Two recent TV appearances”¦two vastly different reactions.
Mariah Carey, singing on New Year’s Eve, had a meltdown and proceeded to blame others for her flawed performance. Lady Gaga, during halftime of Super Bowl LI, soared to (and from) new heights.
The impression they left on viewers were at polar opposites. Carey was generally lambasted by traditional and social media. Gaga scored high marks and saw downloads of her songs soar nearly 1,000 percent.
Both performances affected the singers’ personal brands. Carey has a lot of work to do to repair her damaged reputation. Gaga used her stunning Super Bowl appearance to launch her world tour.
Branding is not limited to celebrities and business entities. A personal brand is what people think of first when someone comes to mind. Each of us draws out a favorable or unfavorable response.
“We all have a personal brand,” leadership expert and business strategist Carolyn Andrews said. “Managing it and making sure it’s the brand you want it to be is really important. Because after all, your brand is how you appear to the world.”
Andrews was speaking at the 2017 IEEE Rising Stars Conference in Las Vegas. She and business life coach Jennifer Johnson presented “Creating and Marketing Your Personal Brand.” The session was well-attended by IEEE student members and young professionals.
In today’s social media age, personal branding for many children begins the moment they’re born. Parents and grandparents flood their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube accounts with photos and stories of everything baby is doing.
“Sixty to eighty percent of two-year-olds have a personal brand,” Andrews said, “because mom has put them on Facebook, or they’ve been involved in something else, or people are seeing them now.
“So it’s really important to understand that we all have a personal brand.”
Be Who You Are
A key to developing a positive personal brand is to be yourself. We are all uniquely created and shaped individuals. Make the best of who you are.
Johnson told a story about how hard it was for former ESPN sportscaster Robin Roberts to land a job at ESPN. At the time, few African-American women worked there.
Johnson said Roberts’ advice is to “make your mess your message.”
“Your mess is what you want to hide, right?” Johnson said. “She says, “no, make that your message.’ Her mom always preached that to her “¦ [telling her] to bring “you’ forward. And guess what, she ended doing that, and now she’s on Good Morning America.“
Johnson offers similar advice when she says to turn “your scars into stars.” While some people have physical scars, almost all of us have emotional roadblocks that hold us back, that fill us with fear.
“Usually it’s an internal scar, something that we tell ourselves; that we’re not OK. Or that we can’t raise our hand for that promotion. Or we can’t give that talk. Or we can’t get that project,” Johnson said. “Turn your scar into a star. The scar that you think is so negative can be one of your best assets.”
The tagline to Johnson’s company, 3P Coaching, is: “You don’t have to be a size 6 to make 6 figures.”
“I can’t tell you when I came up with that tagline how much it propelled my business,” she said. “It was unbelievable. And it was exciting. “¦ Whether you’re a size 2 or 22, it’s all what’s in your head. Something like this could have held me back. Instead I get to go out into the world, have fun, share my message and inspire others to do the same.
“I didn’t let my weight, my size hold me back. I took what was my perceived scar, and turned it into a shining star.”
So yes, put your best foot forward. But if you have something you perceive to be negative, don’t try to hide it. Make light of it, if you have to. Talk about how it inspires you to work harder, to overcome, and to reach your potential. What’s in your heart is much more important.
Is the Online You On- or Off-Message?
Another area that strongly shapes how people perceive you is your online presence. The stories, photos and text you post all have a bearing on it.
Employers today comb the Internet to see what job seekers post, and what others say about them. While you have to possess the skills they’re looking for, who you are as a person carries more weight. The good or bad inside of you will eventually come out.
At DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md., teachers, coaches and staff are cautioned to make sure sites they have their name attached to feature acceptable photos, text and graphics. If not, they are urged to sanitize them.
“The words we speak, and the things we post, reveal what’s inside of us,” DeMatha President Father James Day says.
So make sure what you share is appropriate for all age levels, and reflects positively on you. It will help you gain a job, or keep one.
When you do well, and people generally have a positive opinion of you, it also reflects well on your employer. The products and services companies sell are important. Their employees are more valuable. They are the brand ambassadors.
“You should always give all that you can give to the company you work for,” Andrews said. “But you also need to build your own brand, your own expertise within that company. Not just the company’s expertise.”
Andrews also suggests securing your first and last name as your domain name. This can be difficult for people with common names. Sometimes adding a little wrinkle like a middle initial or numeral will do the trick.
“If you have not gotten your own name, please do,” she said. “You never know what you’re going to do with your life, and that is part of your brand.”
Branding is Dynamic
Mariah Carey might still be paying the price for her forgettable performance on New Year’s Eve. She is preparing to open up for Lionel Richie on a 35-city concert tour. Ticket sales are not good.
The good news for Carey and others whose personal brands have been tarnished is that they can be repaired.
“Sometimes you have to reinvent your brand, if you make a mistake,” Andrews said. Likewise, “if you switch careers, you might reinvent your brand then. Your personal brand is not static.”
Chris McManes is IEEE-USA’s public relations manager.