The psychology is so basic it's almost laughable. For millennia, we've used ostentatious outward displays of wealth to indicate to the village that 'I am a heap big important cheese'. The S-Class Merc and Gucci shoes of today are really just an extension in trajectory from the feathers and beads of our forebears; a way of saying, 'Behold in awe the very amazingness of me!' (Cue: crashing symbols).
As aspiring industry experts, we should be primarily focused on the quality
of our work. We should fixate on the value
of the content we produce. No question about it.
Yet we ignore the PR and 'showbiz' element only to our great detriment.
So, how about we think of it this way: Sure, you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Yet for some reason, Pan Macmillan spends small mountains of money getting the new Jeffrey Archer cover just right. Perhaps there is something to be said for those feathers and beads after all. Perhaps quality work, adorned in colourful feathers, is a powerful combination.
If we accept that premise, which feathers are necessary? What are the beads that serve us best?
There are three kinds of iconography that announce our credibility to the village:
- The feathers we wear
The simplest form of feathers will always be the way we dress, which create our immediate first impression. That said; does your appearance speak the same language of quality as your work?
While you don't have to bankrupt yourself buying big European brand names, you also shouldn't dress in such a way that your customers are forced to use their imagination to bridge the gap between how you look and the quality of your work.
The high fees rarely go to the industry practitioner who looks like everyone's nice aunty or befuddled but well-meaning uncle. There is a reason people in high-income positions practice power-dressing, and employ the body language that goes with it.
- The trophies on our shelf
Hunting trophies, or 'earned accolades' are next. These are real-world qualifications that announce our credibility.
The simplest form of an earned trophy is the university degree hanging on the wall, but bear in mind that it is not the most spectacular. Academic qualifications show competence, but not greatness.
I advocate that writing your own book is the number one positioning tool in any industry. If you have been published on the topic, your credibility factor is high, and others in the village may bank on you, or in business terms: spend money on you.
You can also generate or earn an accolade by winning a contest or breaking a record in your industry. Do it creatively and you may set the village atwitter.
- The smoke-signals we send
Smoke-signals are the messages we send out into the world by design: our marketing, correspondence and online presence.
My wife recently reported to me that some colleagues at work were highly impressed to hear that I had my own website. I thought that everyone on the planet had their own website, including, 'Homeless and Living Under a Bridge.com', and, 'I Knit Low-Price Doilies'. But apparently not. Apparently a website still constitutes a shiny bead that makes one stand out as legitimate.
But there are simpler icons that function as smoke signals. For instance, do you have a credible business card, which shows that you clearly do this seriously and are not a fly-by-night operator, scribbling your contact details on the back of a napkin?
Do you have a banner that you erect at events? I recently acquired one, and it has changed the feel of my back-of-room products desk. With the mighty banner behind the table, sailing the carpet like a ship, it suddenly looks like a genuine business concern, rather than a desk with some arbitrary books and CD's. The iconography adds substantial credibility.
And have you started recording and publicising video clips?
Because we are such fiercely visual creatures, a video clip that can be found online holds surprising clout. It, too, announces: This business is for real.
You can take the idea of video a step further. Have you ever tried turning the link to your video clip into a QR-Code? A QR-Code is that fancy, bar code-like squiggle that you sometimes see in magazines, inviting you to 'scan here' with your phone in order to watch a video.
It is insultingly easy to do. Just search on Google for: free QR code creator. The programmes are all easy to use; pick one and download it. After that, you just feed in a weblink and it spits out a QR-Code - and once you can create them, you can add these codes to anything: your brochures, business cards, letters, product packaging, etc.
So, as you go about building your profile, are you hoping people will read the Jeffrey Archer novel despite its grey cover? Are you hoping folks on the dating site will pick you in spite of your statement that 'what you see is what you get'? They might. And maybe they even should
. But in reality, they will probably move past it and pick up the latest Tom Clancy, click on the next Brad Pitt.
As we increasingly sing the praises of quality work and content in positioning ourselves as experts, let's not lose sight of the fact that we are human. We do
think like villagers. We will
notice the feathers and beads and we will
talk about the big splash being made on that side of the road.
So if your goal is to turn heads, perhaps it's time to don the headdress.