In the first episode of the new series of the Upfront podcast, financial adviser Emmanuel Asuquo talks to personal branding coach Jennifer Holloway about building a successful image that's authentic and true to you (without sounding like an idiot).

Here are some highlights from that conversation. Listen to the episode in full here.

Upfront Series 3, Episode 1 - Show notes

Emmanuel: I recently posted online, 'Suit or no suit?'. Do you have to wear a suit and a tie to be deemed professional or trustworthy in this industry? Or is it an old-school way of thinking? Here to help me answer these questions is personal branding specialist, author, trainer and coach Jennifer Holloway. I can't wait to jump into the new season with this conversation and get tips on how we, as financial professionals, can stand out by building a personal image and brand that is true to ourselves.

So, we're going to start with our upfront question of the day: Would you take financial advice from someone in a hoodie?

Jennifer: It's a no, but yes. If all I knew about this person was you're a financial adviser, and you've turned up on my doorstep to see me for the first time, and you're just wearing a hoodie, but I've not really had any interaction with you. I'm cautious. If, however, you are a financial adviser who's turned up on my doorstep in a hoodie with the recommendation of somebody who I trust, who I've spoken to before, then yeah, I'm fine with this.

Emmanuel: I feel like sometimes we trust someone in a suit, but just because someone's wearing a suit doesn't mean that they're trustworthy, doesn't mean they have your best interests at heart. However, human nature will tell us that if they're wearing a suit, we should listen to them.

Jennifer: Yeah. Any new encounter we have, your brain is trying to work out, okay, do I trust them? In the first instance, when we've got very little to go off, we will use visual clues like what is somebody wearing? What do I expect somebody to be wearing? And I know people say, oh, you shouldn't follow stereotypes, but they're a really great place to start. But you have to keep that mind open to, okay, I've got two financial advisers. One's got a hoodie. One's got a suit. I am more drawn to the suit just because my stereotype is telling me that, but I'm still going to hold off and see because he may be an absolutely rubbish financial adviser.

Emmanuel: And so this is all talking about personal branding. I've never heard it around so much, I guess, because of social media. What is personal branding?

I don't want you going out and selling yourself until you've worked out what the heck your brand is in the first place.

Jennifer Holloway
Personal brand coach

Jennifer: Social media and people's initial perceptions are often that personal brand is how you sell yourself. That is one component of it. But where I come at it from is that I don't want you going out and selling yourself until you've worked out what the heck your brand is in the first place. Your personal brand needs to give people two components at the same time in a positive way. Component number one: What are you offering me? So, Emmanuel, yours would be, you know, uh, what qualifications do you have or what knowledge have you got or what experience do you have? What number of years do you have under your belt? That's all great. But I also want to know, who's Emmanuel? What are his values? What motivates him? What's his personality like? And when you package those two things together, you create your personal brand.

Emmanuel: For those that can't see, Jennifer is dressed amazingly. You come across as if you really thought about your outfit. Have you always been like this?

Jennifer: I've become more like this since knowing what my brand is. Very early doors of my business, I worked with a client called Chris, and I decided I needed to know what my brand was. I put it all down on a piece of paper. And the next thing I did was to ask a number of people and Chris was one of them. And he said, Jennifer, your brand is strong, like double espresso, but sometimes I'd wanted tea. And I thought, Oh my God, a client who I thought had loved everything I'd done is here saying he didn't give me everything I wanted. And my brain went straight to, how do I give him tea? And I was coming up with all these things, I won't be so opinionated. I'll, I'll tone down my volume and I'll dress more soberly. And then I slept on it. Woke up the next morning and thought, what the chuffin' heck to use the Yorkshire phrase am I doing? He said you're Double Espresso. That was a really lovely shorthand he gave me for my brand. I'm not going to give you tea. That would be inauthentic. I wouldn't be able to sustain it. And I then decided my shorthand for my packaging has always been, is it Double Espresso?

I probably feel like I would be Fanta Fruit Twist.

Emmanuel Asuquo

Jennifer: What would you be if you were if you had to be a drink for your brand?

Emmanuel: Um, I probably feel like I would be Fanta fruit twist.

Jennifer: Oh really? Fruit twist. I've not come across this one.

Emmanuel: Exactly why I chose that. I've been looking forward to this episode because I'm really passionate about what I put out to the world and what my brand is and so forth. I worked in corporate, and I felt like I had to wear a suit. I had to; they told me how to walk in a certain way and dress in a certain way. They made me change the way I speak. Now, Canary Wharf is in East London, and I was born in East London. Yeah. So I talk like I'm from East London. So, to be told in East London that I can't sound how I sound when I'm literally a five, 10-minute walk from my house is offensive. And so I think when I now came to start my own business. I went the whole way the other way. I'm like, I'm gonna be the exact opposite of everything.

Jennifer: So I liken it to the bandwidth of a radio station. You can flex your brand, dialling things up, how you look, sound and act, and dialling down how you look, sound and act to better meet your audiences because you want your audience to buy into you. I actually call it brand width.

