Archive for the ‘Image’ Category

8 Tips to Building an Etiquette Brand

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

“Branding” is used to describe almost everything these days: products, businesses — even humans. This month’s tip is all about building your own etiquette brand. How do you think people are describing you? Will it be good or bad? Are you doing the right thing? Why or why not? The following will set you on the right path to success:

1.     People will care about you if you care about them. I hear this comment all the time: Why should I care about my boss, co-worker, sibling, relative, or friend, when she or he doesn’t seem to care about me? What other people do or say to you has nothing to do with what you do or say unto them! This is not, as the Bible suggests, an eye for an eye. Don’t lower yourself. Treat everyone with the same level of courtesy, kindness, honesty, respect, and consideration.

2.     Be clear about your brand and make decisions based on it. When planning my etiquette brand, I consciously thought about the kinds of people I like to hang out with: People who are fun, yet are equally nice in their overall behavior toward others and me. I realized there are certain types of people who just aren’t my cup to tea: those who use profanity and those who drain my positive energy. Truly, these are good people, yet how they have chosen to live their lives is not the same as how I am choosing to live mine. So when it comes to etiquette, work at attracting and sustaining friendships among people who display the same good qualities you aspire to possess.

 3.     Excel in what you know best and then work on what needs improving. In “Soar with Your Strengths,” by Donald Clifton and Paula Nelson, the authors discuss an approach to succeeding in every aspect in life. Rather than concentrating on fixing our weaknesses, we should be focusing on enhancing and soaring with our strengths. In time, the weaknesses are out-shadowed by our strengths, leaving the diminished weaknesses easier to manage. For example: When parents see their child achieving “A” grades in every subject but one, they often choose to divert all their resources and energy to helping their child bring up their grade in the weaker subject. Instead, had the parent put all their resources into developing their child’s interests in the “A” subjects they like.

4.     Being different is fine. Students often tell me they are afraid of standing out at an event due to acting correctly, such as wearing a name badge differently and using a fork in their left hands. The people you call friends will like you, despite your being a little different and more correct. Branding often means standing out from the crowd. When it comes to etiquette, standing out may mean you are doing the right things at the right time and in the right way.

5.     Be real in all you do. I once tried using minor swear words in my speech, just to blend in and be more “real.” I quickly discovered this was not me. Not only did I feel awkward, I sensed people were truly miffed at hearing such words out of my mouth, even though other people say them regularly. I thought this was a harmless way of wanting to be more like others. Wrong!  I was not striving toward the highest and best standards at all times. Being real also means not doing certain things for the wrong reasons, such as giving someone a gift or writing a thank-you note just because you want that person to think favorably of you (also known as kissing up). For the best results physically, mentally, and spiritually, show etiquette without any expectation of gain or reward.

6.     Etiquette is a lifetime of practice, practice, practice. It’s like being a broken record.* You have to do it repeatedly: displaying, showing, and reminding yourself and others of the correct and appropriate behavior. This is how we will all help to change the world in which we live.

7.     Be proud without being a braggart. Do you know people who are always telling you about the great things they do for others? While it’s great to be proud of your accomplishments, it’s also good etiquette not to brag about it. Instead of tooting your own horn, the goal of etiquette branding is having others talking positively about you. Etiquette is all about doing things silently and without anyone noticing. Do the right thing without any pre-meditated strategy in mind.

8.     Don’t give up It is said, “The road to success is never finished.” Building an etiquette brand is not easy, nor is it something you can stop working on at any point. It’s not something you turn on and off at will. It must be a way of life in all you do at home, at work and out in life. We all get weary from time to time, and ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this… especially when the other person doesn’t appreciate anything I do or say? When this happens, call me for some consoling, and remember Tip Number 1. Be strong in knowing you have chosen the best path to living the best life possible, one step at a time.

BONUS:  William Arruda, the personal branding guru, says, “All strong brands exhibit the three Cs of brand communications: Clarity, Consistency, and Constancy.” For another perspective on branding your business, see an article by Arruda, “Top Ten Willisms” [hyperlinked] … also at It was the inspiration for this article.

*For those of you too young to know what a broken record means, it is a term from when phonograph records were the only way to hear recorded music, speech and sounds. It is a flat round disc with groves that held the sounds we played on a phonograph. When a grove got scratched it would cause the playing needle to fall into the same grove over and over again, thus playing the same sound over and over and over again… hence the term known as playing a broken record.

Question of the month: What is your etiquette brand? What stories do you have to share about the times you showed your etiquette brand or had people touting it back to you?

Good Grooming is Good Etiquette

Friday, November 18th, 2011

This tip is all about being presentable in every way, at all times. It isn’t etiquette to show up to an event or meeting looking dirty or messy. Everyone should always keep certain basic grooming items nearby and handy to help freshen up  for any situation that may arise… especially unexpectedly.  This list is equally relevant to any student—from elementary to post graduate—who should also want to look good at all times.

