By Marian Salzman, Wednesday, October 17, 2012, at 10:06 am.
[Originally posted on Forbes.com.]
Personal branding is the name of the game these days, and in our age of radical transparency it is informed not just by how you present yourself but also by the people you associate with. Just as product- and service-based brands have to choose their celebrity ambassadors carefully, individuals looking to up their personal clout (to say nothing of Klout) should be aware that others will form opinions of them based on their associates. Why else would Michelle Obama and Ann Romney have taken on such prominent roles during this campaign season?
But a market-research-based business deal surrounding a celebrity endorsement is one thing. An expectation that we choose our friends and even our spouses based on how they’ll enhance our personal brand is quite another. I’m not suggesting anyone go that far—just that you remain aware of how you can be judged by the company you keep.
A recent post on the Culpwrit blog addressed how all a young PR professional’s meticulous efforts to build a dynamic persona can be undone by others, “even unwitting friends and associates.” The first subhead in the post: “Your Friends Are a Reflection of You.”
There. I didn’t have to say it. But it bears repeating: Police your social media presence. Friends might mean no harm in joking around, making inappropriate comments or tagging you in unsafe-for-office photos, but harm can be done when potential clients or employers see those jokes and tags. There’s no such thing as monitoring your presence too closely. As I’ve said before, privacy has been left for dead. Get over it and get on with it. The plus side is that you get to bask in reflected glory when you align yourself with respected and influential friends.
And if your spouse happens to be respected and influential? The Obama campaign is proving that this can be a branding gold mine. During the Democratic convention, Bill Clinton pontificated brilliantly about Barack Obama’s many accomplishments, but his declaration that the president’s biggest coup was his selection of spouse left a majority of voters nodding in agreement. Michelle Obama is definitely a political asset not to be underestimated at home or abroad. Even as POTUS’s approval rating fell to 52 percent (and lower), FLOTUS’s remained high, around 66 percent, according to a Gallup poll earlier this year, thanks to her work to combat child obesity and protect veterans’ rights.
A 1989 Fortune article about CEOs’ second wives has new relevance in these full-disclosure times. The perception of status symbol wives had already started to change by that time, and they were characterized in the article as working trophy wives: “For starters, she often has her own business, typically an enterprise serious enough to win respect for her but not so large as to overshadow her husband.”
It was a step forward, but attitudes have, thankfully, evolved in the past two decades. Wives no longer have to be status symbols or trophies or even live in the shadows of their husbands—or husbands in the shadows of their wives. In fact, although there are still many spouses or partners of successful, influential people whom we don’t know, we increasingly have a desire to know someone’s spouse. And in today’s transparent world, it matters more than ever, as it can tell us a lot (think Melinda Gates) about who that someone really is.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 17th, 2012 at 10:06 am. It is filed under Brands, Features, Politics, PR, Social Media and tagged with Ann Romney, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, branding, campaign, clout, colleagues, Culpwrit, Forbes, friends, Gallup, Klout, Melinda Gates, Michelle Obama, personal branding, privacy, social media monitoring, social media presence, spouse, transparency. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
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