Personal Branding Lessons from the Presidential Debates

Although we’re led to believe the presidential debates are simply a forum for candidates to express their beliefs and policy ideas, much of what you hear from the candidates is pre-planned and rehearsed. In short, a lot of what you see can be chalked up to branding.

When it comes to personal branding, both verbal and nonverbal communication matters. Although you may not be campaigning for President of the United States, there are a few takeaways we can gather from the candidates’ performance to use in our own professional lives. After all, fostering credibility and trust is a huge part of any personal brand, no matter what your expertise.

Here are a few personal branding lessons we can take away from the presidential debates:

Proper articulation is important. During the debate on Oct. 16, an audience member asked Mitt Romney about equal pay for women in the workplace. He commented that his campaign brought him “whole binders full of women” during their search for qualified candidates. The comment instantly went viral—there’s a Tumblr blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and countless images mocking the comment. In your personal brand, communication is the key to distributing your ideas and insights. Romney’s comment shows that failing to articulate carefully and clearly can damage your reputation or worse—insult others.

Facts matter. During each presidential debate, there are many calls from the public for fact checking. Because the candidates can essentially use their platform at the debates to say whatever they desire without having to provide sources, it’s up to the public to sift through their comments and search for places where their claims don’t add up to reality. Your personal brand is first and foremost about building credibility. Getting caught lying or even exaggerating the truth—whether that be on your resume, in a tweet, or on your personal blog—can undo your reputation in a snap.

Pay attention to body language. The town-hall format of the Oct. 16 debate allowed the candidates to break free from their podiums and move about the stage freely. Many perceived both Obama and Romney’s movements as tense. Some outlets even noted the candidates appeared as though they were about to start boxing. Your professional image can be greatly impacted by the way you interact with others. Portraying your best self is critical for preserving your reputation and establishing likability. Pay attention to the way you interact with others, no matter who they are—or how much you may disagree with them.

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Whether you’re a politician or an office worker, your personal brand matters if you want to maintain credibility. The presidential debates show that even the smallest elements, like articulation and body language, matter when it comes to promoting your best image.

What other personal branding lessons have you taken from the presidential debates? Share in the comment section below!


Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager, and founder & president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and digital PR consultancy for organizations with products that target job seekers and/or employers. She is also the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships (2011), #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010), and writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets.

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