So here are my Top 10 Grooming Kit Items to always have on hand at a moment’s notice:

1. Hand sanitizer or sanitizing sheets, such as Purell

2. Packets of facial tissue, such as Kleenex

3. Breath mints/fresheners, such as Listerine sheets and Altoids

4. Dental floss, Brush Up Teeth Wipes or toothpaste and small tooth brush

5. Small comb and/or hair brush

6. A small sewing kit with extra safety pins in various sizes

 7. Cold prevention items such as vitamin C, Emergen-C, Airborne or other cold remedies of your choosing

8. Painkillers for headaches, such as Tylenol or Advil; Tums for indigestion; or Immodium for diahhrea… especially  when traveling abroad

9. Nail clipper and file

10.  Spray-on or small stick stain remover for clothing accidents… especially when traveling.

For especially women… please do not carry huge, full-sized items in your huge purse/kit.  Make the effort to purchase smaller, travel sized items to carry in your kit.  Place this arsenal in small pouches in your office, home, car, and purse or briefcase. By having several kits on hand wherever you are, you will be able to look and feel sharp at all times. For men, have an extra shirt and tie at your desk or in the car and for women, I rely on having an extra shawl, sweater, or jacket stashed in my car and office, for those unexpected situations, cool weather and/or frosty air conditioning.

QUESTION:  What other items do you have to add to this list?  Do let us hear from you by locating this article at  You may also reach us at  If you enjoyed this article and want more, subscribe to our “Etiquette Tip of the Month” newsletter—at no charge—filled with great monthly tips on all sorts of topics from international business and social etiquette and protocol to everyday life subjects.  It will be great to have you as a member of our happy family of subscribers at

Happy Practicing!

8 Tips on Professional Company and Organization Image

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

When you hear the term “professional image,” do you think about how an individual looks and behaves? What about the professional image of a company or organization? Does your company or organization have a good professional image?

Here are 8 tips to keep your company’s professional image at its highest level:

1. Maintain regular office hours: Most for-profit businesses maintain set business hours, typically Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Yet when it comes to non-profit organizations, especially when staff and volunteers are lacking, office hours can be erratic. Establish regular hours so your clients, customers, members and most importantly donors will know the best times to reach you, even if you are open only two or three days a week or have limited hours. State them clearly on your voicemail greeting and on your web site.

2. Return all messages received within 24 to 48 hours. Designate one person to monitor emails and voicemails and to return each message within 24 to 48 hours. This way the person will know you care about being responsive in a consistent manner. When an individual is away or the office is closed, attach an auto-reply to your email and change your voicemail greeting to alert callers about when you will be back for return calls. Never leave callers hanging as to when they may ever hear from you!

3. Use well-designed letterhead and other printed and online messaging, and write a note or letter correctly: Care enough about your organization’s image when it comes to the stationery and online presence you create. Even more than your personal appearance, websites and printed materials are seen and read over and over again.

— A web site today is a must.  You might as well forget opening up shop if you don’t have one.  It’s best always to use a professional web designer, but at minimum use a pre-existing design template.  A do-it-yourself website is immediately recognizable as such and presents an amateurish and unprofessional image.

– Do not send letters that are improperly folded and appear crooked. It implies sloppiness.

— When a letter is only a few sentences long, do not have it appear at the top of the sheet. Instead, lower the content to be centered on the page.

— Use time-honored letter writing skills when addressing a letter or email. Improper punctuation, such as using a comma instead of a colon following “Dear Mr. Smith,” will show your level of education and professionalism. Knowing how to send letters and emails using a few basic skills will go a long way in presenting a great professional image.

4. Use documented processes rather than reinventing the wheel: One of the worst things I see often is how an organization keeps doing the same thing over and over again as though it was a new idea, mainly because the organization didn’t keep notes on past work. Maintain a dedicated journal of meeting minutes and events, describing what went well, what needed improving, and new ideas to consider in the future. Especially for special events, keep historical copies of all items used for each event. Then, as staff and volunteers are replaced, or you hire an event planner, these documents will become the most helpful training tool to help learn what to incorporate as best practices and what mistakes not to repeat.

5. Organize and rehearse for meetings and special events: It’s important to respect everyone’s time, no matter if they’re staff, vendors, clients, volunteers or board members for non-profit organizations. One of the most irritating situations (which once caused me to resign from a non-profit board) is the inability of the chair and/or meeting facilitator to properly plan and run a meeting. At minimum, always have an agenda and distribute it ahead of time so everyone will know what will be discussed and how best they might contribute to the discussions. During the meeting, facilitators must show authority in keeping discussions on point and on time. Distribute the minutes of the meeting as soon as possible to help keep those people who were unable to attend in the loop, and to know what may be expected of them before the next meeting.

When it comes to special events that showcase your company, organization and business, make every effort to make a lasting impression. Plan and script out every detail for from the time guests enter the event to the time they leave. Hold at least one rehearsal and walk-through with the event staff to address all situations that might arise. Put yourself in the guest’s position by thinking through how you would like to be treated from start to finish. One event may make the difference between gaining or losing a potential client, customer, donor or member of your organization.

