The man sitting next to me on the early morning flight from San Francisco to Newark was talking intensely. “I don’t give a damn what he wants,” my overheated seatmate huffed. “Tell him I want that proposal on my desk by noon tomorrow.” His loud tirade went on until the flight attendant finally insisted he power down his phone for takeoff. Even then she had to ask him multiple times before he reluctantly hung up. By the time he did, in my mind his personal brand was solidified – and it wasn’t a pretty one.
People today just can’t seem to live without their cellphones and most do a poor job at creating boundaries in a public forum. In the process subjecting the rest of us to their private conversations. A recent Pew Research Center report showed that:
• 77% of all adults think it is generally OK for people to use their cellphones while walking down the street
• 75% believe it is OK for others to use phones on public transit
• 38% think it is generally OK for others to use cellphones at restaurants
This lack of basic cell phone etiquette, while seemingly harmless, can and does have an impact on your personal brand. If you response to this is “who cares, I don’t know these people?” Think again. You never know who is listening or the impact they could have on your business and/or career. So it’s talker beware when it comes to showing off your personal brand while blabbing and broadcasting in public. To keep cell phone abuse at bay (and your personal brand in check) try the following cellphone personal branding bests:
People Before Phones. Be mindful of your surroundings, scratch the ringtone and by all means don’t answer calls when you are in a client dinner or meeting, a performance, movie theater, place of worship or courtroom. It’s common courtesy to make the people you’re with feel like they have your total attention, and answering the phone takes away from that. If you absolutely need to keep your phone on, but the surroundings dictate quiet, turn the phone to vibrate.
One study, published in the Environment and Behavior, suggests that just the presence of a cell phone can decrease the quality of a face-to-face conversation.
Mind Your Own Business. Be aware of discussing private or confidential information in public. You never know who may be within hearing range. In the heat of the moment it’s easy to forget who is around you.
Chill Out. If you are engaged in a conversation that is turning highly emotional, or is likely to, find someplace private to take the call. Displaying anger can make you look unprofessional and create discomfort and embarrassment for those within ear shoot.
Use Your Inside Voice. Remember to use a conversational tone when speaking on a cell phone, and avoid cell yell. Many people don’t realize how loudly they are talking when on the cell phone, until they start getting dirty looks from everyone around them.
Obey The Rules. Many public spaces such as airplanes, hospitals and theaters have rules prohibiting cell phone use. If you have an important call coming in that can’t be put off, plan ahead of time to excuse yourself to a location where you can conduct the call.
Watch In Silence. With the proliferation of video on mobile, many people use their cell phones to view multimedia. To keep from disturbing those around you, use earphones when watching videos or listening to music.
By the way, cell phone use isn’t only posing a danger to your businesses personal brand, it can be harmful to your romantic life as well. Recent research from Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business reports that cellphones can have a negative impact on our romantic relationships. The study focused on the impact of “Pphubbing” (partner phone snubbing) which is defined as the degree to which people use or are distracted by their cellphones while with their significant others.
• 46 percent reported being phubbed by their partner
• 22 percent said phubbing had caused conflict in their relationships
• 36.6 percent reported feeling depressed some of the time
So the next time you reach for your cellphone across the boardroom (or bedroom) – think twice. The conversation you’re about to have may make or break your brand – with a business partner or a beloved.
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.