As a self-professed political junkie, this campaign season has been a bountiful cornucopia of riches not to mention a national stage for personal branding. Spending gobs of money on advertising and image building, the presidential candidates can tell us a lot about what to do — and not do about branding ourselves. There’s a fascinating article in this week’s New Yorker by George Packer about the different visions for the country of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama: Clinton as executive, Obama as visionary. Ultimately, it’s a choice of leadership styles: hands-on vs. inspirational. Or in the candidates’ lingo, “experience” vs. “change.”
Like a tagline in a branding campaign, these descriptions of the candidates resonate deeply and become symbols of their personalities. Fairly or not, one official quoted in the article says about each,
“When I’m with her, I feel she wants to impress me. When I’m with him, I feel he wants to know what I have to offer him.”
Like it or not, perception and image are reality in a political campaign – and for that matter in our professional lives. In private life, Clinton’s personality is said to be very different from her “all business” public persona. Tellingly, a Simon & Shuster editor says about Clinton, :Clinton’s personality is refreshingly sharp and clear – but she can’t show it.”
Clinton despite all her years in public service is still something of an enigma. “In her personal life, she’s always seemed like she had something to hide,” the article quotes Dee Dee Myers, a former White House press secretary under Bill Clinton, saying of Hillary Clinton. On the other hand, Packer presents Obama as more comfortable with himself and consequently more open. He suggests that Hillary hasn’t quite connected her heart with her head in her public pronouncements.
As we work to brand ourselves, there’s an important lesson here in the importance of integrating our personal brands with our sense of self so we come across as authentic. Otherwise, there’s a disconnect in our presentation and our words remain cold facts that could be uttered by anyone.
How do we connect our passions with our beliefs and knowledge? I’d love to hear from you.