6. Never use, “We’re just a non-profit organization” as an excuse. What a cop-out! I even hear, “We’re just a small business” which is equally offensive. Does this truly mean people cannot expect professionalism from a non-profit or small business? Please.

7. Wear appropriate business and event attire. It does matter how you look when you appear in the office or attend meetings and events. There is something uplifting whenever I see everyone in an office dressed nicely and displaying good grooming habits. By this I mean no sloppy hair with dandruff, clean well-trimmed fingernails, and nice smiles showing clean teeth. It bothers me when I see employees wearing wrinkled, dirty, stained, torn clothes that fit poorly. Their attire is better suited to a backyard.

The clothes people wear at your company are a sign of how much the company cares about its professional appearance, which then transfers to caring about the employees’ appearance in all other aspects of their work. If a company appears not to care about their own personal appearance, what else might it not care about in its work? Tests have shown when an office is more professionally dressed, productivity and accuracy increases.  Also, when you hold an event that specifies a certain attire (example: black-tie) everyone attending—staff and board members included—must dress in what is being advertised.  Otherwise, you are not holding the event in full integrity.  Volunteers should equally be asked to wear specific clothes… perhaps black pants and white shirt/blouse.

8. Say thank you and send thank-you notes. Say thank you and send thank-you notes as often as possible. They show your appreciation and acknowledgment of someone’s work and contributions to the organization. They are the key and at the core of building and sustaining lasting relationships among co-workers, bosses, clients, customers, family, friends and anyone with whom you come into contact. For the best impact, send thank you notes, written by hand and sent by regular mail, within 24 to 48 hours after the event. You can never write too many.

BONUS: One of my biggest pet peeves when attending events is how the organizers pre-print name tags, often at a font size that cannot be read at any distance. What a waste of intention and energy! Name tags are the most critical component to the success or failure of an event. It’s the difference between making or not making important connections by virtue of seeing someone’s name tag at a distance. See  Name Tag Etiquette – Printing Name Tags or at to review the guidelines on how to pre-print nametags.

Question: What pet peeves to you have about companies and non-profits in terms of their professional image not being as good as they should be? Enter your comments below or send us an email at

Happy Practicing!

What Not to Wear to the Office… Especially When The Weather Is Hot

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Having to go to work when the weather is extremely hot is never fun.  Yet, regardless of how hot the weather may be, there are certain pieces of clothing a person—man or woman—should never wear in a professional office environment.  Examples include…

Women exposed themselves in droves wearing…

°   Tank and spaghetti strap tops at work without an outer covering

°   Tops and tubes so low-cut their breasts were hanging out and exposed

°   Skirts and shorts so short when they bent over their panties showed

°   See-through dresses, tops, and skirts with seemingly no under garments

°   Sheer clothing that shows through when back-lit

°   A naked pregnant belly with a tiny top

°   Rolls of fat above low-cut pants

°   Rubber flip-flops manufactured for sports wear

Men were also at fault. They wore…

°   Mesh and tank tops that did not fit properly that belong at the beach

°   Pants and shirts so beat up they looked like the clothes you’d wear to move furniture or paint the living room

°   Clothes that should only be appropriate for a backyard barbecue; not when attending a more formal event

°   Pants down-around-the-knees  with exposed under-shorts…  I still don’t understand that one.

I don’t want to be a fuddy-duddy about today’s standards of dressing. I recognize that clothes have become more casual. Still, there are limits.  While the people, primarily women wearing the kind of clothing above might think the message is “I’m so-o-o hot,” others might be thinking, “She’s so-o-o vulgar.”

What about you?
Do you always think through what image and impression you convey to others with your clothes? At work, do you and the co-workers with whom you work appear confident and professional? Are your clothes clean, well pressed, and coordinated, giving the impression you care about your appearance? Wearing professional clothes does not mean having to wear a suit. It means clean, neat, properly fitting clothes that are neither tight nor baggy. Showing cleavage is not appropriate, regardless of what you see on television. Colored shirts open beyond two buttons are in the same category.

Clothes send many messages about who you are. They show…

°   Status, authority, power, and rank

°   Friendliness, dependability, and adventurousness

°   Upper, middle, lower-middle, and low class

°   Trustworthiness and good judgment.

What messages do your clothes say about you and your company? Might you be too dressed down for the occasion?

If your clothes fit properly, are clean and neat, and in most instances on the conservative side you will give the best impression. “You are the message,” said Roger Ailes, President of Fox News Channel and media consultant to former US presidents. That means you are what you wear. You are your own brand and it is up to you to make the best impression at all times.

If you know people who should read this article because of the way they dress, please send it on. If you’d like to give someone a specific hint, submit your comments in the area below and  then send them our blog at

Question: Have you seen people inappropriately dressed… not only to the office, but at other places, as well?  Do let us hear from you in the area below.   If you enjoyed this article and want more, subscribe to our “Etiquette Tip of the Month” newsletter—at no charge—filled with great monthly tips on all sorts of topics from international business and social etiquette and protocol to everyday life subjects.  It will be great to have you as a member of our happy family of subscribers at

Happy Practicing!