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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:
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.
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.
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 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.