How First Impressions Recolor Your Brand’s Story

Personal brands. Corporate brands. Non-profit brands. What do they all have in common?

They make a promise. It doesn’t matter whether that brand represents a church, a school, or a fortune 500 organization.

Consider Starbucks. Whether you enter one in San Diego or San Francisco… whether you find one in a hotel lobby or a shopping mall… you will find the same drinks, service, and ambiance. That’s the Starbucks promise.

If you are a leader concerned about the promises your brand makes, you are constantly communicating seven crucial stories. Every message (verbal and visual) that goes out to the public either reinforces or contradicts those stories.

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First impressions, then, reinforce or recolor the stories your brand wants to tell and the values it works hard to promote.

A Team Exercise:

The next time you get together with your team, be the courageous leader who asks the hard questions.  Below are a few to get you started.

This exercise works best if everyone understands that the goal is not to place blame or make judgements. The purpose is to collect data, analyze it, and figure out if it tells an accurate story.

1. What stories are being communicated through first impressions?

2. Are we consistently late… to events… to meetings… with deadlines… with contributions? What story are we telling?

3. Do we talk more than we listen?  What does that say about our brand?

4. Does the quality of our presentations — and PowerPoint slides —  represent or misrepresent our brand image?

5. If our meetings tell our story about our brand culture, what is that story?

6. Are we keeping people that hurt our culture… because they are talented?  What does that say about our brand… and our values?

7. What does the communication in our emails say about our brand?

8. Are conversations — with peers, employees, partners, and clients — productive, satisfying, and empowering?  If not, what story do they tell about our brand?

9. Does anyone have a problem making eye contact?  What does that say about our message?

10. What first impression do I/we give with our handshake?

11. How fast do we hand off leadership… and trust? What does that say about our brand, culture, and values?

Time to Tweak:

Examine the stories that are reinforced or recolored through first impressions.  What steps can you begin taking today, as a team, to make sure the accurate stories are getting across?


Is your team or your organization facing branding and messaging challenges? Contact us to discuss how we can help.

Maria Keckler

Maria helps clients clarify the story they want to tell… then designs and delivers training and coaching that align with that story. Whether she’s helping clients design high-impact meetings, communication training, or presentation slides, Maria ensures their message is getting across superbly. Maria is also founder and president of SUPERB COMMUNICATION.

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