This morning on NBC’s “Today” program, Matt Lauer interviewed Facebook’s CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. As an image consultant who is dedicated to improving how men connect with their audiences, I was struck by the wardrobe choices Zuckerberg or his public relations handlers made and the way he ended up appearing on “Today”.
The point of Zuckerberg’s appearance was to clear the air about Facebook’s ‘about face’ [as it were] regarding changes to its terms of service. Concerns have been mounting amongst its 175,000,000 users over who owns the content placed on each user’s profile. I’m not convinced his explanation was the clearest it could have been, however, because his appearance was distracting to his message.
So just how important is it that Mark Zuckerberg and all successful, talented men in Silicon Valley develop more of a visual personal brand? It all has to do with the attention paid to the way you are presented. But don’t misunderstand my point. It’s not about creating Hollywood glamour because you’re going to be on TV. It’s about being respected and correctly understood by your audience. To wit, Matt Lauer and the production staff queued up a tape of Zuckerberg’s 2007 appearance on “Today” just to talk about how he dressed then and how he dressed today for his appearance.
Lauer commented how Zuckerberg wore flip-flops in 2007 and actually wore a tie today. I noted he wore outerwear pieces by The North Face with The North Face embroidered logo emblazoned on the chest for both appearances. It was better branding for a company of a different face, than for his company. I took further issue with the tie. Worn with a white shirt, jeans, sneakers, The North Face activewear piece, Zuckerberg appeared as a nondescript individual rather than a company leader.
When a man with such youthful looks wears a tie in this kind of combination it never works for several reasons. The tie is out of place for an otherwise casual statement. The tie says, ‘take me seriously’ while the rest of the outfit says, ‘take me skateboarding’. Zuckerberg is known to be highly intelligent; and yet, this tie-wearing trick still challenges his sense of worldliness, and of appropriateness. There comes a time as a business leader when you have to mature your brand instead of staying rooted in the look of Ivy League collegiate youth.
So whether you’re Mark Zuckerberg, or someone else who’s got an upcoming media appearance, I welcome the opportunity to work on developing your image with you.
After all, designing your image is the secret science to your success.
Joseph Rosenfeld helps professional men and corporate workgroups create effective visual brands. Visit JosephRosenfeld.com for details.