Pamela Eyring

Pamela Eyring
Pamela Eyring

Our June profile proudly highlights one of my personal mentors, Ms. Pamela Eyring. Pamela is the President and Director of The Protocol School of Washington®, the leader in protocol and etiquette services. Armed with more than two decades of operational protocol and educational development, Ms. Eyring brings in-depth knowledge and skill to the protocol and etiquette industry. Formerly the Chief of Protocol at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Dayton, Ohio, she planned and directed military, government, international and civic ceremonies, conferences, special events and Presidential visits.

Pamela's Advice

Best general advice you've ever received
Be kind to one another. My mother used to say it to me all the time. It was a core value in our family and it became a core value in my professional life.
Worst general advice you've ever received
To think about myself first – to heck with others and their feelings and reach the top. I cannot step on someone to get ahead – I am always reminding myself to take the high road even if I am confronted with nastiness.
Best style advice you've ever received?
Dress for the position you desire, not the one you are in. I used the "act as if" principle – dressing for the position, observing and listening to the person in the position I desired, and most of all support the person in the position (you never know who your next boss will be).
Worst style advice you've ever received?
If you got it, flaunt it. I took it too literally and went through a bad stage of dressing! I thought it was cool to dress sexy in my younger day (which was much milder then what sexy dressing is today). Then I thought dressing like a "jock" was cool. What a mess!

When someone tells you "change your hairstyle," believe them.

When someone tells you "to complain to their boss," don't believe them.

You're more likely to offer a job to a candidate who does or says what?
I can teach technical skills but I can't teach service heart. I look for a person who is genuinely kind to other people, will go the extra mile to find an answer or assist, is a great follower (which is the greatest way to learn leadership), and who has desire to have a sharp appearance/style."

Pamela Evolves

Pamela, 3, with Mom
Pamela, 3, with Mom.
When did you first understand the power of image in helping you achieve your personal/professional goals?
My mentor, Paul Westcott, told me I needed to change my hair style. I was shocked! He had always focused on my credentials, education, resume, etc. but never my physical image. He said my hair was distracting and unprofessional (think singer Mariah Carey 80's hair – long, big and curly via perm). I was initially crushed and mad but then reflected how much I respected his views and went to see a "professional" hair stylist. The stylist told me he was going to get me from the 80's to the 90's, and he did. The bonus of this story is I did get promoted not long afterwards – I credited the hair style!
How did your dress/grooming change as you moved from one career or job position to the next?
  • As a young woman? I dressed in skirts and blouses that were usually form-fitting. Pencil skirt with a slit up the back, fitted blouses, hosiery and heels. Even in high school, my sophomore year I dressed professionally so I could be accepted into the Intensive Office Education (IOE) two-year program. The program would only accept 21 women and you were graded on business attire, typing skills, and academics. I made it!
  • Starting out professionally? My first job was as a Clerk-Stenographer at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio. I was 18 years old and dressed like I did in high school. It took me about 2 + years to realize the power of a suit or jacket. My mother had bought me my first skirted suit my senior year in high school. Then she began buying more jackets with coordinating skirts/slacks. Thankfully, she had style!
  • In your current position? Dorothea Johnson, the Protocol School of Washington founder, taught me about quality suiting. She is a self-proclaimed suit snob! She began teaching me about designers and quality fabric. She taught me the power of a black or cream shell under my suits and to show off my neck because it showed power (my neck not my breasts).

    She told me in our profession never wear brown shoes, have neutral nail polish and white teeth. I tend to be a perfectionist with myself always wanting to offer a great appearance for people both physically and mentally out of respect to them and for myself. I watch for great sales to purchase my suits ensuring they are not too fashion forward but a natural extension of my personality.

How did your behavior change as you moved from one career or job position to the next?
  • As a young woman? I was always learning from others what I saw as good behavior and bad behavior. I wanted respect and knew I had to give it to earn it. I am an extrovert and believe this trait helped me meet people. I enjoyed learning good behaviors from Traditionalists – the way they would greet me, their eye contact, and how they would introduce me to others and make me feel special and worthy. I learned a lot of good behavior from my parents – I hope my children learn it "on the job" too! My high school teacher, Mrs. Kier, brought communication skills into our classroom. She had worked for the government as well and would ensure our class received training in etiquette, dress, and behaviors.
  • Starting out professionally? What a wonderful way to learn professional behavior – work for the US Air Force! I was only 18 years old and had a lot more to learn professionally when I was first hired there. Again, the "watch and learn" motto came into play. I think this is where I began learning how to show confidence.

