Using Personal branding as Reputation Insurance.
Branding is powerful. Think for a moment how many you instantly recognise, trust or even despise.It’s a wonder that so many of us do not brand ourselves given the potential it could unleash.This article discusses how online personal branding acts as reputation insurance by playing a vital role in consolidating reputation in times of crisis.
It is also a call for action to think proactively about reputation insurance by generating an online brand through increasing your online presence.
What is Personal Branding?
Personal branding is about highlighting anything that distinguishes you positively. By playing an active role in how you are perceived online, you leave less for the world to decide for you.
Branding can focus on outward appearance such as clothing style, gestures, emotions, outlook and tone of voice or highlight character traits such as values, beliefs, interests, passions or strengths. Most importantly, these should be reflected on social media platforms and personally branded sites so that they genuinely stink of authenticity.
Take for example Australian actress Rebel Wilson, known for her performances in Bridesmaids and the Picture Perfect series. She is currently pursuing a legal case against New Zealand’s top selling women’s magazine, Woman’s Day. She claims loss of reputation, credibility and earnings because of an article titled ‘Just who is the Real Rebel?’. The article claimed that Rebel lied about her age, real name and upbringing.The defamation went so far as saying she “invented fantastic stories in order to make it in Hollywood”. Rebel’s failure to present a true version of herself undermined her reputation, which is further at stake as she drags her name through the courts.
Conversely, Richard Branson is the epitome of personal branding. Virgin’s wide ranging business ventures are marked by the same adventurism, daring, good humour and innovative thinking that Branson exudes. A quick hop to Richard Branson’s profile will demonstrate how his personal site plays a part in promoting his personal brand..
For the New Zealand and Australian market, personal branding is particularly beneficial.
Whilst in larger markets, who you work for is likely to define your, in smaller, close-knit markets there are fewer degrees of separation between individuals. This puts an emphasis on creating and maintaining a strong reputation off and online.
What are people getting wrong with reputation management?
In today’s digital age, social media and online review communities radically speed up the process of major reputation crises.
Consequently, threats to reputation are unexpected and hard hitting. CEOs of Uber, Snapchat and most recently United Airlines have stumbled into PR disasters – and look much worse for wear on the other side.
So there is a growing realisation that most reputation risk management strategies are overly reactive.
For example, some individuals pay for reputation insurance to cover the costs of an emergency PR team or loss of earnings in the event of a reputation crisis.
However, such insurance is not the best approach. It offers a false sense of security and encourages complacency in developing a well-thought out reputation strategy through social media or branded sites. Furthermore, insurance cover will deliver damage control in the short term but does not ensure a reputation will remain intact in the long run. Finally, it’s pretty questionable why an individual should receive a pay-out when they are assumed to be in the wrong – (which may in turn escalate the crisis).
Personal branding via social media platforms and personally branded sites deflects this nit-picking and offers a proactive approach to reputation management.
One instance where this worked was for TVNZ’s Breakfast’s host Hilary Barry, affectionately known as the ‘mother-of-the-nation’. She once laughed uncontrollably during a report about a death caused in an airplane malfunction. Her well established and adored personal brand prevented the career nose-dive that would have effected a lesser anchor-person.
Remember, online reputation building takes requires long-term investment of considerable time and energy but those with robust, well managed online reputations find facing a crisis easier.
Think back to Ricard Branson. Virgin’s success is intermingled with numerous notable failures. Virgin products including wedding gowns, cars, cola, clothing and cosmetics have been axed due to unprofitability. These failures have not dimmed the brilliance of his personal brand which has acted as reputation insurance through many potential crises.
So how exactly does personal branding help?
- Branding provides constancy
By developing a personal brand, you are thinking strategically about yourself. With such forethought, you can then advertise yourself online in a deliberate and consistent manner. Taking the effort to work out what your unique brand is will stand you in good stead to defend it when it comes under attack.
