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The Elevated Image: Three Reasons Why Working with a Professional Stylist Should Become a Non-Negotiable for Your Next Photo Shoot

The moment I saw her (let’s call her Patricia), I knew she was a woman who meant business. Everything about her exuded “woman of power.” Her style was effortless. Her make-up, flawless. Her steely eyed stare in the camera dared you to cross or challenge her. She embodied next level. 

The ironic thing is, I had known Patricia for years and had never particularly associated her with “power or success.” In fact, truth be told, I was utterly shocked when I saw her brand images because it seemed like someone else altogether. 

So, what happened? What lead to this radical transformation? 

Patricia discovered that if she were going to get the opportunities she had her eye on, she must take control of her personal brand and part of that process included getting really clear about how she was currently showing up compared to how she wanted to show up. She realized that she couldn’t close that gap by herself. She needed to hire professionals. One of those professionals was a stylist. 

Savvy professional women recognize that it is their responsibility to intentionally curate their image, and never leave it to chance. 

 For the past nine years, I have run a full-service Personal Branding + Elevation™ Agency (Brand id | Strategic Partners, LLC) that specializes in elevating the visibility, credibility, influence and impact of professional women, executives and entrepreneurs. I’ve dedicated my life to helping women “understand” and “own,” how they are showing up. Then, do what is necessary to elevate their positioning. Website: http://www.personalelevation.com/

Professional photography is a critical component to building your personal brand. Whether you are looking for the right executive headshot to accompany the article you are writing for your company’s monthly newsletter, an image of you speaking for your digital press kit or a fierce image to place at the rear of your debut book. But, don’t you dare hop in front of a camera without having an Undefinably Fierce Stylist by your side. Here’s why:  

1.    Skilled at the Effortless Look: Oprah has one. Michelle has one. Beyonce has one. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find too many Boss women who don’t. Having someone on your team help you strategically and intentionally put your best foot forward can be an absolute game changer for your success. Imagine knowing every time you walked into a meeting, new business pitch or on a conference stage, you dropped the mic before you ever opened your mouth. 

 2.    The Tell You the Truth: Face it, most people tend to gravitate toward the same type of look. They operate pretty-well at their current level, but don’t know how to “exude” next level. But a stylist can tell you help you identify your best color, look or signature style. They can help you see the patterns you need to break and the outfits you need to avoid. And unlike, a friend or significant other telling you, it is somehow much easier to hear.  

3.    Stylists Recognize the Significance of the Details: A skilled stylist knows exactly what it will take to convey the look you are trying to achieve. Their job is to make you look as if it was “effortless.” Even though we know that nothing could be further from the truth. Whether it is a turn of a collar. The placement of a ring. Or, simply smoothing out blouse after you move, they will make sure that the “t’s are crossed and the i’s are dotted,” and you aren’t derailed from ignoring the little details. 

Note: The above personal branding photoshoot, of my client Dr. Monique Rainford, was photographed by the personal branding powerhouse photographer, Mary Gardella (http://www.marygardella.com/) and styled beautifully by the insanely talented Sheryl Scruggs. Dr. Rainford is a Harvard educated OBGYN who is empowering women on the importance of self-care in all aspects if their life, including their relationships: https://www.moniquerainford.com

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Jennifer Ransaw Smith, a Personal Elevation Strategist™, is the owner of Brand id| Strategic Partners. She equips women professionals, executives and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to elevate their visibility, credibility, influence and impact. Clients hire her when they are ready to “make a name for themselves,” in their organization and industry. She can be reached at Jennifer@Brandidsp.com or www.PersonalElevation.com

The Undeniably Fierce Crew Part II: Assemble a Mini-Coalition of Women in your Industry to Elevate Your Level of Performance

One of the questions I frequently ask clients is, “who are people calling if they aren’t calling you?” I want them to get really clear about their “competition,” so they understand the variables that will go into not just “making them known,” but turning them into the “preferred choice.”

I believe that “competition,” can be an extremely motivating force. However, like all coins, the “competition coin,” has two sides.

