Wherever you are in the US, you are undoubtedly surrounded by the numerous campaign messages, many ending with the statement, “…and I approve this message.” Politicians add this statement to verify that the thoughts, ideas and positions expressed by the individuals in the political advertisement represent their own views.
In personal branding, we pay careful attention to the positioning of our reputation — our brand — and our image. What about our associations? Do we pay attention to the words expressed by the people closest to us? In fact, the positions of people we are in relationship with affect our positioning and reflect our views, by association.
We are often judged by the people we associate with — after all, we chose to be around them. We choose the people we work with, socialize with, network with and do business with (customers, vendors, colleagues). We are, in part, building our reputation by the people with whom we associate.
This is the message we tell our children: Choose your friends carefully (others will judge you by your friends), don’t hang out with the “wrong crowd” (because people will think you make bad choices too,) and so on.
As adults, however, we often forget this. In social networking, casual conversations, professional relationships and business partnerships, our associations also directly reflect our values, goals, views and personal brand. Being conscious and intentional about the message we are sending by the people we collaborate, work and socialize with is a powerful way to communicate and enhance a personal brand and value proposition.
Today, I gave a training on personal branding and reputation management to a group of emerging financial professionals. One gentleman declared, “I don’t share the radical values of some of my colleagues, but that’s their issue, not mine.”
The group immediately helped him see that he IS perceived by the behavior, tone and actions of his network. When those around him behave negatively or offensively, it reflects on him (in an equally negative way.)
I asked him, “Would you feel comfortable following up an offensive Facebook comment by one of your online friends with the statement, “This is Ralph Jones, and I approve this message’?” Of course he wouldn’t. By not acknowledging the negative impact of his friends’ posts or the unethical behavior of his colleagues and by distancing himself from the negative actions, he is in essence condoning the action in the minds of his target audience.
Instead, when Ralph looks at those messages, relationships and actions to which he would proudly attach his name, he begins to see a clear pattern. The pattern that emerges is one that lines up with his personal value set — his moral compass — and one which he is proud of and promotes.
Look around your life: To how many of the associations you have (and for what behaviors) would you proudly declare, “This is ______ , and I approve this message”?