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Karen Leland

6 Personal Branding Lessons Every Working Professional Can Learn from Trump and Clinton

Despite having the two highest unfavorable ratings of any major presidential candidates in history, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have outlasted their competitors—and one of them is going to become the leader of the free world.

What does success in the face of such highly unfavorable ratings teach us about personal branding? And what can working professionals at every level learn from it?

6 Personal Branding Lessons Every Working Professional Can Learn from Trump and ClintonBelow is an examination of both candidates’ personal branding successes, challenges and resulting lessons for us all in six specific areas. The success of any brand — in business, politics or otherwise — boils down to how the brand performs across these six key dimensions. Each dimension, including exactly how each candidate fared therein as well as the correlated Personal Brand Takeaways, can help other enterprising professionals achieve in kind.

1. Develop Your Brand by Design, Not Default. Know precisely where you are so you can discern where you need to go.

Trump: The Donald has clearly defined himself as the billionaire Maverick, owing no one anything. Trump has carefully crafted his image as the anti-establishment candidate proudly going against the grain. As a general strategy, it has allowed him to get away with more than the typical business leader or politician normally would.

Clinton: Despite her best efforts to promote herself as “the qualified candidate,” many Americans have by default stamped Clinton with the brand of Matron—part of the old guard of Washington politics. Recently she has begun to pivot and is trying to find her way to a brand by design based on straight-talking thoughtfulness.

Personal Brand Takeaway: Every business person, from secretary to CEO, needs to start by assessing the personal brand they currently have and be truthful about the degree to which it exists by design—or default. Then they need to take stock of the impact that current brand is having. Is your brand producing the reputation you desire? Is it creating the environment and responses you are looking for? If not, a pivot to a more powerful personal brand may be needed.

The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build, and Accelerate Your Brand2. Anchor Statement. What is the go-to description of who you are and what you do? This is sometimes referred to as an elevator pitch.

Clinton: To date, Mrs. Clinton has made her marketing bottom line “I’m the woman candidate,” but that has not played well with Sanders supporters and younger voters in general. While Clinton’s status as the first woman Presidential nominee is certainly history-making and a proud moment, as an elevator pitch, it’s flawed. She would be better served by focusing on another message (consider Obama’s focus on messages of hope and change, as opposed to his race) that resonates with a wider slice of democrats and the population at large.

Trump: Four words—“Make America Great Again.” This single sentence has become Trump’s signature call to arms, his reason why voters should check the box next to his name come November. The issue Trump will face as the election gets closer is how he will translate this general idea into specific policies.

Personal Brand Takeaway: All business people need to be able to present their brand in less than a minute. For example: When at a cocktail party you are asked the standard, “What do you do?” can you answer in a few short sentences that pique the listener’s interest? If not, your anchor statement needs some work. In addition, it’s important to pay attention to how your anchor statement is resonating and landing with your desired audience.

3. Unique Branding Proposition. What is it about what you do, or how you do it, that makes you unique, distinct and special? What sets you apart?

Trump: The presumed Republican nominee, Trump has taken a two-pronged approach to differentiating himself. First off, he is keen to point out (at every possible opportunity) that he is a businessman, as opposed to a career politician. Secondly, his message of “I’m willing to go it alone,” whether it relates to raising money to fund his campaign or being supported by the Republican party, is at the heart of his “why I’m unique” message.

Clinton: Hillary’s strongest point of differentiation to date has been “I’m the woman candidate.” The problem is that too much of her messaging has focused on this, and the voters don’t really seem to care.

Personal Brand Takeaway: Positioning yourself by specifically articulating how your brand speaks to the needs of your audience, and the unique way you address those needs, is critical to creating an effective personal brand. And the more specific you can be, the better.

4. Brand Tone and Temperament. What is the consistent mood, tenor, quality, character and manner you bring to all your interactions?

Clinton: Clinton’s tone has consistently been one of a serious Implementer. The tonal subtexts to her speeches ring with “I’m experienced, I know what I’m doing and I can get the job done.” Her demeanor, while dignified, is missing an accessibility (and even friendliness) that voters need to see in order to wholeheartedly embrace her as their Presidential candidate. However, given the alternative, it may be enough to win her the highest office in the land.

Trump: Trump is always Trump. To some, his brash pronouncements play with a tone of rugged individualism. For others, (even some members of his own party) his demeanor shows up as angry, and even childish in cases. So much so that the question of his temperamental suitability to be President has become a Democratic rallying cry. Likewise, Trump’s tone has some Republicans begrudgingly supporting him for the sole “anyone but Hillary” reason. Not exactly the inspiring message you would want your personal brand to create.

