Everyone in PR knows what media training is, and many professionals do a great job preparing their chief executives or clients for public or media appearances. But there is one aspect of media training that is often overlooked: appearance.
Sometimes this omission is accidental – PR professionals are so tied up with words that they forget imagery. But sometimes it is intentional – after all, do you want to tell the boss he or she looks like a slob?
But don’t think that people (especially reporters) will not pick up on a sloppy appearance. I once represented a grooming expert who, ironically had a dandruff problem. The client was aware of it, but he was nonchalant about his own appearance. Needless to say, a callous reporter for a national news syndicate made catty reference to my client’s flaky problem and it created serious ill-will with the badly insulted client when that reference was printed in newspapers all across North America.
Therefore, it is crucial that any media training focus pay very, very close attention to questions of looking good. I am not an image consultant, so allow me to bring in a guest who knows a thing or two on the subject.
Here are some tips provided by Ellen York, the nationally-recognized consultant and president of the Ellen York Image Institute (visit her online at www.ellenyork.com). This is the advice that York gives to men and women who are going to represent their companies and organizations before the public and the cameras:
Hairstyle – Men need to have an updated hairstyle, just like women. It may be time to visit a new stylist for a current style and color that will flatter your appearance and create a more professional look.
Facial Hair – This look can be distracting if you have a face full of hair. Ask your stylist to trim your beard, mustache and side burns to allow people to see who they’re talking to.
Perfume/Cologne – Everyone wants to smell good, but no one wants to be so overpowering that they offend everyone else. A daily application of deodorant should suffice but if you want to wear perfume, a small dab at the wrists and neck will be enough. You never know – a potential client may be allergic to strong scents and be “repelled” if you wear too much fragrance.
Nails – Beautiful, polished nails can be a wonderful complement to a professional look. However, nails that are too long, painted in a bright (or too dark) color, or even those that are natural but unkempt, can be distracting. Men should also pay close attention to their nails and keep them short and clean. Women and men alike can benefit from a manicure. You can’t imagine how many people notice a set of well-kept hands!
Fingers and hands – Watch yourself for other behaviors, such as a tapping your fingers or pen, biting your nails, playing with your hair or crossing your arms, when you are nervous. These habits can be distracting to a client, which can cause him or her to lose interest in what you’re saying.
Voice, Part One – Check your voice. Listen to a voicemail message that you’ve recorded. If it’s nasal or too low or too soft, you may want to seek a professional voice coach or someone who can help address the issue.
Voice, Part Two – Many people talk too fast when they’re anxious or tense. The next time you are in a stressful situation, such as a meeting with a potential client, listen to your own voice. Practice talking slower and fully enunciating the words.
Teeth – Remember to a smile! People love to see a happy person.
(Phil Hall is the former president of Open City Communications, a New York PR agency, and former editor of PR News. His latest book "The New PR" will be released later this year from Larstan Publishing.)