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Know It All

How To Make Yourself Unforgettable

In person, online, in your words and actions: Here's how to become one of those people that everyone remembers.

[Photo: Peathegee Inc/Getty Images]

Deep down, we all just want to be remembered.

In today’s distraction-filled world, it’s easier said than done. The average adult has 360 messages coming at them each day via TV, radio, Internet, newspapers, and magazines, according to a study by Media Dynamics. Less than half are noted and far fewer make enough of an impact to be recalled.

If you’re trying to stand out in the midst of that chaos, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

"In the 1980s and 1990s, advertisers needed to be in front of prospects six to eight times to become recognizable, says Bill Corbett, Jr., president of Corbett Public Relations. "Today this number is closer to 21 and may even be higher."

Instead of introducing yourself a couple dozen times (and running the risk of being annoying), here are some things you can do to get noticed and be remembered.

Actions

Wear A "Signature" Item
Sometimes becoming memorable is simply paying attention to what you wear. Steve Jobs was known for his black mock turtleneck and jeans, and Nancy A. Shenker, CEO of theONswitch marketing firm, says memorable people dress like their brand.

"I often wear brightly patterned dresses and hoop earrings," she says. "Some men always wear a bow tie or cuff links. Even if people don't remember your name, they'll remember ‘the guy who always wears a hat.’"

David Ogilvy, founder of Ogilvy & Mather ad agency, wore kilts to work. "If you can’t be brilliant, he said, at least be memorable," Ogilvy & Mather chairman emeritus Shelly Lazarus recalled in an interview with Harvard Business Review. "Trust me: If you met David, you remembered."

Take The Lead
It’s hard to remember 100 names of people in a room, but the leader who runs the meeting and is the focus of attention instantly becomes memorable, says Corbett. "When you are a leader, you command respect, and the attention of people in a room or organization," he says. "Successful leaders who empower others are even more memorable."

Make a Difference
Forget about meeting expectations, trying your hardest, and staying at work the latest, says David Sturt, vice president of the O.C. Tanner Institute, an employee recognition consulting firm. Memorable people go deeper than that.

"Not only do your job, but create a difference—different than the expected, different than the assumed, and different than the last time," he says. "That's how you become memorable and your work gets recognized and noticed."

Follow Up
Don’t let people forget you, says Sheila Benko, career counselor and associate director of partnerships at UCLA: "Always follow up!" she says. In business settings, after a meeting, you should always reach out to share a tip, article, resource, or even a simple thank you," she says.

Jason Abrams, a Michigan-based realtor who specializes in selling homes to professional athletes, says his success came through two memorable thank yous. After making his first athlete sale to a Detroit Lions football player, he flew to North Carolina and California to personally thank the player’s financial adviser and agent.

Both men were impressed that Abrams flew out to personally deliver his thanks, and he was rewarded with several more referrals, and later landed a series on HGTV about his business called Scoring the Deal.

Words

Really Listen
To be interesting, be interested, says Benko. "People like to talk about their interests, so give them a chance to do so," she says. "When meeting for the first time, many people fill silences by talking about themselves; turn the conversation around and ask them about their interests. And once they’re talking, be engaged in what they have to say."

Tell A Compelling Story
When Kurt Schneider, CEO of the Harlem Globetrotters, took over the lovable "clown princes of basketball" in 2007, the team were a somewhat tired, nostalgic property. In his quest to turn them into a multifaceted, modern entertainment company, he first addressed the product’s narrative, says Brett Meister, senior vice president of communications for Harlem Globetrotters.

"Rather than a standard on-court game, he instilled the practice of writing and implementing a new storyline each year; added drama and a big finish to each game; and he mandated putting player nicknames on the jerseys," says Meister. "With story elements that were easier to retain, the crowds grew, and the fans started interacting with the brand."

Today the team has more than a million fans on social media, they have the highest merchandise sales in their history, and last year they set more than 50 attendance records, says Meister. "And every fan goes home with a dramatic story to tell," he says.

Choose Colorful Language
Avoid clichés and brainstorm a new way to get your message across, Lazarus told Harvard Business Review. "Whereas other companies might say, ‘Politicians don’t do well here,’ David [Ogilvy would say], ‘We abhor toadies.’ Other leaders might tell their employees to respect the product’s end user; according to him, ‘The consumer isn’t a moron; she’s your wife.’"

Online

Most people only meet a few hundred people a year in person, but the sky’s the limit with social media, says Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist of Canva, an online graphic design tool. It’s important to make a great digital first impression.

Pick The Right Avatar
A good avatar is your face. Period. "It’s not you and your spouse, surfboard, Corvette, and dog," says Kawasaki. "It should be front lit and asymmetrical. It should not be cropped out of a group photo from last year’s Christmas party."

Use A Cover Photo To Show Your Personality
The purpose of your avatar is to convince people you are likable, trustworthy, and competent, says Kawasaki; the purpose of your cover photo is to convince you’re interesting. Use a photo that tells a story about your passions.

Create Some Drama
Include a graphic or a video in everything you post. "Literally every post," he says. "In a world dominated by plain text, posts with bling attract more attention and make you more interesting."

Related: Are You Networking Or Nagging?