Emmanuel: I love this. You're obviously amazing at what you do. I mean, the gems you dropped in like 10 minutes are unbelievable. I feel like I'm getting free work here, so I want to maximise as much as I can. What do you think my brand says about me?

Jennifer: Before this interview, I looked at a couple of things online, and the first thing I found was your website. The very first thing I see is you, in a suit. Did you have a handkerchief in your top pocket?

Emmanuel: Yes, I did.

Jennifer: I thought, oh, here's a man who's very dapper. He thinks about what he looks like. Then I went to LinkedIn, and you're wearing more of a hoodie. You're certainly not wearing a suit in that one. I thought. Oh, that's interesting. So who's the real him? Who's the real Emmanuel? Maybe what's happening there is that we're getting back to that brand width. On your website, you've gone to the top of the brand width. On LinkedIn, you've gone to the lower end of the brand width. But you are making it harder for me to understand what is it I'm actually going to be getting. Would you say you're more the dapper three-piece, or would you say you're more the casual?

Emmanuel: Probably more casual.

If you want people to buy into you, be consistent. Help me understand what I'm getting.

Jennifer Holloway
Personal brand coach

Jennifer: Okay. So I refer my learned friend to my previous evidence, which is, if I'm going on your website and then you turn up 180 degrees from this dapper person, you've thrown my brain a mental curve ball that I'm, like, well, who the hell's real him? If you want people to buy into you, be consistent. Help me understand what I'm getting.

Emmanuel: Thank you. Love that. So tell me some people who are doing it really well.

Jennifer: Love him or loath him; as a business person, Richard Branson is probably the king of the personal brand in the business. I remember having lunch with a journalist once, and they said to me, the thing about Richard Branson, is he is very good at putting his face to his businesses. He has such a positive brand reputation out there that when things fail and go wrong, it's a lot harder to stick the knife in him as a journalist than it is a faceless CEO who we don't know

Emmanuel: I think my favourite Richard Branson story is Richard Branson getting on a Virgin plane. He queued. He got in the queue. Right? And, as a Nigerian, I know if that was a Nigerian airline owner, not only would he not queue, but he would walk to the front and tell everybody, do you know who I am? For Richard Ransom to stand in a queue when you own the airline is just, like you said, how dare anyone ever talk bad about him because his actions match everything.

Jennifer: But he's clever enough to know, 'I'm not just standing in this queue because I think it's the right thing to do'. I mean, I'm not saying he's faking it, but he appreciates the secondary thing, which is every single person in this queue around me, Now thinks I'm a great guy.

Emmanuel: Yeah. Clever guy. Now, for a lot of people, one of the reasons why they don't want to do social media, or they don't want to do anything at all, is because they don't want to look like an idiot.Like, when I look at my old videos compared to the videos I do now, I want to cry because I'm like, what? But I couldn't get to this point here today if I didn't have those. So how do you, how do you get over that fear?

Jennifer: Some people they're worried about being seen as arrogant. If you think about it, there are only really two types of arrogant people. The people who are arrogant and know they're arrogant. And don't give a flying F that they're arrogant and the people who are arrogant but have no concept that they're arrogant, they're completely unaware. If you are even remotely worried that you are going to be arrogant, you automatically do not fall into either of those two categories. So you have an inbuilt safety valve. The sounding like an idiot thing also comes into the not sounding like you know what you're talking about. As long as you are basing it on your knowledge and your experience, people can't take that away. Accept that not everybody's going to buy your brand and live with that. That guy who said to me, you know, you're double espresso, and I wanted tea. With that bit of feedback, he gave me the biggest confidence boost I could have.

You're coffee and they can go elsewhere for tea. I love that.

Emmanuel Asuquo

Emmanuel: That's amazing. You're coffee and tea. It doesn't matter. And you can go elsewhere and find tea. Yeah. I love that. All right, Jennifer. All right. What advice do you have for our listeners to help them think about or build their personal brand?

Jennifer: Your brand is what you bring to the table and who you bring to the table. So start there, just sit down and think, okay, what do I think I offer people? What knowledge, what experience, what strengths? Just start brainstorming. What do I think I offer people? What are my values? What am I doing? What do I think my personality is and just start to get that very clear picture based on who you already are. We cannot stress that enough. If you didn't know me and you were just coming across me for the first time, what makes me stand out as different? And I don't mean different as in wacky or off the wall, but just I'm going to be me, and people are going to see the individual I am. Start there and that the earlier you can start that in your career, the better,

Emmanuel: That's a great way to end. The gems have been flying all over the place. Thank you.

Listen to this episode here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Meet our guest

Jennifer Holloway

When it comes to personal branding, Jennifer Holloway knows her stuff. She spent 16 years in corporate life doing PR and dealing with the media before launching her own company in 2008, with her own brand at the heart of her business.

She now delivers personal brand keynotes, workshops, and webinars, as well as one-to-one coaching, to some of the world's most recognisable brands, such as HSBC, Tesco, Uber, Santander, Vodafone, Bupa, ITV, and Harrods.

As the best-selling author of Personal Branding For Brits, she’s taken what she’s learned and created a practical guide to blowing your own trumpet…without sounding like an idiot (whether you’re British or from any other country).

Visit Jennifer's website

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