Blog Interview, YOU the Brand –  Siobhan Stirling
Founder and director of Sharp Minds Communications, which offers strategic marketing communications
www.sharpminds.agency

How would describe your personal brand?

Smart, professional, intelligent, vibrant, confident.

What values are important to you?

Intelligence, integrity, consummate professionalism.

How do you reflect these in your Personal Image?

When I am client-facing, my style is very much in line with those values: sharp, professional, clean, modern lines, with a dash of fun, such as an oversized ring or a funky coat.  Something that people subconsciously probably notice about me is that I wear colour – and I don’t wear black and white.  My mother got me colour analysed before I started my first career job – and it’s the most liberating style investment you can make.  It short cuts shopping; you eliminate 75% of the garments straight away as you know they are going to drain you.  And it gives you the confidence that you look your best in 100% of your wardrobe.  I am a Spring, so I wear clear, warm, yellow-based tones; it means when I am out amongst a load of suits, I am often the most vibrantly dressed person in the room, but – when you know that what you’re wearing works well for you and is appropriate to your personal and company brand – it means getting noticed for all the right reasons.

Unfortunately, I am trying to overcome an ankle injury at the moment, and the worst thing for it is heels; the moment I am back in the office I have to change back into flats.  But I have some big personal targets coming up (kicking off with the New York marathon the day after my 50th birthday in November), and mending my ankle is my top priority, so I am happy to live in flats most of the time for the next few months if it gets me towards that goal.

Describe your company brand image.

My company brand image is very aligned with my personal brand and values, the value the agency offers to clients and what sets us apart from our competitors – a synergy achieved through a comprehensive, incisive brand development process undertaken by The Rare Skills Set [http://www.therareskillsset.com/].

The company name (Sharp Minds Communications) and the promise (Marketing Intelligence) underpin everything we do: we offer clients the intelligence they need – but can’t afford in-house – to drive their businesses forward.

The logo denotes how way we work to offer strategic marketing communications for our clients: we get inside their business to reveal their different layers right through to the core of their values, their drivers and their ambitions – and then we develop multi-layered marketing strategies to communicate the right message to the right audiences via the right channels, making sure we reach their target clients, while also helping our clients reach their own targets.

The orange and grey is modern, arresting and clean.  Every output that we produce is aligned with the brand values and the brand representation; I recently gave a presentation and someone commented that it was the sharpest looking presentation they had ever seen.  The messaging matrix and brand development guidelines produced by The Rare Skills Set have given us the blueprint to ensure that every part of our brand representation is aligned and reinforces our core values.

How do you ensure your staff share your values and represent these values in the way they look, sound, feel and behave?

One of the things that I have understood from my work with The Rare Skills Set (I also collaborate with them on joint client projects), is that a brand has an essential – and often overlooked role – as an employer brand.  It needs to attract and retain the right candidates by communicating your values.  The brand The Rare Skills Set have developed is so powerful in its alignment with my values and those of the company that it has helped me attract the right people with the right attitudes and behaviours.  Even the name, Sharp Minds, gives us a very clear shorthand for assessing whether what we are doing is on brand: we often ask “But is that Sharp?  Do we think that’s Sharp Minds?”

What do you do to relax?

Run, walk, read, chill with the kids on the sofa, see friends, sew, knit, paint – but I haven’t had time to do the last three since I put serious focus on growing my business.

How well does your wardrobe reflect your lifestyle?

I have several lifestyles, and wardrobes that match each of those.

Client facing: sharp dresses, heels, co-ordinating lipstick, fabulous accessories.

Working in our rural office: flat boots with thick socks – and the rest builds on that: either jeans with big jumpers or funky little skirts, tights and big jumpers.  And in the summer, simple dresses – the easiest thing to wear.

Running: I have days when I live in Lycra.

Dog walking and walking holidays with my girlfriend: my amazing walking boots and lots of waterproofs.

Going out: a bit of bling.

What is you favourite thing in your wardrobe and why?

My running shoes and my walking boots – they are my freedom, meditation, escape, strength and sanity.

What is the least worn item in your wardrobe and why?

A long slinky cardigan.  It never quite works with hemlines and can’t really accommodate layers underneath.

Describe your look in 3 words?

Confident – everything else follows from that.  One of my biggest sadnesses is how many of the truly wonderful, amazing, talented beautiful women I know have had their lives marred by negative relationships with food and their bodies.  My body is amazing: it does everything I ask it to – and I think that is truly awesome.  Sure, there are bits that might not compare favourably against an airbrushed celebrity who spends 4 hours a day in the gym, but it’s real and it works.  When I run, it’s for the MS Society; two of my dearest friends have the condition.  Having a body that is real and works is all I want from it; why do we plague ourselves with asking for more?

What is you your style secret?

Accentuate the positive, hide the negative.

When you are getting ready for an evening out which song you put on, your Style soundtrack?

Car Wash

What is your proudest moment?

Giving birth to my eldest or completing my first marathon – it’s a toss-up between those two firsts.  You don’t really believe you can do either until you have (although my daughter will be furious to know that her birth hasn’t won hands down!)