The other side includes: “healthy competition, the power of “collaboration,” and the unrivaled benefits that come from developing relationships with industry peers.

Let me introduce you to a powerful example. A group of women, all in the health and wellness industry, that have joined forces to support and elevate one another. Meet: Monique Washington-Jones, Shelley Sharkey, Julie Reisler and Faith Wildesen. They, along with one other person, I haven’t had the privilege to meet yet, assembled a small industry peer group.

They held regular sessions where they discussed goals, they supported one another’s dreams, they championed books and opening of new locations. Two of them (Monique and Julie) even collaborated on a side project: Called Be (an inspirational t-shirt company).

Ironically, even though three out of have been clients of mine in the past, and the fourth was an unofficial mentee, I had nothing to do with their introduction or collaboration. However, I have benefitted immensely watching from the sidelines.

Two years ago, I had time to reflect on the power of this group, when I received a very special invitation to have lunch with four dynamic entrepreneurs (one has since returned to corporate) as an appreciation for what I had done for them individually.

During our lunch, I listened to the stories, discussed their plans and walked away motivated, inspired and optimistic about girl-power. Here are three things that all women can learn from this powerful group:

1.     Peers Matter: The reality is, unlike anyone else out there, those who do what you, simply get it.  They understand the nuances of your industry, the pressure and obstacles that exist and can help you with short-cuts, introductions and resources others would have no idea about.  Take-a-way: Find your peer group and nurture those relationships.

2.     Show Up For One Another: How many times have you planned something and dreaded the fact that the rain or bad weather might prevent anyone from showing up?  When you have a group that gets together for sole purpose of supporting one another, you never have to worry about experiencing that feeling, because you know your girls have your back.  Take-a-way: Make it a priority to show up for those in your life. Make it a life principle so you no longer get caught up in how you feel that day. Instead you operate from the principle, “I show up for those I love.”

3.     Introduce Like-Minded People: The way that this group unfolded is one person said, “do you know…” Don’t keep your amazing people to yourself. As yourself, who else might benefit from knowing this Undeniably Fierce woman? Take-a-way: Make it a priority to be a connector.

This group has been going strong for several years and they have individually accomplished at lot. I guarantee that if you were to ask them, they would each say the ride has been a lot more enjoyable together.

 

Julie Reisler, Life Designer and Coach: http://juliereisler.com

Monique Washington-Jones, Owner of WKD Karate for Girls: http://www.karate4girls.com

Shelley Sharkey, Owner of Miss Fit Baltimore: http://www.missfitbaltimore.com

Faith Wildesen, Personal Trainer, Nutrition Coach, who has since returned to corporate: https://www.linkedin.com/in/faith-wildesen-0137876/

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Jennifer Ransaw Smith, a Personal Elevation Strategist™, is the owner of Brand id| Strategic Partners. She equips women professionals, executives and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to elevate their visibility, credibility, influence and impact. Clients hire her when they are ready to “make a name for themselves,” in their organization and industry. She can be reached at Jennifer@Brandidsp.com or www.PersonalElevation.com

 

The Grooming Process: Three Strategies to Ensure that You Are Properly Preparing the Next Generation of Fierce Women

You will always remember those women in your past who helped you. I do. There have been quite a few who either directly or indirectly are responsible for the woman I am today. The first one was Rhonda Baraka (back in the early 90’s).  Rhonda and her husband, Tony were the owners of Atlanta’s hottest entertainment magazine, Tafrija. They hired me for my first official internship and put in the time and effort to grooming me. They also provided me with amazing opportunities. That one internship is singularly responsible for my career direction because one year, Rhonda hired an advertising executive from Madison Ave. who pulled me aside one day to inform me that I would make an amazing copywriter, a term I was unfamiliar with at the time (even thought I was a journalism major).

Rhonda made me want to be better.

