“How am I doing?” a personal branding lesson from Mayor Ed Koch


Ed Koch, three-term Mayor of New York City, passed away today. Mayor Koch developed, grew and maintained a personal brand that we can all take away many lessons from. I have written about politics and how it is the ultimate forum for personal branding before. When you look at politicians and public figures over the past half century Mayor Koch was certainly one of the standouts. His personality and brand resonated well beyond the boundaries of New York City.

I met and saw Mayor Koch several times and heard him speak in person on a few occasions. There was no doubt his presence in a room was felt by everyone. Whether you agreed with him or not you knew his point of view and he stuck to it. People knew where he stood on issues and his other interests, something that we could use more of today in both politics and business. His direct style angered some, but there is no disagreement that he will be remembered as one of the most straightforward Mayors in New York City’s long history.

From a PR and media relations perspective Koch didn’t shy away from the media and was comfortable in any media setting. From hosting radio shows to holding as many as 10 press conferences in just one day, he saw the power in the media and used it. We could all benefit from politicians who host more press conferences and provide candid answers to questions.St Pat's

What I always appreciate about Mayor Koch was his desire to get feedback about the job he was doing. The “How am I doing?” question that the catch phrase he uttered thousands, if not tens of thousands of times, is unforgettable in itself. Koch wanted approval and to find out what the “people” of New York truly felt about him. When was the last time you asked this question to your customers, clients, business contacts and those you work with? If it has been a while, start asking this question periodically. Small businesses can take it a step further, conduct a survey of clients and customers to find out what they think about how you are doing. You may be surprised at what you learn.

Social media allows businesses to constantly ask this question. Add surveys and questions about service to your social media activities and assess the responses. Be prepared for the responses you receive and listen to them. Let them help you to modify your customer service, marketing and sales approaches.

Be straightforward, stick to what you believe and your goals and get feedback from customers. All lessons that we can learn from looking at the life, politics and personality of Mayor Ed Koch.

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