Political Elections: How Much Does Image Matter?

By: Lynne Marks | 15 Aug 2016

The answer? A whole lot.

London Image Institute President and Director, Lynne Marks, was recently interviewed about image and its effect on political opinion.

Image consultants know the significance of one’s image. It involves far more than picking out a few pleasant outfits. Appearance, behaviors, and communication (both verbal and non-verbal) all play an integral role in creating a personal and professional image.


In this day and age of constant media, we are bombarded by a plethora of visual images. We look at a face in the news and in a split second register some superficial details. But it doesn’t stop there. In much less time than it takes to send a text our critical assessment machinery kicks in and we form an impression, given by clothing, facial expressions, posture and energy level. Studies have shown that we make quite profound value judgments about others in two seconds or less and it has been said that we make about 20 assessments about an individual’s appearance in roughly 5 seconds — all based on a fleeting first impression.

It is an inconvenient truth that image in today’s political climate can affect a politician’s popularity. The general public, on both a subconscious and conscious level scrutinizes minute details and subtle nuances projected by each candidate. Our subconscious evaluates all the details and very quickly perceives two dimensions: if the person is likable, approachable, friendly, and if we can trust them. In addition, we quickly assess whether or not the person is credible, has authority, is worthy of our time, and if they truly know what they’re talking about.

The Presidential Election and Image

If politicians or individuals in the public eye want to make the grade, their image should communicate that on one hand they are compassionate, experienced and professional, but on the other that they are trendsetters and have innovative new ideas. Trump’s dyed blonde locks sliding down his neck and the highly constructed “comb-over-and flip-back” have become an unfortunate example of a guy stuck in a bygone era. But the fact is, people can improve their appearance. If politicians follow these six steps, they’d have a polished image that would only benefit their campaign.

  1. Choose clothing and ties using colors that suit you and enhance your personal coloring. Unflattering colors can be aging, emphasizing tired facial lines; flattering colors can make you look healthy and youthful.
  2. Wear clothing that fits and enhances your body shape or forms a better, more appealing shape, especially on-camera. Hilary Clinton’s jacket and neckline choices can add or subtract over 10 pounds.


  3. Grooming! Sloppy, unkempt outfits project a negative message: one that says you and your thinking are disorganized and that you don’t care about yourself or the public. Women, pay attention to your haircut, skincare and makeup. Men, adopt a clean-shaven look or well-groomed facial and head hair. Surprisingly, attention to the small details lends you a polish that enhances your expert status.
  4.  An outdated appearance projects the message that you’re stuck in your ways and not up to the current and changing demands of the job. Conversely, if your image is too fashionable, you communicate that you only care about yourself and your appearance — not the job at hand or the individuals affected by your actions.  A look between classic-modern and trend is a great balance.

    Find a medium to low register tone of voice. Screechy, high-pitched voices get tired easily, grate on the ear and soon sound hoarse. Like an actor, practice breathing from the abdomen not the throat.


    Body language. Upright posture speaks volumes about energy level, age, alertness and self-confidence. Avoid pacing, rocking and slumping. Steady eye contact denotes trust; flexible gestures and arm movements instead of podium thumping can be useful to incorporate as they soften your message.


Yes, substance and a committed message are critical and in this election would be a breath of fresh air. Nevertheless the package delivering the message is all we have to go on. From Hillary Clinton’s boxy trouser suits to Donald Trump’s excessively combed over hair; from the flowing facial hair of UK’s Mick Wallace’s to Boris Johnson’s messy look, politicians convey unspoken attitudes, values and mindset.  The public decide if they feel represented or not and vote with their feet.


Our advice to politicians: trust a professional, certified image consultant!

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