Take Control Of Your Publicity (Or End Up Like Bill Clinton)

What Is Your ‘Personal Brand’?

Your personal brand is what should determine your media activity and the type of presence you seek to obtain publically.

In my last post, I debated the topic “Is All Publicity Good Publicity?” I looked at a range of factors that would influence this statement, and the main conclusions can be summed up as the following:

  • Publicity stunts can be really fun and serve to get attention in a crowded and noisy world, but be sure that any stunt and expected/possible outcomes are suited to your audience and what you would ideally like your reputation to be.
  • Don’t ever let the negatives outweigh the positive, particularly if you are trying to place yourself in a position of authority.
  • The best publicity is well planned and thought out. Don’t be sloppy with any publicity you can control. Be in charge – it’s your reputation after all.

Unsurprisingly, a controversial topic such as this one had quite a strong reaction, and there was some debate about whether my example of Bill Clinton’s escapades worked in his favor.

There was one school of thought along the lines of the fact that his ratings increased (arguably for a brief time) after he confessed and his wife forgave him. However, another opinion was that he lost credibility and made the white house staff look foolish, as well as putting a question mark over US politics and politicians, and what they really stand for and spend their time doing.

With this in mind, I thought it ideal timing to address the topic of what your personal brand is. It is only once you have a grasp on this, can you really take control of your publicity and decide what type of publicity to engage in, how to behave and what messages to put across.

What Determines Your Personal Brand?

Just as companies have a brand, so do you. Your brand should be largely determined by your industry and the type of clientele you are hoping to appeal to. If your desired clientele are conservative, it goes without saying that you should take a conservative stance with your personal brand. If your industry is one that needs to be taken seriously, such as financial planning, then a personal brand that involves skate boarding and rapper-style trousers would not be altogether appropriate.

On the other hand, you may be looking for an excuse to tread some different ground in your industry in order to stand apart from the sea of competition.

One good example is Richard Branson, who obviously decided that business and entrepreneurship was altogether too dry and boring, so he decided to take a few risks by stepping outside the square, and launching himself out of a plane quite literally, among other adventurous antics. The public fell for his affable nature and repaid him in the greatest way – millions of fans for him and his business ventures.

On a more local level, I have heard of an accountant who delivers seminars and talks on business accounting, but his image is totally opposite of what you might expect from an accountant. He could almost be described as “off-beat” and “hippy”, with colorful clothes and crazy hair. But he is genius in knowing his stuff, and this brand sets him apart from the other hundreds of accountants out there. In fact, a younger demographic feel that they can relate, so he has hit upon another niche altogether – Gen Y business owners.

How Your Personal Brand Should Influence Your Publicity Activity

If your brand is outlandish and adventurous, and your industry is one of enormous and rapid change (such as internet marketing), you can afford to be a little more controversial in your media statements and image. If, however, you are a politician, you need to be careful to stick to your party’s political policy when speaking publicly, and be careful not to behave or speak in a way that is contrary to what your party is pledging.

This is where we can address Bill Clinton’s actions. Middle America is on the whole a conservative public, and while it may be acceptable, even expected, for celebrity to have their “dirty washing aired,” it is the last thing a person in a position of authority would hope for.

Tiger Woods was a respected sports identity, and even his debacle tarnished his reputation and caused him to lose sponsorship arrangements together with his marriage. We all make mistakes, but a public, who are replying and entrusting one person to make important decisions on their country’s behalf, would most certainly hope for fewer distractions and more work getting done in the Oval Office.

So, yes, while his votes may have increased in the short term, one might describe it as a “pity vote.” I would challenge you to mention the words “Bill Clinton” to any group of adults in most parts of the world, and not receive a snicker, or reference to a cigar. How embarrassing for anyone to endure that as their brand reputation, especially when their industry is meant to be one of a serious and important nature.

Having said that, the publicity that surrounded this incident was not encouraged or organized by Clinton himself, and when faced with the horror of the story going to press, he conducted himself in the most appropriate way under the circumstances.

Any publicity that is carried out in a controlled way should be given much consideration as to whether it matches your personal brand. This is where having a strategy in place works wonders and should prevent you from acting in conflict to your desired brand.

Social Media And Your Personal Brand

Social media is where many of us have tripped up, because it is so new and evolving. If you are trying to present a professional business image, clients may be shocked to discover your drunken weekend adventures posted all over your Facebook profile page. Even if that isn’t you, there may be some interests, hobbies and family matters you don’t necessarily want to share with your clients. A public or fan page that separates your “private” and “public” self should avoid any issues.

Click here to read part three of this series.

