Rick Perry: Lessons in the darkside of personal branding

Posted November 15, 2011 in Career Management, Latest News & Insights

Ever since Tom Peters wrote Brand You for Fast Company in 1997, there has been a steady stream of advice on how mission-critical it is for us to build and manage our personal brands.  Consultants make thousands of dollars teaching people how to write their LinkedIn profiles, spin their resume’s and control their online presence but are we over hyping the flash at the expense of substance?  Republican leadership contender, Rick Perry demonstrated what can happen when you can’t live up to your carefully scripted brand in this cringe-worthy tv moment:

Politicians have become masters of brand management.  From JFK to Trudeau to Harper and even to our own Rob Ford, political campaigns are essentially run on brand power.  Then, the elected official shows up in office and the majority of the people are disappointed in what they actually do when they get there.  I don’t think it’s really that they’re as inept as they seem, it’s just that they can’t live up to their own extreme hype.

And there lies the big rub around personal branding.  At the end of the day, if you can’t live up to your brand promise, like any “product” your “clients” will be disappointed and eventually you’ll be left on the shelf.  And, the word-of-mouth about you will be “yeah, great guy… doesn’t deliver.”

In my opinion, we seem to be placing an inordinate amount of emphasis around building personal “brands” and not enough around working hard and delivering results.  In the “old” days, your brand was essentially an evolution of your reputation.  Today, it feels like personal branding is being used to short-cut the “pay your dues” stage.

I don’t disagree that there’s a place for “personal branding”.  Like anything, it can be a useful tool to open the door to opportunity.  However, over promising and under delivering isn’t going to give your brand, or more importantly your career, long-term staying power.  As Rick Perry just illustrated, screw it up and your brand equity will erode in an instant.

So, the tip of the week is this… before you over invest your energy in worrying about whether your personal “brand” is visible enough, how about making sure you’ve hit your latest project out of the park?

Happy leading!


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