Politics: The Ultimate in Personal Branding

Unfortunately I am a resident of the New York Metropolitan area.  It is actually a great place to live but one of the major negatives of living in this region is that we are forced to watch political commercials from New York, New York City, New Jersey and Connecticut.   Being a Long Island New York voter, more than half of the ads that I have the displeasure of watching are for candidates that I can’t and would never vote for.   Some of the commercials are truly horrible, the quality stinks and messages are not clear.   Of course quality often has to do with funds, and many candidates have little money to create impactful commercials.  

Over my career I have worked on a number of campaigns on many levels, from volunteer phone bank caller to campaign communications director.  I have seen hundreds of political speeches, attended too many rallies to remember and walked hundreds of miles with petitions and campaign literature.   The process for the most part can be fun and when you have a candidate, cause or party that you believe in the outcome of the campaign can be very rewarding or heartbreaking. 

I am pleased that, for the most part, the campaigns that I have been involved with have been successful.  Even if my candidate did not win we always fought the good fight and brought the issues to the forefront of the voters mindset.  An election loss is a setback, but for the determined individual it is only a first step.  If you have the right ideas, message and have qualities that people like and admire, you will eventually succeed.

I bring up political campaigns because they are a great way to examine personal branding.  American political campaigns, no matter if they are for local town council seats, gubernatorial races or a presidential election, they are personal branding programs.  The success of these efforts can be easily determined – one candidate wins and one loses.  Although the playing field may not be even, due to funding disparities and the fact more than 90 percent of incumbents are re-elected, a campaign pits two individuals (products) against each other.   They push their experience, success, ideas and ability to “get things done” to voters.  If they do so effectively they will win and begin or continue to serve “the people.”   Of course in some instances the “best” candidate does not win the election but they do win in the personal branding game.   The campaign itself is a personal branding effort and if done properly can be a stepping stone to the next election or business opportunity. 

We have seen a number of candidates come and go.  However, every dollar, every commercial and every speech given assists that individual in growing their personal brand.  Sound familiar?  It is the same approach any business person can take to grow their own personal brand.  For business people their election day is every day when they are out in the market selling.  They “win” the election when someone chooses their product or service over their competitors.  The campaign is ongoing and each sale is a victory; remember if sales drop there is always the re-election campaign.  

For those of you interested in politics, consider that every dollar you spend, each time your name is mentioned in the media and every hand you shake is not only an effort to get elected, it is a personal marketing program.  After the election people will know and remember who you are.  If you are in business all of these voters are potential customers, clients or referral sources.   So even if you lose on Election Day, you have not really lost, you have simply moved to the next stage of your own personal branding campaign.

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