    When a military member approaches and asks a question you better know the answer or at least help find the answer quickly. Seriously, the military and civilian employees were wonderful mentors and coaches always treating me with respect and dignity even at 18 years old. They would tell me – do this instead of that, say this instead of that….they were always helpful and wanting me to be successful in my position.

  • In your current job position? I'm always on stage – period. My behavior matters more now than ever because I am a business owner and I have a lot of people (stakeholders such as our founder and my team, graduates, prospective students, and the public) who are depending on me.

    I have a great reputation that reflects on the school which if not continuously honed and earned could be a negative reflection on me and the school – more importantly my graduates. I'm not worried; rather, I'm just careful. I love my job and I find success in more than money but in my team's and graduates' successes – it's a motivator for me to see others do well and reach their goals. If I was independently wealthy I would teach for free! Some day…

Have you ever worn something on the job you later regretted?
Pants that were too tight. I had gained some weight and didn't try on the suit before I left for DC and had to wear them in the classroom. A student brought it to my attention. She was right; they were too tight and not flattering on me. Now that I'm in my mid-forties, I am always gaining and losing weight and have a great tailor to assist me with my wardrobe needs…
Pamela in 9th grade Pamela in 9th grade.
What is your "go-to" outfit, that wardrobe ensemble that instantly empowers?
Either my Armani or Hugo Boss "man suit". Black pinstriped pant suit with a crisp white collar dress shirt, hose and pumps…junky white pearl necklace - no better power feeling than wearing one of those suits to a meeting or in class.

Pamela Starts Branding

When did you begin intentionally branding yourself?
When I began working in the command section protocol officer supporting the 4-star AF commander. I had two great mentors, Frona Pond and Hedy Wilson. Both taught me how to brand myself as a professional young woman. I was 21 years old. I watched how they earned respect, how they dressed and behaved and thought to myself I want to be like them. They gave me my first set of faux pearls for a birthday present. They taught me not to wear warm and cool colors on my face at the same time! (I'm a warmer-based skin tone). They taught me about suiting and more importantly they believed in me. To be like them I had to intentionally open my mind to their ideas and walk the walk.
In your opinion, what percentage of women use image/branding to their advantage?
Not near enough! I am amazed at the stories of young women derailing their careers because they act and dress like they are still in college…and older women who want to dress and act like younger women! They need to hyper-focus on their image and find great mentors who will help them find their identity.
What's your response to people who that image shouldn't be important, that only the quality of their work matters?
Disagree. I know employers who are faced with hiring and promoting technically savvy people but their people skills is the deciding factor. Employers want to hire and promote people who will make them and their company look good. They look for bright performing people who also have great professional behaviors and a sharp image.
When can you "break the rules" of clothing norms and wear whatever you want? Or can you?

There comes a time when you grow more confident in your dressing and attire. I look at occasion and audience when I want to showcase my personality. I don't wear hose in the summer in South Carolina unless I am meeting with a more formal government group or teaching.

Daily office wear is casual and includes open toed shoes! When I'm traveling on a plane to a business destination I'm always in business attire just in case my luggage is lost or I see someone I know professionally – I want to look good! I don't dress sexy too often and I don't like to show cleavage. I did wear a black halter dress recently in Las Vegas from White House Black Market and felt feminine but it felt right for the occasion and location.

