Liar, liar pants on fire. That’s how I might describe the most recent spate of back-and-forth insults the GOP candidates have been slinging at each other — small hands, sweat patterns and the like.
Donald Trumps recent seven-state win on Super Tuesday might lead us to the conclusion that bad behavior is good for personal branding. But is it a long-term play for successful leadership or just a short-term attention-getting move? In the case of the Presidential election, only time will tell.
Regardless, the current political circus does provide a window into an important personal branding lesson for business people — on either side of the aisle.
Substance versus Style. Despite all of Donald Trump’s “I’m a winner and a unifier” patter, a recent CNN poll showed that Hillary Clinton, the current Democratic frontrunner for the presidency, would have a harder time beating out Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz in a presidential race. Which essentially means that if the vote were held today, Clinton takes Trump 52% to 44%. Ultimately voters want to know that their President can dish out smart policy, not just sassy quips.
Your Personal Brand Takeaway: The fulcrum of your brand needs to rest on the material ingredients of your values and commitments.
A standout style (be it a brash Trump or man of the people Sanders) is a plus, but it will only take you so far. At some point taking a stand for what you believe in and specifically letting people know how you plan to get there, will become a central issue.
Think about one area where your personal brand is being expressed more in talk than deed, and take a few actions to bring your personal brand into practical reality. For example: Do you say you have an “open-door policy” but are never around to meet people who take you up on it? Try setting specific hours when you are actually at your desk and available for conversation.
On the other side of the coin, a lack of style, charisma or even likability can keep your substance from being seen.
A lack of personal presence was the Achilles heel of Jeb Bush, and Ted Cruz has a well known likeability issue. Over the last few days consider the case of John Kasich. Of all the Republican candidates, Kasich is perhaps the most authentic and spells out his policy ideas — without raising his voice or lowering himself to hurling insults — but has not made a strong personal impression on the public the way Trump, Sanders and Clinton have.
Your Personal Brand Takeaway: A strong foundation of experience, values and solid thinking is essential, but if people don’t know who you are or don’t get you — or worse, don’t like you — you won’t get the chance to shine.
Think about some consistent negative feedback you may have gotten about your personal brand and make a commitment, get some coaching and come up with a plan to improve in that area. For example: Your ideas are always good, but people say you should speak up in meetings more often. Make a point of expressing your opinion or an idea at least once for every meeting you are in over the next month.
One thing is for certain: Whether style, substance or a combination of both wins the highest office in the land, the pressure to talk policy, not just pound chests and point fingers, is becoming something all the candidates will need to begin engaging in more heavily — even if they are shouting all the way.
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.