We are a society built upon the backs of those who went before us, however the pioneers of today face a much different challenge. When Lincoln gave the famous Emancipation Proclamation address in September of 1862 announcing the end to slavery, people did not receive a CNN Breaking News alert on their phone or email. When Susan B. Anthony met Elizabeth Stanton in 1851, she didn’t tweet out to her followers: “.@ECStanton, can’t wait to start the charge towards our right to #rockthevote”. Citizens across the country heard news of those events days, even weeks later via telegraph or if they were in more populous areas, read about it in their local newsletter. My point here is only the big news received mention, not the day-to-day activity of the President, nor the poor fashion choice of Ms. Anthony marching in a protest for women’s suffrage. Today, as we all know, is very different.
If wildfires spread with the same rapidity as information, the poor firefighters in California wouldn’t stand a chance. It seems before you clear the flash bulbs from your eyes, somebody already tagged you in the picture on Facebook or mentioned you in a Tweet.
I recently expanded my presence in social media and with that expansion came the increased awareness of instant information dissemination. We see so many negative news reports, articles, tweets and Facebook posts about celebrities and companies these days, that it is hard to shop in their stores or watch them on the big screen or on the field, without picturing those negative images. The person they try to sell as part of their business “persona” doesn’t jive with what we see online and regardless of how much people shout “my personal life is personal”, it is no longer true. Your personal life and professional life wind around each other in such a complicated web and the only way to untangle them is to slice through the delicate spindles and disappear. As a professional athlete, CEO, or entry-level marketing manager, is that really the best answer? Of course not…brand management IS.
Going back to the spider web reference. A web is comprised of hundreds, if not thousands, of silk spindles. Each one remarkably fragile, as those of us who encounter webs on morning runs can attest, but altogether, the web is a rather impressive piece of construction able to hold the spider’s prey without snapping. However, as you look back over your shoulder at the web you just caught in your path, you notice it hangs precariously lopsided. The poor little spider rushes to rebuild, but you already witnessed the damage and know the next person who hits that other side will topple the entire masterpiece. Apply this now to your brand. The left side of the web is your professional life while the right side represents your personal life. If you post a poorly chosen picture to Facebook or a derogatory tweet for all to see on your personal page, then those who currently do or were interested in doing business with you, see only that and not the still intact professional side of your brand web. You must rush to rebuild. Further still, if you make an immoral decision in your professional life, which makes headlines, the connections you felt were strong within your personal web, quickly disintegrate beyond repair.
Companies are no different. They are the bark spider in our continuing example because they cast the largest web with the greatest chances of entanglement. They can protect their professional brand, but a personal snafu by one of their executives, or a bad review from a handful of customers can send their web crashing down around them.
At the end of the day, the most important thing to do is define your brand, evaluate its current state in both your professional and personal circles, and then continue to maintain it as the authentic version of yourself. You might also want to avoid building your brand across a running path, just to be safe!