Personal Brand Takeaway: What you say has power, but the way you say it — your tone — has just as much impact. Every businessperson needs to be aware of how their brand tone is coming across (online and off) and adjust where necessary. In addition, taking any tone to an extreme will always backfire: Too serious or too snarky both harm a brand in the long run.

5. Signature Story. Why do you do what you do? What’s the essential story that brought you to this place?

Trump: Rather than focus on a narrative based on how his past has informed his bid for the Presidency, Trump is pointing to the present problems America faces as his reason for seeking office. But by doing so, he is missing the opportunity to tie his brand to a bigger, more historical reason for running.

Clinton: After her win in California on Super Tuesday, Hillary Clinton spoke about her mother, the influence she had on her life and how the way she grew up set her on a path to public service. Clinton has skillfully integrated her history into her narrative and connected the dots from how what she learned there has brought her to here.

Personal Brand Takeaway: Never underestimate the power of a good story. A strong (and truthful) narrative about where you came from and what has influenced you to do the work you now do can connect you with your customers, employees and colleagues at a deeper level. Your brand needs to be more than a single sound bite or pithy elevator pitch. Otherwise, you run the risk of damaging your brand when things don’t go exactly as you planned. The best brands feature multiple, complementary messages that weave together to form an accessibly complex and in-depth communication.

6. Signature Services. What are your core competencies?

Clinton: At the heart of Hillary Clinton’s brand is her varied and deep experience in government — and her proven ability to get things done in a political system that makes this challenging at best. Her particular expertise in foreign relations — especially at this time in American’s history—gives her a powerful place to stand as the candidate of choice. She is able and willing to talk about the “how” of the why.

Trump: In almost direct opposition to Clinton, Donald Trump’s brand is rooted in being “not” a government insider — but a business one. Continually providing tough talk about his corporate success, negotiation expertise and business acumen, Trump is presenting voters with the idea of a president who would function more like the CEO of a company than the head of state. While this “non-establishment” message is resonating with many people, the downside is Trump’s lack of specifics and seemingly naïve understanding of how things actually work in Washington and the protocols that keep the wheels turning—thus causing a questioning of his suitability for the job.

Personal Brand Takeaway: Know exactly what your brand brings to the table and how it stacks up against your competitors, and craft a powerful way to talk about it that inspires confidence in others. 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 competent Clinton) is a plus, but it will only take you so far. At some point going beyond 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 displayed in action and focus on aligning the two.


About the Author

Karen LelandKaren Leland is CEO of Sterling Marketing Group, a branding and marketing strategy and implementation firm helping CEO’s, businesses and teams develop stronger personal and business brands. Clients include AT&T, American Express, Marriott Hotels, Apple Computer, LinkedIn and Twitter. She is the best-selling author of 9 books, including her most recent title, The Brand Mapping Strategy: Design, Build, and Accelerate Your Brand, which details proven strategies, best practices and anecdotes from real life brand-building successes to help readers design, build and accelerate a successful brand. Learn more online at www.KarenLeland.com.

Dan Antonelli

Your Look. Your Personality. Your Brand Voice.

The best brands connect with consumers and build long-term relationships through carefully crafted and controlled messaging. A logo, alone, is not enough. You see – once a small business has a strong logo, it’s important to bring the brand to life by developing a brand voice. No matter how small the business, putting a face behind the brand and building a brand voice is key to driving the conversation, building relationships, and standing out from the crowd.

Even more, a clear brand voice transforms a brand from just a product or service into a personality that’s consistent with the business’s values, target audiences and advertising goals. A brand voice can be used to inform all messaging choices a small business brand must make, from brochures and print advertisements to website content and social media interactions.

Why Is a Brand Voice Important for Small Business?


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About the Author

Dan AntonelliDan Antonelli has over 20 years’ experience in small business logo design and marketing strategy. As CEO and Creative Director of Graphic DSigns, Inc., The Small Business Advertising Agency®, he’s helped nearly a thousand individual brands recognize the better side of business. The definitive industry expert on logo design for small business, Dan has authored three books on the subject, including his latest ‘Building a Big Small Business Brand’, and established his agency as the premier brand-building agency for small businesses nationwide.

Jeffrey Gitomer

Are you the dominant brand, or is your brand bland?

What’s the difference between you and all of your competition?

Are you different from your competition, or do you just THINK you are? Are you different from your competition, or do you just tell customers and prospects you are?

