Sarah Palin and Personal Branding

Sarah Palin.  No matter what you think about her, here’s a woman who’s had it rough.  My personal guess is that she’s smarter than the press makes her out to be.  Who knows . . . . but I do know one thing: someone needed to do better branding for her.  The Democrats are pros at branding and marketing. The Republicans . . . not so much. Or maybe the press just hates them.

I don’t know which is true, but the Republicans don’t exactly make their people appear intelligent or anything positive, in general. I personally don’t enjoy politics, and I don’t affiliate with either party, but both parties’ branding, PR and marketing issues are good to learn from.  It’s too bad we can’t tell from the outside whether people really are who they appear to be. We just can’t. And that is why your personal branding is so important. People don’t know if you’re great at something, so you better make it clear that you are.

You Are Your Logo

Again, you are your logo.  If you want people to think you’re intelligent, you find out what studies have shown make people think you’re intelligent.  Then you have to go past your “logo” and into some other branding and PR/marketing techniques.

Back to Palin, from what I remember, they did have her wearing glasses, which studies have shown makes people think you’re more intelligent than without glasses.  And, she is attractive, which I’m sorry to say studies have also shown makes people think you’re more intelligent. (Although I don’t know if those studies regularly included women, and the results could be different in that case–I’ll have to see what I can find on that and report back.) 

So they had started on the whole logo or image thing.  But they didn’t follow it up with messaging about why she’s so smart, capable, etc.  Just a few facts about something great would have helped.

Then there was the debate over her clothes.  Again, is this a crazy world or what? We have vice presidential candidate and we’re talking about clothes!  But this is the world we are dealing with, and people actually care about these things. Again, that logo that is “you” matters.

But where I think Palin’s branding went wrong is they tried to do the logo part (had her wear glasses, got her more business-like clothes–though they should have done that sooner so it wasn’t a change we all saw).  But they didn’t do the messaging part about her “brand”. They didn’t tell us why she is so great, so smart, so capable of running a country.

Find Your Strength

I believe everyone has greatness, intelligence and capabilities in different things, so each of us has a good branding story to tell.  However, the story wasn’t effectively told in Palin’s case. That’s not to say someone didn’t try, but if they did try, it wasn’t presented in a way that the press or grassroots people picked up on and spread.

Which brings us to an important principle:  You can have a great brand and no one will ever know if you don’t spread the word.

PR and Marketing

Once you’ve done all the brainstorming, decision-making, writing down your brand basics, will it do any good if you don’t spread the word?  Have you ever seen a company that had a great product, great branding and never went anywhere? That can be due to more than just lack of PR and marketing, but more often that not, if no one knows who you are, you have a branding and marketing problem.

So, how do you spread the word once you’ve figured out what that “word” (or message) should be?  Here are just a few of many little efforts you can make that may pay off big:

Branding on Social Sites

All the social sites can help you.  For instance, if your potential customer base is on Twitter, and you want people to know you’re great at basket-weaving, post a few photos of you doing your weaving. Do some live videos. Put tips on YouTube. Tell people why your baskets use the best type of reed or why your certain base design is more long-lasting. The same goes for a design business, software, restaurant, etc. Just make sure you’re posting things that help your followers so they don’t stop following you because all your messages are about “I’m so great at basket weaving.” There are many social media options, and the last thing you want to do is to get so overwhelmed that you don’t post on any of them.  Find out where your target audience is, and go there first. You can add more as you go. Or, if you’re brave, try all the main social media options and then see which deliver best for you and focus on those.

Marketing Collateral

There are unlimited types of marketing collateral, and that’s not the topic of this post, but if you are job hunting or self-employed, make sure all the pieces you create about yourself support your branding and appeal to your target audience.  If you are an attorney, and your positioning is that you are the best corporate lawyer ever, don’t use pink hand-crafted velum business cards, right (in most cases)? Conversely, if you are a Mary Kay representative, you wouldn’t send a party invitation made of wood, usually. 

Most people don’t make such big mistakes, but they do make medium-sized mistakes, like not spending enough time reviewing the “feel” of something that represents them. Again, though, the image you are portraying needs to be what you really offer, not a fabricated “I wish I were a successful licensed attorney”.

So, back to Sarah Palin.  Take the time to practice presenting yourself in the way that is appropriate for what you want and who you are.  Look the part, act the part, and BE the part. That’s excellent branding and execution.

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