Are the rules for your dress more relaxed since you've achieved a level of success (perhaps you were more likely to wear a suit when you first began, but now don't feel the need?)
The rules for dress are more relaxed for me now than they were in my first job, but not because I don't feel they are needed. Rather, the workplace dress codes have changed significantly in the last twenty years. I personally don't like "casual Friday's" as it's difficult to project both "casual" and "professional".
How important is it to maintain a slim, trim figure? Would you be as successful a brand if you were overweight?
Yes, you can be a successful brand and be overweight but why would we want to? I feel more strength, power, and confidence when I am not overweight. I'm happier with myself which means I am nicer to others and can give more. I recently lost 30 pounds over the past 8 months and feel great again. I think depressive thoughts and negativity can sneak in when you don't feel comfortable with your body. Oh, I sneak a cookie or a scoop of ice cream now and then but not daily.
Your thoughts on balancing your position as female leader and a potential female sex object (How do you project "business" while inherently being an attractive woman?)
Thank you for the "attractive woman" compliment! It's a balance between dress and behavior; talk the talk and walk the walk. Meaning, I enjoy feeling attractive but I do it more professionally with dressing appropriately and not being overly flirtatious. You have to draw the line immediately if you pick up nonverbal body language from a man. You also have to look at yourself and think am I standing too closely, is my eye contact too long-lasting, is my dress too short, etc.
Looking around your work office (and how you've decorated it), what perceptions do you want visitors to form?
It's just a professional office with simple decor and furnishing. I have lots of books, papers, and thank you notes displayed all over. I like to re-read them since they make me smile. I have gifts I've received and proudly display them. I really should hire a professional who could help me become more organized in my office!

Pamela Talks Clothing & Shopping

Pamela on CNNPamela on CNN
How often do you shop?
Too often! Actually, I enjoy shopping and usually in a store once a week.
Do you frequent certain stores or websites?
My favorite place to find name brands at a discount is Ross Department Store. I bought an Anne Klein suite for $29! I regularly find current name-brand suits for under $69. Ross has more variety and is less expensive than Marshalls or TJ Maxx. When I'm looking for designer clothes at a huge discount, I will visit Century 21 when in NYC or Saks Tysons Corner in VA when they are having their huge summer sale in July.
What percentage of your budget is spent on clothing, grooming, accessories, etc.? Has this increased, decreased, or remained the same over the years?
Too much; indeed, it doubled once I bought The Protocol School of Washington. I spent less on cocktail and evening gowns. I spent more, however, on suits, shoes, and accessories such as handbags/brief cases. I also increased my budget for personal grooming (hair, body, and skin).
If we walked into your closet right now, what would we find?
Organized and dejunked! I consume ¾ of our walk-in closet with my clothes. Mostly, you'll find suits and shoes, a couple of dresses, jeans, and casual tops. I love jewelry so I have a nice jewelry armoire with lots of costume and fine jewelry.
Do you prefer to wear solids and patterns? Is there such a thing as "too" much color or an inappropriate pattern?
Both. When I need to be more serious (or have gained weight) I wear more solids. I enjoy wearing vertical stripes or soft prints. I think color should complement you, not overtake you. I want people to notice me, not just my clothes. I mostly wear warm muted colors. Cool or bright colors wash me out. Busy patterns are not flattering if you are a larger woman – I prefer less distraction.
Do you have a clothing mentor who influences your style (CEO, celebrity, political figure, etc.)?
Ms. Dorothea Johnson influenced my style to become more conservative and elegant in the classroom. I also appreciate the style of Julia Roberts, Christie Brinkley, Cate Blanchett, and Scarlett Johansson. Paris Hilton and Brittney Spears are not.
Please comment on your hairstyle. How does it serve you and your professional goals?
I think my hair has always been my weak area until I bought the Protocol School of Washington. Dorothea and even Robert Hickey, my deputy, guided me. I like how Daniel Bashara in McLean, VA styles my hair. Hi/low lights and slightly changing the length and style to fit the season and how I am feeling. If I need a boost, he'll give me a more powerful looking cut usually shorter. If I am feeling pretty confident, he might let it grow out just a bit so I can pin it up. Either way it must be professional when I'm in the classroom teaching and with the media.
What piece of jewelry couldn't you live without?
My chunky white pearl necklace and of course my wedding ring.
Have you ever worn accessories strategically (wearing glasses, for example, to nonverbally heighten the perception of intellect and maturity?)
No, but my colleague Sarah Baack did and I hired her because of it!
How would you identify your style/clothing personality?
Classic & Elegant

Pamela Talks Success

What's your definition of success?
SUCCESS = Education+self awareness+motivation+kindness+resilency

To learn more about Pamela Eyring, visit

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