Some people just aren’t great at dressing themselves. They consistently look shabby, mismatch colors and patterns, or seemingly just don’t care how they present themselves. I would guess that these people fall into one of three categories:

  1. They believe people shouldn’t judge you by your clothes
  2. They don’t care what others think
  3. They have no idea how bad they look

Here’s the thing, those same categories apply to the public image of SO many organizations that clearly have not put (meaningful) effort into their public image, and for one or more of the reasons above, they don’t intend to either.

So let me take a minute to outline where each of those arguments break down:

People Shouldn’t Judge
Well, yes. Of course I agree that this is the ideal, but ideals aren’t always reality and unless you are prepared to define success in your organization by spending an incredible amount of time, money, and effort to educate the WORLD out of a behaviour, then you’re going to consistently be disappointed with your outcomes. Some social movements may help your cause here, but not enough to warrant banking on it.

Don’t Care What People Think
Here’s the catch: You can ‘say’ that you don’t care what people think of you, but the reality is, you do care, because what they think of you has a DIRECT bearing on how they will interact with you. If you look unprofessional, you will make less money. If you look sloppy, people will struggle to believe that you will do any work for them that’s any better than how you look yourself. That might seem harsh, but it’s reality, and you do care about your bottom line goals/results, so you need to care about how you look.

No Idea How Bad You Look
Let’s assume that this person simply doesn’t know better and has never had anyone to tell them different. If you are worried that you might be one of the oblivious ones, let me encourage you that there is a really great, simple, and free solution…


Ask someone.

Talk to your audience. Ask a friend. You can even call a professional, but if you’re leery of that, go find someone who has experienced great success with their public image and ask them what they think of yours. You can’t do this on your own.

No one is going to tell you if you don’t ask and you just presume that things are ok. Recently, I was at a facility where I overheard a couple of women who were looking at the venue's brochures say, “This place is great, why don’t their materials look great too? The way their marketing themselves now makes the whole place look like a joke.” They were completely correct in their assessment - if you hadn’t experienced the place, you’d think it was a joke by their marketing.

But those people won’t tell you unless you ask. You have to initiate the conversation. You have to make it ok for them to be honest and you have to be genuinely appreciative of their feedback.

Regardless of who you use, find out where your image stands from their external perspective and then you can deal with it as needed! Unless they are a competitor, those people have NOTHING to gain by telling you that you’ve got some work to do. Rather, they’ll just be there to help you. The feedback might not be easy to hear, but make the environment comfortable enough for them to be brutally honest with you - because that’s the only thing that will truly help you.

Acknowledging the problem is the ONLY first step to solving it.

From there, it’s true that you may not have the tools/skills to get things on track yourself, but at least you’ll have matured past the excuses and graduated to a place where at the very least, you know where some of your organizational challenges are coming from. Otherwise, your public image will continue to chip away at you, likely, as you fade into anonymity.

So, button up your logo, tuck in your brochure, and tighten up your website.

You’ve got a name to uphold.

Andrew VanderPloeg
Andrew VanderPloeg Guest Blogger, Consultant

Andrew served at Bark for over 20 years before recently taking over the role of Vice President of Marketing & Communications at ShareWord, one of our favorite organizations.