Actress and singer Natalie Kills and husband Willy Moon were sacked as judges from New Zealand’s The X-factor after scathing remarks about a contestant. Mrs Kills called him a ‘laughing stock’ and described his performance as ‘absolutely artistically atrocious’. If this wasn’t enough, Willy Moon piped in by equating the contestant with Norman Bates (fictional villain in Psycho) suggesting that he was about to kill everybody in the audience.
Despite being well known artists with distinctive images, this PR stunt inspired outrage because it was uncharacteristic and inconsistent with who they made out to be. Had these comments come from Britain’s X-factor host Simon Cowell, the pioneer of the mean judge act, then there would have been less of a backlash.
1. Branding highlights a proven track record
Ever thought someone could be doing more? Then someone has probably thought the same about you. Much of what we do at work goes unnoticed by colleagues. By branding yourself online, you make people more aware of your role and importance.
By being noticed for the good stuff you do, your brand creates a proven track record of success. This boosts the likelihood of dealing with a reputation crisis when a slip-up occurs.
2. Branding attracts good people
Individuals in positions of leadership who brand themselves online are more likely to attract employees with a similar mentality. Ensuring the people around you are amenable and hold the same values is key to developing a tight and effective esprit de corps.
3. Branding helps you take risks (as long as they are reasonable)
Online personal branding reduces the risks involved in bold moves which are beneficial to your career.
The iconic rugby player and heavyweight boxer Sonny Bill Williams grabbed sporting headlines when he covered up Bank of New Zealand logos on his jersey during a Super
Rugby game. His objection to wearing the BNZ bank’s advert stems from his belief in not charging interest – in line with his Islamic faith.
Sponsorship is vital in sports funding – and Sonny’s decision could have strained the relations between club and benefactor. There are notable examples of sports teams expelling players who do not follow sponsorship agreements. However, SBW’s brand, having been shaped by his sporting prowess, generosity and now, moral courage, has meant the club has dealt him leniency in choosing his own sponsor.
4. Branding helps in damage control
Most CEOs resort to a half-hearted apology during a crisis. But sorry is not always the hardest word. A Weber-Shandwick study identified that half of high-ranking executives surveyed believed that apologies were over-used and a quarter thought that these apologies were insincere.
This article is not saying apologies are unnecessary but having a personally branded site which people will look at during a crisis will help you appear more human. People will be more sympathetic before dismissing such an apology. Such promotion will also generate greater support for you once the storm has settled.
How to develop a personal brand
Here is online reputation management and brand monitoring specialist 5th Law’s, top ways of developing a personal brand.
1. Brand Authentically
To stress this point further, Terry Serepisos, former host of the T.V. series ‘The Apprentice’ is a key example of why establishing an honest brand is important. After being declared bankrupt in 2011, his woes continue as debt collectors continue to pursue his mother to recover costs from loan defaults. His role on the apprentice established a strong personal brand, setting him as an example for want-to-be entrepreneurs, but being unable to live up to his brand has left his reputation in tatters.
Establish your name by writing quality and thought provoking articles.
Interviewing is a great way to access wider audiences. Give interviews for relevant blogs, websites or journals.
4. Social Media
Ensure that your profiles are consistent and send the same message.
5. Build a Personally branded Website
A personally branded website allows you to really showcase yourself. Without the restrictions of some social media platforms, a personally branded website really adds a unique and human feel to your online presence.
6. Monitor Your Own Brand
Keep your finger on the pulse through Brand Monitoring. 5th Law finds out what the media and customers are saying in real-time. There are a wide range of analytical tools available.
7. Use Online Reputation Management Services
Use powerful, proven search engine optimisation techniques to promote positive material generated in steps 2-6. Alternatively, bury negative results away into the ‘dead-zone’ of search result pages.
If you feel out of touch with your online self or reputation, consider hiring an online brand reputation management and brand monitoring specialist such as 5th Law.
Related reads – PR Disasters of 2017