Aura, (NOUN) – ‘distinctive atmosphere or quality that seems to surround and be generated by a person, thing or place’.
This word has been haunting me. It’s come up multiple times recently in the context of individuals and businesses. It’s reminding me of the work I used to do in branding. Working out what people perceive and think and feel about you/your product or service, and then if that’s not the Aura you want to communicate, taking practical steps to change (via eg your customer care, visual identity, written tone of voice, services, pricing etc etc).
This is all around us.
The Ernst & Young youth mentor Nilesh Dosa (founder of ‘icanyoucantoo’, to create better workplace prospects for disadvantaged young people) is in the Evening Standard tonight complaining that many of these young people won’t make it past the first round of the recruitment process because of an Aura which involves limp hand shakes, poor CVs and inappropriate dress. He is blaming, by the way, schools for not preparing them properly.
A leading estate agent chain has in recent times changed the Aura of their offices, via a radical refurbishment, to counter some people’s negative perceptions of them.
A colleague of mine rejected a candidate for a board role this week because his Aura wasn’t sufficiently enthusiastic and energetic.
And I’ve done a voice over job today for a consultancy firm in which I had to create an Aura of warmth, trust, authority and knowledge simply by using intonation, pace, tone and a smile in the voice.
I’ve also come across an interesting drama school exercise, in which people are ‘type cast’ simply on the basis of how they behave, move, stand, sit, express themselves. They might be ‘cast’ as eg a senior medical/legal type, a junior admin type, an innovative creative type, an inspirational business leader type, an efficient project manager type or maybe an intimidating chief executive type.
How fascinating. But of what value to us?
Of great value as it happens because it’s about us taking control of how we’re perceived, in the work place and beyond. But it’s not about acting.
- First step: assess your current Aura. Ask people around you.
- Decide which words you want people to associate with you. What’s your desired Aura? NB, it’s got to be achievable. I’m rather keen on Phoebe Waller Bridge’s aura but I know that’s not going to happen! You might choose energetic, inspirational, professional, trustworthy.
- Take practical steps to create that Aura while still remaining authentic and genuine. This might be about greater energy in your presentations; speaking out in meetings more often; eliminating hesitant words and phrases; a firmer handshake; speaking with greater structure and clarity; becoming comfortable giving tough feedback. Maybe even using fewer random capital letters and bold font!! And fewer exclamation marks.
Look at how McDonalds has changed its Aura around health and quality without betraying its fundamental brand promise.
We too can finesse how we’re perceived, how people respond to us and, ultimately, how we feel.