A few years later, I landed my first official job at an advertising agency in Bethesda, Maryland. The firm relocated me from my home in Los Angeles. One day, while sitting at my desk and one of the Creative Directors, Christina called me and asked me to come to her office.  She said I notice that you apologize a lot. Stop it. Why are you apologizing for not being able to take my call if I called you? Referring to my standard messages, “I’m sorry I can’t answer the phone right now…” Christina would go on to drop nuggets that have been immeasurable in my development and growth.

A few years later, I ended up working with a woman named Lavonia Perryman. She was no joke. I had just pivoted from traditional advertising into PR and needed to get some real experience. Well, she gave it to me. She put me immediately to work on a project with Maya Angelou and the King family.  One day, during the time of faxes, I was having a hard time getting my faxes to get through because, “the line was always busy.” Frustrated and thinking that there was really no solution, LaVonia said, “it looks like you will be spending the night here. I bet they aren’t busy at 3am.” She taught me the importance of whatever it takes.

This year, just like last year, I have an amazing young, eager intern from Hampton University. She is smart, savvy and in need of guidance. What I’ve recognized throughout my career is most of the things that will catapult your career are intangible. So, I’ve made it my mission to “groom her properly” during our time together.

I believe that if Khyana Thompson returns to school this fall and is not performing, thinking and committed at the next level, then I haven’t done my job. So whether I am working with her on how to present or why it is critical to “keep her finger on the pulse of what is going on,” I’m thinking about is this making her better.

It is our job to groom the next generation of Undeniably Fierce women whether through a formal program like an internship or an informal situation, like your daughter. If we don’t do it, who will?

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_________________________________________________________________________ Jennifer Ransaw Smith, a Personal Elevation Strategist™, is the owner of Brand id| Strategic Partners. She equips women professionals, executives and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to elevate their visibility, credibility, influence and impact. Clients hire her when they are ready to “make a name for themselves,” in their organization and industry. She can be reached at Jennifer@Brandidsp.com or www.PersonalElevation.com

Personal Elevation™ Close-Up: What Shelley Sharkey Can Teach You About the Correlation Between Your Personal Brand and Your Businesses Brand 

It has been four years since I opened my email and read that first message from Shelly Sharkey. While I was familiar with her reputation as the owner of a local women’s gym, Miss Fit, we had never had the opportunity to meet. But on June 13, 2013, she reached out to introduce herself, let me know who had referred her and let me know her intention with possibly working together, “I'd really like MissFIT to grow and be recognized as a high-quality service brand. I know in order for that to happen, I also need to reflect that image.”

Pause for a moment.

Please go back and reread that last line because Shelly understood from day one, what so many women fail to recognize. There is an absolute direct correlation between her personal brand and her organizations brand. And, she was willing to do whatever it took to ensure they were both in alignment.

From the moment, I walked into her facility and we began our bi-weekly brand strategy sessions, I was blown away. Shelly embodied what it meant to be Undeniably Fierce. She was smart. Savvy. In control. She was also young. But her youth hadn’t gotten in the way from her climbing the ranks of a gym in which she worked as the manager and then turning around to buy it.

She was adamant about investing in herself and took classes and worked with people who helped her elevate her skill-set in the gym and in the office. But here’s the thing. Like so many Boss women, Shelly couldn’t see how ridiculously fierce she was. She was blind to it. But she was adamant about helping her brand become a high-quality service brand.

A few years ago, I heard someone say that you can’t compare someone else’s front stage to your back stage. Meaning that most people know how to show you only what they want you to see—the good stuff and you are never privy to the hot mess behind the curtains.

For the past four years, most people had no idea that the beautifully talented trainer on the stage was dealing with a crazy landlord, juggling staff personalities, and trying to make payroll. She paid the price of being the boss. Yet, she persisted.

Shelly Sharkey knew that she had what it took to provide a health and wellness oasis that her community needed. A place to help motivate, inspire and unleash the potential of every woman who walked through her doors.

