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Personal Branding Lessons For Business People

Watching the Republican presidential debate tonight, I took note of how the candidates’ personal brands played out. Here are 3 personal brand lessons business people can learn from just a few of them.

Donald Trump: To Thy Known Brand Be True

As Popeye famously said, “I am what I am.” Whether you consider him to be a breath of fresh air or a blow hard, no one can deny that Trump is always (without apology) “the Donald.”

No matter the stage (be it on a presidential campaign or as a tough boss on The Apprentice), he embraces his personal brand and wears it proudly. Trump’s consistency in his personal brand campaign style and talking points reinforces and solidifies his brand image.

Chris Christie: Show, Don’t Tell

In last night’s debate, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said:

  • “I’ll be able to fire a whole bunch of IRS agents.”
  • “When President Christie is in the oval office, I will have your back.”
  • “It is suffocating small business; it is suffocating the folks who are trying to make a living.”

These statements are both emotional and visual in nature — which also makes them memorable. Governor Christie didn’t just give statistics and facts; he consistently answered questions by weaving together stories, strategies and even humor.

Christie knows how to paint a picture, and this has the impact of making his personal brand feel more dimensional than some of his more one-note opponents.

Marco Rubio: The Power of Personal Story

As he did in the previous debate, Rubio referred to his mother being a maid and his father being a bartender. He’s talked about growing up with modest means, his Cuban immigrant family and recent financial struggles. In short, he is the living embodiment of the America Dream — in action.

Later in the debate, he remarked again about the importance of vocational training. Coming from his background, he has the credibility to say it. Rubio makes himself accessible and authentic by connecting his personal story to his points of view.

In Personal Branding – Even The Small Stuff Counts 

The Washington Examiner recently did a post on the personality of the 2016 presidential candidates using an online Twitter evaluation tool called Analyze Words. The tool looks at emotional, social and thinking styles — based on each candidate’s recent tweets. Among the Republican results:

  • Jeb Bush appears to be an optimist.
  • Ben Carson is upbeat — but with a low analytic thinking style.
  • Marco Rubio scored high for “in the moment” thinking.

I don’t think that tweets (which may or may not have been written by the candidates themselves) are the best indication of a contender’s brand. I do, however, feel that much can be learned from listening to how the candidates respond under the pressure of fast-paced questioning.

A Personal Brand Is Not Static

While Donald Trump may be the current Republican front runner, a recent likability poll from McClatchy-Marist reported that 49% of Republicans said that the more they hear Trump — the less they like him. By contrast, in that same poll, 58% of Republicans surveyed said the more they hear Marco Rubio, the more they like him.

The lesson here? A personal brand is not made (or broken) by one meeting, one interview, one action or one debate. If the presidential candidates don’t know that already — they’re about to find out.

This article is copyrighted by Karen Leland and cannot be reprinted in any form, electronic or otherwise, without the express written permission of Karen Leland.

Karen Leland is President of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm. She works with individuals, businesses and teams to enhance their business and personal brands. Her clients include LinkedIn, American Express, Apple, Marriott Hotels and others. Her ninth book, The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build and Accelerate Your Brand, is due out from Entrepreneur Press in May of 2016. Pre order on Amazon.com now.