You’d have to be living under a rock to have missed the recent news about Donald Trump’s indiscretions. Not long ago, his personal brand was on lists of “greatest ever,” and now, it’s in the toilet. People, his supporters and otherwise, are questioning everything they ever believed about him.
Whether or not the accusations against him are true, or the words he spoke were “authentic Donald,” only one thing matters, and that’s the public’s perception.
Because a personal brand is no different than a corporate brand in the sense that…
Your Brand isn’t what you Say it is. It’s what the Public says it is.
My first question is this:
Can Donald Trump’s personal brand ever be repaired?
And my second is this:
What will you do to repair your personal brand, should public perceptions ever cast it in a poor light?
No one can predict the future, and there are a number of different paths that Trump can take to attempt to rebuild. Some mistakes are more detrimental than others, but one thing is for sure: It can take years to build a strong personal brand, and only one misstep to bring the whole thing crashing down.
Donald Trump did just about everything right whilst building his personal brand:
- He is consistent, using the same hand gestures, the same language, the same hairstyle, the same outrageous behaviour with every appearance, whether playing celebrity or business mogul.
- He is familiar, because he built personal brand awareness by putting himself in front of the people who would care the most, and who would take action on behalf of his brand. He’s made television appearances, written a book, given interviews, had his own show and more. And every appearance and every mention had one thing in common: it was highly publicised.
- He partners with the right people, by choosing those public figures who would bring him even more brand awareness. By doing this, he became known as a man about town—one who knows and has influence with the most powerful people.
- He knows where to find supporters, and he studies the demographics to ensure that he says the types of things that will cause them to build the perceptions about his personal brand that he would choose.
And yet, here we are: Looking at what feels like a fallen empire.
Like him or loathe him, one thing is for sure: Donald is not expected to give up easily. Here are a few of the principles I expect him to employ as he claws his way back up from the personal brand pit of vipers (and they are the same principles that you can put into action, should any stain develop on your personal brand):
- Identify the rift. When your personal brand suffers a downfall, that means that there’s a disconnect between you and your audience (or a portion of your audience). Do people believe that you were dishonest with them? That you failed to keep a promise? Or that you represented yourself to be someone you’re not? Instead of arguing about it, slip into the shoes of your target audience members and look at yourself the way that they say they see you. What can you do to repair the separation without compromising your own values?
- Address negativity head-on. You can choose to deny or confirm allegations of bad behaviour, bad decisions or broken promises...however, one thing you must always do is address it. Deleting it or ignoring it will only cause the chasm within your personal brand to grow wider and deeper. Acknowledge it and then commit, publically and internally, to correcting the past problem if you can, and then improving performance as you move forward. Apologise if necessary. Avoid lashing out or slinging mud.
- Show, don’t tell. Anyone can say they’re sorry. Anyone can deny allegations or ignore them. It takes a powerful brand builder to move one and continue to build the brand they are committed to, by proving that they really are who they say they are. Get out there, ASAP, and start proving your values. Show people how you’re living up to your mission statement. Continue to bring your vision to life.
- Never blame the people. When a chasm develops between a brand and its audience, there were warning signs when that chasm was only a crack. It started with one person who sent you a message, wrote a negative comment or posted a poor review. It started with a complaint or a cry for help that was ignored. And it was continued by your personal brand’s reaction (or lack of reaction) to those warning signs. Own that, and work to fix it. Resist it, and your brand will continue to erode from the inside out.
- Know that your brand could have been wrong from the beginning. Oftentimes, brands deteriorate because their strategies weren’t right from the start. Maybe the wrong people have been targeted. Maybe the message wasn’t one that would resonate with your ideal customers. Maybe you weren’t honest with yourself about your WHY or your values. Dig deep from the heart, get it straight and make adjustments.
Now I don’t know if Donald Trump will attempt to repair his brand, or if he will continue to blame those outside of his brand for its demise. No matter what, there’s no denying that he has a powerful, public brand that is now vulnerable and in need of some serious attention.
What are your thoughts about personal brand building and rebuilding? Have you had “personal” experience in this area, and what were the results? Connect with me and other motivated entrepreneurs and business owners in the How to Build a Brand Facebook group. Let’s discuss it.