Crafting Your Image from the Inside Out

style and branding expert

Melissa Murray

Melissa Murray is an image architect and style expert who was born knowing what to wear, how to wear it and how to tell everyone else how to do it. Along the way, she integrated corporate management expertise with personal image insights to create her own unique niche. Today, she shows high-achievers how to blend their visual impression with the message they’re delivering, helping them become recognizable within their industry. In this interview, Melissa provides practical guidance and personal stories that helped her become an industry influencer in branding from the inside out.
As an award-winning VP of sales, Melissa played the man’s game like a man, always looking to get a jump on the competition and that meant looking the part, from the can-do walk to the successful business suit. It was a shock when she moved to California and saw people coming to work in wet hair and flip-flops. She urges women to go ahead and wear work-out clothes to work out in, but then think about the image you want to project and how you want people to respond to you, then get dressed for it. Dr. Nancy agrees that California women may need to work on that.
The other shock Melissa had was the way women supported her in California. In Texas, her experience was that if women got power, they kept it and didn’t share. In contrast, when Melissa was introduced at her first networking event in California, everyone there (over 100 women) gave her their business cards and asked how they could help her.

Common Mistakes Women Make

As the old adage goes, “You never get a second chance to make a great first impression.” Melissa says it takes five subsequent interactions or three hours with a person to undo a bad first impression. And, she adds, who is going to give you that kind of time?
Three common mistakes that set women back are:

1. Trying to be something that you’re not or being completely unauthentic.

When your messaging and your brand don’t match, you can’t get past that. People will see the incongruency and won’t respond as you want them to. A simple handshake and sincere, “Hi, how are you?” is best.

2. Not looking people in the eye.

Women don’t look people in the eye. We look down. Melissa told of an exercise she does in her presentations where she tells the audience to look one another in the eye for ten seconds. No one can do it, not even men. The message is “I’m insecure.” We’ve become confident on our phones, but not with eye-to-eye contact. We’re so busy looking for the next great thing that we’re not truly present. We need to correct that and concentrate on having meaningful in-person communication.

3.  Being so intent on getting someone’s business card that you stalk them at a networking event.

Networking events should be about building relationships, whether you are new or already acquainted with many members. Focus on being present, asking questions and finding out how you can help one another. In fact, when Melissa commented to her coach about the stalking behavior, her coach said, “Melissa, why would you ever take your business card to a networking event where you know the people? They are already networking for you.”

Leading as Women

Dr. Nancy and Melissa discuss how difficult it has been for women to adjust to leading with the feminine. Dr. Nancy mentions that we must admit vulnerability and reach out to support each other. Melissa talks about how women put themselves last and don’t invest in their wardrobe in favor other people and things. She advises women to prioritize themselves and be authentic. Women want to lift each other up, lead each other, share, cry together or whatever it is. To do that, we must be real and not try to be more than we are or someone that we’re not.
Listen to this interview to hear Melissa’s personal struggle with chronic pain and how she learned what it means to show up as your very best self. Why you need to think about your image even if you’re driving your kids to school or planning a weekend BBQ. Check out her website, for more information about her presentations, her blog and testimonials about her work and her social media links. She also has an award-winning podcast, “Intentional Influence,” that features insights from professionals on all aspects of branding and image creation.

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