Rebranding the Branding Professional

So I broke down and hired a stylist.

And I’ll admit, I feel kind of fabulous saying that. And even more fabulous having photos like these of my own clothes:

Amanda Miller Littlejohn's look pulled by Robin Fisher of Polished Image

I should back up a bit. And explain why I felt the need (and could justify the expense) of hiring someone to essentially pick out my clothes.

I used to feel so put together back when I was what I considered my perfect size, weight, and when I was doing exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I was about 22-years-old and I felt I had figured everything out. I had done pretty well with college, become this rock star English major who consistently wowed her professors with thoughtful papers on Post-Colonialism, the concept of “the Other” and the Negritude movement. I was, in my opinion (with all of the perspective a 22-year-old can muster) at the height of my writing and focused on pushing the envelope in both literature, cultural criticism and journalism. I was confident and sassy with an artsy twist.  But at the same time, I was about my business.

I was this girl:

Amanda Miller Littlejohn PR Social Media

Then…something changed. As quickly as I found Amanda, I began to lose her. I struggled to eek out a career path that included my interests in creative writing, content production and business. I started out doing public relations work with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, then I worked for a while at a lobbying firm, and got to travel abroad and do some important networking and learn the ins and outs of consulting with government agencies and  foreign countries. But soon that didn’t allow me to flex my creative muscles often enough. So I started freelance PR writing on the side. And then when this story was published in the Sunday Washington Post, I got the journalism bug. I began putting myself out there and  building my portfolio of clips. After a while, I landed a journalism fellowship to Northwestern University’s Medill School that opened the door to a coveted staff writer position at the Washington City Paper.

During all of this change, my style was in limbo, but it didn’t really matter. Because no one was really looking at me, or so I thought. I was simply the writer; the vessel charged at getting the story out into the world.

Fast forward a few years. I’m on maternity leave, and my editor is calling me to let me know that my paper is making further cuts so I have a decision to make: I can give up my job or stick around and take someone else’s spot. I pass on filling the space since I was contemplating getting back to my PR.

By this time I was a mom, and totally without a sense of style. Marriage, another baby, a blog, and a company later puts me here before you, the same soulful writer who is not  (as I waxed poetically back in 1999)

in my milieu

I want

to pack a lunch

and head for the high grass.

I want to slide my Doc Marten’s on

then kick them off

to wait for me outside

the enchantment of a grass-covering blanket.

But I can’t do that now. Doc Martens? Yeah right!

Amanda Miller Littlejohn mother

This stylist is amazing. She told me candidly: “Amanda, you have to represent your company, now.” Recently we were preparing some looks for my upcoming trip to San Diego for the NABJ Conference.  I’m speaking on a panel about Turning Your Passion Into a PR Career, and I never know what to wear to these things.

We picked out a few different things to wear and Robin, (the stylist), helped me pair everything together with accessories and the right shoes. When she pointed to pair of wide leg black pants and said “You can wear these on the plane, with a nice cardigan…” I laughed.

“I can just wear my yoga pants,” I said.

“Amanda,” she said sternly. “You’re going on a business trip to make a presentation. Who do you think you’re going to see on the plane? Your audience. You can’t look great at the event, and look a mess on the plane.”

That’s what she said. But you know what I heard?

Keep your branding consistent.

Is your branding consistent? You may have the most amazing logo, the most clean copy writing and beautiful brochures. But what about you? Is your personal presentation pulling the package all together? Or are you failing your brand, causing the house you’ve so carefully built to fall apart once people meet you in person?

Ouch.

So now, I try to be cognizant whenever I leave the house because while I may have the heart of the poet, I have to have the sheen of your publicist.

I’m interested to know how you are navigating this terrain. Is your branding consistent? How much time/effort do you put into your outward appearance and how important do you think it is? Have you had to do a rebrand?

Want more heartfelt observations from the front lines of my PR path? Order my book,  The Mopwater Manual.

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