What can you learn about personal branding from Anna Delvey?

Prologue. Together with my colleague Viktorija we came up with the idea to write this article after we completed watching Netflix’s “Inventing Anna”. We had the draft ready on the 22nd of February. Two days later, Russia invaded Ukraine and it was all we could think about. It is breaking our hearts. We strongly condemn Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine and support the Ukrainian people in every way we can. Here’s a quick guide on how you can help Ukrainians and support their fight for freedom, too: https://lnkd.in/dmBDGA4q

And while the article itself is not anyhow related to the war in Ukraine, we continue to support people fighting for Europe’s freedom. At the same time, we believe that it is just as important to keep doing our jobs as well as we can and stay strong. Therefore, we continue educating organisations on employee advocacy, empowering individuals through personal branding and sharing our knowledge with others. So, if you, too, feel that it’s important to remain focused on your daily lives, we invite you to read the following article and learn more about personal branding.

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So, what can Anna Delvey teach us about personal branding?

Disclaimer. We do not support felonies depicted in the miniseries and indicated in the original article nor encourage you to follow Anna Delvey’s path. We are certainly not in favor of it. This article aims to show that there are certain things we can learn even from the antagonist of the story.

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Fake it till you make it. This English aphorism may sound familiar. It’s all about imitating confidence and competence, and it’s one of the best-fitting phrases to define the main character of this article.

By the time you are reading this, we are sure that you have already heard of “Inventing Anna”. An American drama miniseries was inspired by the story of Anna Delvey and the article in the New York magazine titled “How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People” by Jessica Pressler.

If you haven’t watched the miniseries yet, we urge you to do it for several reasons. First, it will most probably glue you to the screen as you will become curious about what happens to Anna Delvey at the end. Second, this show will teach you some important lessons about personal branding.

Therefore, below are the 10 things about personal branding that everyone can learn from Anna Delvey.

1. Vision

Anna Delvey had such a strong vision that even the most respected professionals in the finance, banking, and legal worlds wouldn’t question her credibility. When asked if she had any experience in the art industry before, she had no answer to that question yet still made others believe in her strong vision.

In personal branding, vision is one of the most important things. What do you want to achieve with your brand? Would you like to attract more professional opportunities to your life, secure a desirable role at your dream organization, or deliver a speech at TED Talk? Anna knew hers, and it’s worth for you to know yours, too.

2. Authenticity

Luxurious trips with private jets, staying at fancy resorts, traveling to exotic destinations, wearing luxury brands, and being surrounded by wealthy people – Anna Delvey left others with no choice but to believe that she was a German heiress. You may question that Anna’s magic was making others think she is a rich German heiress with an incredibly strong vision, but people admired her and felt inspired by her courage, dreaming big, having no limits to her wildest dreams. Even though many consider her a fraud today, she was authentic – and we believe that most wouldn’t argue with that.

Authenticity is inseparable from a strong personal brand, and here is a question you perhaps would like to ask yourself: what makes you authentic? Is it your deep sense of empathy, openness, distinctive English accent like Anna’s, or your visionary approach that inspires other people? Every one of us has some magic, so it’s worth delving into yourself and finding it.  

3. Staying true to your values

Delvey stayed true to her values, even in court. While many defendants choose to show the court that they left their old ways behind, Anna did otherwise. Her high-end, low-cut dresses and stylish eyewear made her even more popular than she already was. Apparently, a style professional was hired by her defense team. In the case of Delvey, she not only stayed true to fashion. She stayed convinced that her business idea of establishing the Anna Delvey Foundation was brilliant, and she would have gone the same path once again if she had a chance.

Personal branding is about who you are and what you stand for. Staying true to your values and beliefs, despite the turbulence that might come along the way, is the cornerstone of appearing genuine to your audience. People often admire those with strong values and vision – they are attractive and make others want to be around them. Staying true to yourself is one of many ways you strengthen your authenticity.