Kerry McDuling

About Kerry McDuling

Kerry McDuling is a publicist and Director of her own public relations and publicity consultancy McDuling PR and exposure speciality business, Stratosphere Me – building brands and developing profitable business opportunities for companies, authors, speakers, and entrepreneurs.

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  • I always hear marketers say that the bigger you get, the more responsible and careful you should be, because one simple non planned act, could ruin your entire brand.

    • Hey David, you’re absolutely right, I agree with you.

    • David, thats a great point! This is because the larger your profile, the more newsworthy you are suddenly! For example, if I were to break my arm, nobody apart from my family and clients would care, however if the Queen or a celebrity broke their arm, suddenly you are looking at front page news! This can work to your advantage and detriment.

  • I sometimes envy the guys who decided to build their business with anonymity from the beginning. That would be nice!

    Although, I wouldn’t mind being Richard Branson either.

    • Everyone has a different motive in business but if you want to really enage with your audiece and customers, particularly in the internet marketing and social media sphere, then you need to come out from the shadows!

  • Yeah branding is so important but I think there is only so much you can do. In the early days it’s easy to have total brand control but as soon as you put something out to the public you loose an element of control. Your brand becomes public and you can’t control perception.

    It’s always good to be faithful to your brand and figure out what your brand values are. That way you can treat your values as a filter in which to run everything through (content creation, interview opportunities, appearances, products, affiliates etc).

    But if you are determined to make sure people perceive your brand as you do, then you might be in for a surprise or two and find things totally exhausting (eg. a Google Alert on your brand set to every 10 mins!)

    • You are right Dan, there is only so much you can do. Look at all the stories that run every day around the world on various public figures and celebrities, especially in tabloid magazines, many of which are not even close to being accurate.We all need to live our lives but if you are in the public eye, then be careful about what you do. Already there is enough being said that is not true without you adding to it!

  • Publicity gives your business a “Halo Effect” that makes it stand out in your community, in your state, and across your entire country.

  • OMG, “If you are trying to present a professional business image, clients may be shocked to discover your drunken weekend adventures posted all over your Facebook profile page” This is SO true. But I saw this one coming before it ever even came close to happening to me. A downside to this same idea is that I actually had to remove my family members from my “family” list. HA!. Some of them are just too much for what I would consider my clients to understand. Sorry guys 🙁 It;s business.

    • I had a giggle Christopher, because the same has happened to me! But it really depends what industry you are in. If you are a figure of authority, then keep it strictly business. If you are in the internet marketing industry, such as Maria Andros, then sure, share what you did on the weekend and some personal snippets – we all like to feel like we can relate. Just decide what you are and are not comfotable allowing your clients to know about you.

  • it is needed a great brand consultant to make our personal brand getting bigger and more…
    honestly, i couldn’t make it by myself…
    maybe it costs the company too much if i hire a full time one…

    • Yes, you are right, it does cost a lot of money to hire someone full time – that is why many businesses choose to have a consultant (like myself) on their team. I am also in the middle of creating a product to teach businesses and individuals how to do this for themselves, so they have all the tools right there, without the huge price tag! Stay tuned!

  • Creating a buzz around your persona regardless if you do this with controversial means will always work and bring some sore of return, however there is a line that some people seem to cross.

  • Perception is everytning. Clinon survived so the rest of us should copy and grow tremendously

  • Great column and you couldn’t use a better example than Bill Clinton. I always admired what he did in his political life but his personal life was a trainwreck and it was all over the papers much as Wierner is now. And as one of your commentor mentioned, I have to be very careful about a certain friend on my facepage since her boundaries are ‘elastic’. And I’ve advised a friend of mine who is in college to become a stock broker and has pix all over the place of her drunk and/or with booze. She will be shocked when, years later, it will come back to bite her. I’m forwarding your column to her.

    • Hi Louise, thanks for your comment and I am so glad you enjoyed it. And good on you for sharing with your friend as, yes, what you post online can always be found, when you least want it to be. Please stay in touch and let me know if you ever have any further queries or comments on this topic. x

  • Social media is like catalizator it can magnify things good and bad. Bunch of celebs and public figures has experienced that, as you mentioned Tiger Woods, Bill Clinton, Chris Brown, Anthony Weiner, Arnold Schwarzenegger just to name a few recent ones. It is impossible to control when it is out so in my opinion if you want good publicity and public image think what you do and how it may affect your brand before you do it.

  • Branding is important – especially on the internet. Otherwise how would you make your USP known as opposed to your competitors. Great logos, clear site structure and some involvement in social traffic to have your brand recognized and distinguishable. What your profile on the net is should definitely influence your online presence and acceptance from your visitors.

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