for your success in that situation. In other words, present the part of who you are that is appropriate to the situation.
This goes for language, as well. Some business owners love dropping the F-bomb and it works for them because it matches the image they are trying to present. But don’t join them if it doesn’t fit your image.
- Keep in mind that the right clothing, vocabulary, and attitude will vary with the situation. You don’t want to be viewed as a constantly changing chameleon, but there are things that just won’t work in certain situations.
- Consider the image that will work for you in a given situation and make the necessary adjustments. A certain image may be accurate, but that doesn’t mean it’s appropriate 24/7.
2. Know what matters to you.
Your values are an important part of developing the image you present to the world. Are freedom and rejecting social norms part of your value system? Adventure? Money? Helping others?
If you are not sure what your values are, check out my Personal & Business Core Values Exercise. All you’ll need is a notebook, journal or several sheets of paper; a pen or pencil; a highlighter, and some quiet time.
3. Understand what it means when your true-self and your image are incongruent.
It means that you’re trying to present yourself as something you’re not. You’re not happy with your reality, so you’re pretending to be something else. This incongruence makes both you and the people you’re communicating with uncomfortable, even if it is not immediately obvious.
For example, when I first started developing my online presence, I thought I had to be all business and chose my wardrobe, tone, and colors to match. However, that didn’t work for me. People could intuitively tell that I wasn’t the button-up suit type. Once I started letting my creative geek side out, I started experiencing much greater success in attracting the types of clients I wanted to work with.
4. Think about the authentic image you want to present as an author.
Just from the headshots they choose, you can often tell the difference between a horror author, a science fiction author, and a business author. What author persona do you want to project? What is the first impression you want potential readers to have?
Make sure this image matches who you are inside. For example, as I mentioned in the last point, when I wore a pin-stripe suit in my headshot it just didn’t work. However, when I got my pictures re-done in clothes I actually enjoy wearing, it has turned things around.
When they see your images on social media, on your website, or in an event program, can people figure out who you are and what you’re about? Do you like what they believe about you? Is it an accurate depiction of you?
Find the middle ground. You might be a casual person, but that doesn’t mean you can wear gym shorts and sneakers everywhere. There are other ways to present yourself as someone that isn’t stuffy and overly formal. Be honest about who you are, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot in the process.
Image and Personality Congruence Puts People at Ease
When your true self and your image match, it puts people at ease. People find you more likable. And your ideal readers and clients find you more relatable and will want to read your books and hire you to work with them.
Think about how you present yourself to the world. Are you making your life easier or more challenging?