 4. Details

She was not a model or somebody who most people would consider a beauty. But Anna Delvey certainly knew the power of details – easy to distinguish elements that could not be missed as she appeared in public. Red hair and chunky black Céline glasses were some of the details that wouldn’t let anybody mistake Anna with somebody else.

When it comes to personal branding, certain details in your appearance can help you become more memorable in the eyes of others. It may be your hairstyle, glasses, or a color dominating in your outfits. Some people have these details in the way they look already, while others may want to think strategically about it. It is not an obligation to pick this signature item, but it can help you stand out from the crowd. After all, the devil is in the details.

5. First impression matters

After having an unsuccessful initial meeting with the lawyer Alan Reed who later was helping her to secure a loan of $40 million to open an exclusive art club, Anna quickly recognized how much power lies in the clothing and how you present yourself. She changed her hair color from blond to copper, started wearing less extravagant, more sophisticated dresses, and eventually convinced Reed to take care of her funding application.

It’s not only about fashion, but the overall way we represent ourselves matters. And it particularly matters when we meet someone for the first time. Therefore, when introducing yourself to others for the first time (and especially with a goal to land a deal or so), put effort into how you introduce yourself. Important note to remember – first impression matters on social media as well. So, make sure your social media profiles represent you well.

6. Networking

Anna Delvey understood the importance of networking and belonging to social circles. She knew who she needed to connect with and put effort into it. From hosting dinners to participating in various events, Anna made friends with wealthy New Yorkers in the art and fashion industries.

Your network is your net worth. This phrase by Porter Gale indicates that it is vital to be part of a community to thrive. When building a personal brand, your contacts can be essential both for visibility and credibility.

 7. Channels

Anna Delvey clearly understood the necessity of being visible in the eyes of her target audience. She participated in parties, met relevant people in person, and streamed her life on Instagram. Delvey even hired a videographer to record her luxurious trip to Morocco and show it to the world. With such a visionary approach, she later wanted to show her story of building something big. 

In personal branding, choosing your channels is key. They may be offline, they may be online, but they should be the ones where you can interact with the audience relevant to you. Ask yourself – where does your audience spend the most of their time? Are you on that channel too? 

8. Content

Earlier in this article, we’ve mentioned that first impressions matter in real life and the online world. While Anna persistently told her story when meeting potential investors and influential professionals, she didn’t abandon her social media. She made sure to post moments from having fancy dinners to staying in the world’s most luxurious hotels to strengthen her image as a wealthy German heiress.

When it comes to personal branding (especially online), content sharing is one of the most significant elements for strengthening your brand. Having defined your main communication directions, the right keywords, and consistently creating content, you can make your audience memorize you for what you want to be known for. The more people see you the way you want to be seen, the stronger your personal brand is.

9. Storytelling

Anna consistently told her fictitious brand story until almost the very end of the series. She introduced herself as a German heiress, telling everyone that a trust fund was waiting for her. Even though these were lies, she was consistent, and it helped her be seen as a trustworthy and credible person.

Even though we certainly do not advise you to come up with fake stories about yourself to get more attention, consistent storytelling may be one of the best ways to be memorized among your target audience. Perhaps you have an authentic and interesting story to be told?

10. People do business with people

Even though there are many credible professionals out there who are waiting to get their loan applications for their businesses approved, some people know the shortcut to reach success. Anna surely is a great example of how controlling others’ perceptions about you can lead to success.

In real life, your personal brand determines whether people want to do business with you or not. Think of it, when there are so many companies offering the same products or services, what are the factors that draw them to one brand or another? Certainly, one of them is the people with whom they interact. Your authenticity and strong personal brand can increase the stakes of getting that client or winning the desired deal. At the end of the day, people do business with other people.

We may love Anna Delvey or hate her, but one thing is clear: she doesn’t leave people apathetic.

Even though we certainly do not support her fraudulent activities and recognize her as a fraudster, we cannot deny that her consistent personal branding efforts had an effect. From the personal branding point of view, it is obvious that Anna knew how the conscious control of her image in the eyes of others would help her reach her goals.

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