But she also knew from early on that to do that, she had to be that. And so that is who she became. Shelley Sharkey is in the process of opening a brand-new studio in the historic Ellicott City,MD. Here is what you can learn from her:

1.     Elevate Your Mindset: There is no way to emphasize the amount of time Shelley puts into making sure that her “mind is right.” The moment I mentioned a book or resource, she was writing it down. She was always open to looking at things a different way and she recognized that it was imperative for her to be cognizant about her thoughts.   

2.     Seek Outside Sources: You are not a “jack of all trades,” so stop acting like one. Make sure that you partner with the right people in your life to fill in those gaps. Shelley fundamentally understood where she was strong and where she was not and she adjusted accordingly. You should do the same.

3.     Keep Your End Goal Front and Center:  The reality is that owning a commercial property is not easy. Shelley had to endure a lot of gut-wrenching nights and situations, but she knew what she was working toward. She preserved and now she is about to debut her dream studio in the heart of what Money magazine rates as one of the “best places to live.” Not bad.

Check her out:

Website: http://www.missfitbaltimore.com

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/missfitsharkey/

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Jennifer Ransaw Smith, a Personal Elevation Strategist™, is the owner of Brand id| Strategic Partners. She equips women professionals, executives and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to elevate their visibility, credibility, influence and impact. Clients hire her when they are ready to “make a name for themselves,” in their organization and industry. She can be reached at Jennifer@Brandidsp.com or www.PersonalElevation.com

 

The Elevated Image: Stop “Playing a Professional.” It’s Time to Become One.

Let’s call her Anna.

On paper, she was Fierce as hell.

Two Ivy-League degrees.

Fortune 500 position.

She spoke two languages.

And had, P&L responsibility. However, no matter how hard she tried, she felt stuck and as if she wasn’t getting the traction that someone with her background and “track record,” should be getting. 

So, she called me.

Within moments of meeting her, I identified the problem. Bottom-line: While there was no disputing the fact that she was Undeniably Fierce.  She didn’t recognize, own or exude it.  

Like many others, Anna believed that being great at her job, having those Ivy league degrees and delivering results was enough. She was wrong. Chris Rock once said, “you can’t really get credit for doing what you are supposed to be doing.” While her “compensation package” paid her handsomely for “being good at her job and delivering results,” it became more than clear that was where “love affair with her ended.”

Anna was frequently overlooked for internal opportunities. She was never asked to “represent” her organization even though she was the undisputed subject matter expert and she had been by-passed twice for a senior level leadership training program.

She wanted to know why this was happening and what she could do to turn it around. Where did we start, with taking control of her personal brand?

Like it or not, you have a personal brand and it is either working for you and moving you closer to your goals or against you, always. For too long, Anna didn’t recognize that her reputation was developed by much more than how she handled her “job requirements,” and this oversight caused her to miss out on a lot.  

My challenge to Anna was to hop over into the driver’s seat and take control of her reputation.

It is also my challenge to you.

Now!

Not when you get a promotion. Earn more money. Have more time. Finish the next project. Graduate from school. Get another certification. Hire a coach. Read another book. Or get laid off.

Now!!

Ask yourself, the following questions:

·      What are you known for?  

·      Where are you headed?

·      What stands between where you are now and where you want to be in the            future?  

·      What do you need to put in place to move your brand forward?

·      Who do you need to have on your team to support you on your journey?

Many of us have been hoodwinked. Led to believe that the right school, company, certification, opportunity is going to change the game for us. But the reality is, the game changes the moment you decide to stop acting like an amateur and playing like a professional.

Note: The photograph, taken by the Undeniably Fierce personal branding photographer Mary Gardella (http://www.marygardella.com), is of my client Tracy Prigmore during her recent personal branding photoshoot. Tracy demonstrates what it means to be 100% clear on the image you want to project and then assembling the right team to make it happen.

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Jennifer Ransaw Smith, a Personal Elevation Strategist™, is the owner of Brand id| Strategic Partners. She equips women professionals, executives and entrepreneurs with the tools they need to elevate their visibility, credibility, influence and impact. Clients hire her when they are ready to “make a name for themselves,” in their organization and industry. She can be reached at Jennifer@Brandidsp.com or www.PersonalElevation.com