2 Keys to Protecting Your Personal Brand

by David D. Menzies
In today's entrepreneurial society, many businesses and organizations are closely tied to individual leaders and executives. Would Apple be Apple without Steve Jobs? That said, a blemish to the reputation of a C-level executive could easily tarnish his or her company brand and negatively affect sales. Sometimes this damage is caused by a misstep on the individual's behalf, other times it's a competitor casting stones. Since there is no telling when either is going to happen, there are two things you can do on a regular basis to protect your personal brand: engage in reputation management and learn how to say no.

It's okay to say no

This past weekend I was blessed to spend some quality time with my youngest son, a high school junior, on the road visiting prospective colleges. There were two he was keyed in on, both offering his specific major, both with stellar reputations, that he had researched and contacted to schedule visits. The campuses were impressive in their own ways, and the people running the information sessions were very welcoming. We listened, toured, and got a feel for each institution, but by the end of our trip it was clear that one university would be a great fit, and one would not.

My wife and I have never pushed college onto our children, but being college graduates ourselves it's always been presented as an option and we have encouraged our kids look into it. With two parents holding degrees and an older sibling already in college, not to mention peers either in school now or talking about going next year, it's clear my youngest son is feeling the tug -- if not pressure -- of getting his post-high school future in place.

With all this in mind, one would think that my son would pursue both institutions in order to increase his chances for getting into college. I was pleasantly surprised when he informed me that he was going to continue the application process for one of the colleges, but not the other, even though the one he was choosing to pursue would come with more admission challenges and competition for slots in his particular major. There were many solid, logical reasons for his choice, but the overarching reasoning was, according to the wise 17-year-old walking by my side, "It's just not me."

Too often in our personal and professional lives we make choices that "aren't us" when we have the opportunity to say no and move in a different direction. Sometimes these choices may be difficult; in my son's case, he's limiting his college options. But would saying "yes" in many instances be worse than saying "no"? In the early years of my PR consultancy, I was taking all comers as clients to build my portfolio and would never say no to any business, regardless of who the client was or what they were willing to pay. Over time, I learned the importance of liking the clients I represent and valuing the service I provide, understanding the importance of saying no. By associating myself with reputable, honest clients and providing quality service at a reasonable price reflecting industry standards, I am developing and managing a brand "that's me" which I can get behind 100%.

Watch what others are saying about you

I was on LinkedIn the other day and saw a message on my home screen that my posts to groups were now being monitored because someone had marked one of them as inappropriate. This was a surprise, since the only things I post are news stories about North Carolina businesses and my own publicity and branding tips via posts like this one. Unfortunately, LinkedIn does not provide an option to find out which group post of mine had been tagged, nor who had tagged it. (Note to LinkedIn: ever heard of the concept of innocent until proven guilty?)

In the PR world, as with most market sectors, there are competitors and there are dirty competitors. From time to time, we all deal with shots to our brand and reputation as someone tries to knock us down to make themselves look better. In the world of social media, it's even more important to continually monitor what people are saying about your business, not only on the social media platforms your company or organization uses to disseminate messaging and stay in contact with customers, but in the comment sections of news websites and community bulletin boards where articles, press releases, and customer feedback about your business are published.

The easiest way to create a baseline tracking system of what people are saying about you is to create a free Google account. One of the service Google provides is alerts, which you can customize to search specific words and phrases. Every time your search terms come up in daily Google searches, you'll get an email. Each press release I send out for my clients gets its own alert, part of my overall reputation management program for each client, which is more intensive and something I will be covering in a future article.

With your customized reputation management plan in place, you can keep tabs on any negative comments and decide how best to deal with them, either directly or indirectly, publicly or behind the scenes. Simply ignoring hits to your brand is almost as bad as saying "yes" to every opportunity that comes your way -- in both cases, you are abdicating your responsibility as a business professional and are admitting to the world that your business is, in effect, simply a hobby.

David D. Menzies is president of Innovative Public Relations, a PR and media relations consultancy. He is a 22+ year public relations professional with expertise in strategic messaging, publicity and branding. For more information visit www.innovativepublicrelations.com. Copyright © 2014 Innovative Public Relations, Inc. Publicity and branding solutions from Innovative Public Relations help U.S. and international life sciences and technology companies get in front of prospective customers and cement their brands in the marketplace. Click here to learn more about our signature Proposal => Engagement => Success model.