Reconciling the Questions Being Asked About Identity and Image

As we continue the personal branding series with Louise Weigall from Style with Substance I’m enjoying what I hoped would unfold. As a deep thinker, Louise can appreciate and articulate multiple aspects of identity. She and I discussed this week’s article in some detail, for it was an article about the identity of Museums Victoria that triggered her thinking as it relates to our values, our complexity and how we choose to convey our identity and deliver our message.

The subject of identity is a sensitive one for me and many other Australians as those around us celebrate a national day that has its own complexities. My personal journey with discovering what it means to be Australian is explored further in this LinkedIn article.

Here are the words of Louise as she reveals more about her own journey and the shift she feels she needs to make in 2018.

With weekend cricket for Master 8 on hold in early January, I relished the chance to read a Saturday morning newspaper.  This was a real paper, not the iPad.  And even better, I could read it with my breakfast!

Around this time of year, I always feel reflective.  I don’t believe in new year’s resolutions, but I do enjoy making plans on what I’d like to do, be or have for the year ahead.  I like to take into account what’s most relevant for me now as well.

It’s probably why an article I found in the Spectrum section of The Age resonated for me. I’m often drawn to the personal stories, and found myself enjoying ‘Lunch with Lynley Marshall’, a regular column in The Age, this edition written by Kylie Northover. With themes of relevance and identity, it prompted me to think of my own identity in business, and how that might shift for 2018.

Museums Victoria CEO Lynley Marshall wants to reinvigorate a sense of awe into museums. Photo: Simon Schluter

In 2017, I cut back on my day job hours to pursue my styling business. It was one of the best decisions I’ve made, but one I also felt extremely nervous about.  I’m certainly not lacking the knowledge to do the job.  For me, the challenge is getting comfortable in putting myself out there.  Transitioning from the role of ‘employee’ to being ‘self-employed’, is not an overnight journey.  In fact, it’s been a very steep learning curve, especially in the areas of marketing and communications, which are inextricably linked to identity.

In addition to styling, more recently I’ve been consulting and mentoring small businesses on bringing their product to market. Having spent 15 years managing the end-to-end process of developing fashion product offshore, I love being able to now guide others with my insider knowledge and ensure they don’t waste valuable time and money.

Asking Questions Around Identity

In spite of the two parts of my business being complementary, I’ve still found myself asking questions around identity.  To date, people know me for styling, but looking ahead, I’ll be offering consulting services for product based businesses as well.  So, I ask, how do you go about combining different parts of your business and maintain one identity?  Or perhaps, the identity remains the same, but the way you share who you are shifts, which means perceptions change?

I think that’s why the themes reflected in this article resonated.  It’s focused on Lynley Marshall, who is the newly appointed CEO of Museums Victoria.  I learnt she now has the task of helping the museums of Melbourne embrace new media and technology, a direction she spent 15 years crafting and directing for ABC TV.

What stood out, was her immediate perspective on the image of museums.  She highlighted how museums are ‘one of the few egalitarian places of learning we have’, but she also knows that museums have an ‘image’ problem.  “People perceive museums as fusty, full of old things, a bit…. musty and stale.”

With people having access to facts and figures via the virtual ‘Google’ museum, a bricks and mortar museum needs more than just words and static displays to be relevant.  It needs to create feelings that re-ignite the awe and wonder of learning.  And they are doing this with stories and experiences.

What was also highlighted is how much of the richness and wonder that makes up a museum is already there, it just wasn’t out on display.  It wasn’t being shared in a way that the audience could connect with.  It was tucked away behind the scenes… until now, that is.

State Families Minister Jenny Mikakos, Museums Victoria CEO Lynley Marshall, and Indigenous curator Veronica Barnett at Melbourne Museum. Photo: Eddie Jim

Lynley has introduced a ‘behind the scenes’ tour of the museum called Inside OutI love how the essence of the museum remains similar, while the collection itself can be explored in new ways.  I also love how the underlying principle of social media, being to connect, entertain and inform, has been applied to real-life experiences of the museum.  They are sharing the personality of the museum in a more open, entertaining and transparent way, but delivering it with the respect it deserves.

Shaping Your Identity

Humans are complex creatures.  I do believe we have many layers like an onion.  How we choose to convey those different layers of our identity and deliver our message shapes the perceptions of us.  And in business, perception is what makes a first impression.  Just as Museums Victoria has recognized, whether choosing a transparent approach or a more intimate one, what you choose to say and how you choose to say it are crucial in shaping your identity.

And certainly, for me, this is what I’ll need to explore more of in 2018.  As someone who prefers to be private and not share my every move, I need to find the best way to share my most relevant and useful information for my client, even if I feel like I’ve seen and heard it before.

My perspective on fashion has taken me from the pretty to the gritty.  From the factory floor to inspiring trade fairs, outfit planning and years of the daily industry grind where the real work happens.   Sharing more of my ‘behind the scenes’ knowledge and insight is the shift I need to make for 2018.

Photo Source: Sydney Morning Herald and The Age