Or are you different from your competition, and others CLEARLY perceive you as both different and better?

REALITY: It’s not what you think or believe, it’s what your customers do and say.

REALITY: If I ask you what the difference between you and your prime competition is, and your answer is ‘our people’ or ‘me,’ you’re in serious trouble.

REALITY: If you asked your customer what the difference is, what would they say?

  • “Cheaper?”
  • “Closer to my home?”
  • “I dunno, been using them for years.”
  • “Six of one – half a dozen of the other.”

You’re in trouble.

Your reputation is a reality check of where you actually are versus where you think you are:

  • What’s your customer reputation? NOT A SATISFACTION SURVEY. A face-to-face talk. NOT A PHONEINTERVIEW. A face-to-face talk where you ask 100 of your customers what they really think of you, and why they buy.
  • What’s your social reputation? As posted on your business Facebook page by your customer, or as recommended by customers on their social media accounts?
  • What’s your industry reputation? How do both leaders and vendors perceive you in your industry?
  • What’s your community reputation? If you had a town hall meeting of the community, what wouldthey say about you?

Here are more painful ‘reputation’ questions about your company and your products:

  • What are you doing to build it?
  • What are you doing to innovate it?
  • What are you doing to change or enhance your customer’s experience?

Apple is the classic example of a brand, with products that back it up. Their competition is ‘me too,’ and often mentions Apple in their ads. If you brag that you’re ‘just like Apple,’ personally I want Apple. The experience I have in Apple stores is in perfect harmony with the brand they’re portraying.

In the computer industry, the smart phone industry, the tablet industry, and the music player industry, everyone has to start with some sort of comparison to Apple – just like, better than, cheaper than – whatever they say, they mention Apple. Only Apple stands alone not comparing themselves to other products unless it’s a joke. They don’t have to talk about their competition – Apple is the innovator. And they do it at their price.

What’s up in your world? Are you the dominant brand? Are you Amazon? eBay? Jello? Kleenex? Kellogg’s Corn Flakes? Jacuzzi?

HARD QUESTION: Are you comparing your products to the competition, or differentiating yourself from the competition?

HARD QUESTION: Are you trying to justify price, or does your quality reputation precede you?

OUCH QUESTION: Is your brand, product, or service market superior, and you haven’t elevated yourself to that position?

NOTE WELL: Then there are the brands that USED to be #1 and have fallen to #2 or lower. Either by inferior products, inferior service, or disgraced reputation. Blackberry, American Airlines, Barnes & Noble, Microsoft, and Tiger Woods to name a few.

Here are 5.5 interviews you need to do to get the TRUTH from people who are willing to give it to you. In order to get better tomorrow, you gotta know where you are today.

1. Interview customers who love you. They’ll tell you the good stuff.
2. Interview customers who left you. They’ll tell you why, and how to improve.
3. Interview customers who said no to you. They’ll tell you why they chose someone else.
4. Interview loyal employees. They’ll tell you why they love you.
5. Interview departed employees. They’ll tell you why they left you.
5.5 Interview industry leaders. They’ll give you the big picture you may not be able to see.

CAUTION: Leave PR, marketing, and advertising out of the equation, or you may NEVER get to the truth. My recommendation is hire an outside branding company, and at least get a new perspective on the outsideworld (your customers and the marketplace) and the inside world (your people).

After your interviews, here’s what to do:

  • Be realistic as to outside opinions, and how you can create improvement.
  • Create internal excitement about innovation and new ideas.
  • Train and teach attitude, self-belief, and creativity.
  • Give people paid days off just to think and create.
  • Create a sense of self-pride in your people by listening to their thoughts and ideas.
  • Praise and implement new ideas.

RESULT: A new, market dominant, more profitable you.

If you want to learn my secret for long-term brand, name recognition, and loyal customers, go to www.gitomer.com, register if you’re a first-time visitor, and enter the word NAME in the GitBit box.

Reprinted with permission from Jeffrey H. Gitomer and Buy Gitomer.


About the Author

Jeffrey Gitomer is the author of The Sales Bible, Customer Satisfaction is Worthless Customer Loyalty is Priceless, The Little Red Book of Selling, The Little Red Book of Sales Answers, The Little Black Book of Connections, The Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude, The Little Green Book of Getting Your Way, The Little Platinum Book of Cha-Ching, The Little Teal Book of Trust, The Little Book of Leadership, and Social BOOM! His website, www.gitomer.com, will lead you to more information about training and seminars, or email him personally at [email protected].