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Careers: Sarah Palin’s Personal Branding Bonanza

What hasn’t been remarked all that much about in the Sarah Palin phenomenon, is that in some respects her candidacy, ironically, is very much of a piece with the Web 2.0 culture of personality. While she’s certainly not Twittering away or using other social networking tools (though her future son-in-law, 18-year-old Levi Johnson is on MySpace though the page is now private so we can’t link to it), she has distinguished herself by sheer force of personality.

What hasn’t been remarked all that much about in the Sarah Palin phenomenon, is that in some respects her candidacy, ironically, is very much of a piece with the Web 2.0 culture of personality. While she’s certainly not Twittering away or using other social networking tools (though her future son-in-law, 18-year-old Levi Johnson is on MySpace though the page is now private so we can’t link to it), she has distinguished herself by sheer force of personality.

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By referring to herself as a hockey Mom and her down-home speaking style, she’s made herself human and accessible. Even her 17-year-old daughter’s pregnancy, is something that makes her “just folks.” In fact, she’s the perfect example of the power of personal branding, lacing her professional story with a compelling personal story that has instantly turned her into a celebrity of the sort the McCain campaign was poking fun at in Obama when the tables were turned.

Now you can argue that her personal brand won’t withstand scrutiny, that it’s all carefully crafted image and not reality. And, for that, we’ll just have to wait and see.

But, regardless of the final outcome and your political persuasions, you have to hand it to the Republicans for at least momentarily trumping the Democrats in their own attempts at personal branding.

Certainly, Barack Obama, has been a master at this, making himself open and accessible on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. But lately, he has been too focused on reacting to the Republicans’ attacks rather than continuing to promote his own brand.

I was reminded of all of this talking with Aaron Strout, VP, Social Media, Mzinga, a maestro of personal branding, who understands that it’s no longer enough just to have a corporate or professional brand; you also need to have a personal brand.

“People don’t want to have a conversation with a coke bottle,” says Strout, quoting social media guru Shel Israel.

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Strout makes the spot on point that companies have mastered just half of the branding equation. Most get high marks on the content side, skillfully using white papers, conference calls and webinars. Where they fall short, according to Strout, is on the conversation side. “Most companies are not yet good at engaging customers,” he says. “They don’t make themselves accessible or human, let alone making it easy for people to interact.

Or as Rohit Bhargava put it in his insightful book, Personality Not Included, “Personality is the unique, authentic and talkable sould of your brand that people can get passionate about.”

Of course, you can’t be personable and accessible in a vacuum. For companies and individuals to create living and breathing brands, Strout underscores the importance of using multi-channel communications. That means establishing a real presence on YouTube, Flickr Picasso, Twitter, and Utterz for starters.

“The more you can reinforce your personality across personal and professional channels, the more people know you and get closer to you,” says Strout, who practices what he preaches penning a personal blog, along with a company blog.

How are you establishing your personal brand across multi-channels? I’d love to hear from you.

Wendy Marx, PR and Personal Branding Specialist, Marx Communications, Inc.

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About the author

Wendy Marx is President of Marx Communications, an award-winning boutique B2B Public Relations agency known for turning companies and executives, including start-ups, into thought leaders. Follow her on Twitter @wendymarx and on Google+ @ plus.google.com/+wendymarx.

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