Crossing the Line

Regardless of one’s position on the Don Imus controversy, there’s no disputing that the veteran broadcaster crossed the line with his notorious comment about the Rutgers women’s basketball team.

Over the years Imus has branded himself as outrageous almost to the point of caricature. Pushing the envelope is his trademark. It’s also exactly what’s gotten him in trouble.

What does all this have to do with personal branding?

The fact is that there are limits to branding and where Imus is the extreme example it’s nevertheless true that there are implicit dangers in going too far. By not policing our brand, we run the the risk of being seen as arrogant, insensitive, bigoted — you name it. For example, while we all pride ourselves in doing a good job, no one wants to hear about someone coming off as the greatest show on earth. And, while it’s fine to be competitive, there’s no honor in getting ahead by telling egregious lies about someone else.

As self-promoters, we need to know where to draw the line when it comes to our behavior. Rather than spouting self-glorifying adjectives about ourselves or badmouthing competitors, it’s far better to focus on our accomplishments. Think what you’ve done for clients, customers or your company that has made a difference. Have you created new business? Solved a major problem? Prevented a crisis from spiraling out of control? These acts are what solidify your brand. Your brand is then anchored in hard reality that has made a positive difference. You’re the person who makes a valuable contribution. And you don’t have to fear that you’ve crossed the line.

Wendy Marx • Public Relations/Marketing Communications • President, Marx Communications, Inc. •