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Careers: Personal Branding and Obama’s Smear Fight

Hats off to the Barack Obama campaign. The campaign scored a lot of positive press this week by launching a web site to strike back at “dishonest smears.” In staccato fashion, the new Obama site reels off five rumors and immediately debunks them. It’s the electronic version of a press release amplified to the nth degree.

Hats off to the Barack Obama campaign. The campaign scored a lot of positive press this week by launching a web site to strike back at “dishonest smears.” In staccato fashion, the new Obama site reels off five rumors and immediately debunks them. It’s the electronic version of a press release amplified to the nth degree. Obama’s campaign understands that in today’s always-on news cycle he can’t afford to wait even a New York minute before confronting his accusers head on. Rumors simply have the capability of spreading so fast they overwhelm the truth.

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As personal branders, we need to exercise the same vigilance shown by the Obama campaign. Obviously, most of us operate on a tad smaller playing field than a candidate for president of the United States. But that doesn’t get us off the hook for letting false impressions about our brand accumulate. Just as it’s easy to be stereotyped in our personal life (after all who wants to be know as a cheapskate or blowhard), it’s also easy to be stereotyped, and subsequently written off in our professional lives. On occasion, because I write this blog, I’ve had people incorrectly assume I earned my bread and butter by writing and were clueless about my PR business. Obviously, I need to be careful to let people know the scope of my work.

The truth is that it’s too darn easy to get into the “insularity mode.” We’re so familiar with what we do that we just assume that everyone else “gets it,” when they don’t. You can’t be clear enough in your messaging. Your language needs to be accessible, using words that prospects understand and are comfortable with. And you need to be consistent and repetitious so your message gets drummed into your target audience like a good song refrain or advertisement. That is one way of dispelling misperceptions. Another effective way is to compile a good, old-fashioned fact sheet. These tools of the trade have been around for seemingly forever and for good reason. They tell it straight. Again, we can take some lessons from the Obama campaign, which has fact sheets on major issues. Here is one on energy. http://www.barackobama.com/issues/pdf/EnergyFactSheet.pdf. Q&A’s are another way of helping others to understand your message. Here’s one from Twitter. http://help.twitter.com/index.php?pg=kb.page&id=26

What are you doing to insure that people don’t misconstrue your personal brand? I’d love to hear from you.

Wendy Marx, Personal Branding and PR Specialist, Marx Communications

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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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