Most folks in positions of power take themselves very seriously. Politicians, public servants and CEOs rarely betray their somber façade of utter professionalism in order to avoid perceived critical judgment from the media and their dependents.
All photos from Time: Pete Souza’s Portrait of a Presidency
Luckily not everyone in the limelight exhibits themself as a steadfastly straight-laced shmuck. Some public figures are wise enough to shirk the pretentious act and loosen up in the name of good humor and occasional humility. Mr. Barack Obama happens to be one of these people, and I’m going to tell you why this will work in his favor nine times out of ten.
Easing professional tensions to build trust and transparency
Follow an average congressional delegate or corporate representative around for a day and one thing’s for sure: it’s going to be a pretty bland set of affairs. Hastily trotting between meetings, engaging in contrived personal relations between their associates, and lining up for the posed, smirking handshake when the cameraman comes by: every impression you’ll get of these individuals will be strictly business. But I’m willing to bet that each and every one of those professionals goes home at the end of the day to flop down on their couch, crack a beer and howl laughter at the television (or their respective recreational equivalent).
And everybody knows it. High-paid executives may be important, but they’re real people just like the rest of us. Alluding to the mundane qualities that make average human beings so genuine, Barack Obama does a great service to his perceived public image.
The Commander in Chief is obviously a very busy man, and in many cases he must carry a serious demeanor. But as they say, it’s the little things that count. Whenever the most important man in the country gets a breather, he’s not afraid to leave behind a bit of casual self-expression.
These sorts of occasional shenanigans ease up professional tensions and reveal Obama’s more insouciant side. It’s proof that he can be personable and down to earth, and these traits help build transparency and trust with the public. It goes without saying that the American people want a politically capable leader, but aside from this they want someone that’s like them. And when you give people a better glimpse of your personal life, they’re not left wondering what kind of person you are when the curtain comes down.
A brand that incorporates occasional good humor in its promotional content or brand language will appear the same way. Consumers can relate to mischievous comicality and everyday goings-on, so when they see a person or brand tastefully displaying these qualities they will likely take favor.
Standing out from the humdrum herd
What other politicians have you seen dodging superhero web-slings, playfully gawking at restaurant patrons and romping in the snow with their kids? It’s probably tough to name one because they don’t exist (at least within the view of public scrutiny). We must of course acknowledge the fact that the president is one of the most well-documented public figures in the US, but regardless of the volume of photographs taken, it’s the decision to expose such personal and perceptibly embarrassing moments that really matters.
The president sets himself apart from his stiff peers the same way that he establishes personal transparency. By doing so he naturally stands out, and this often draws the public eye to him in good regard. Many professionals would consider playful gestures juvenile and inappropriate, and it’s this attitude that keeps the majority of the executive world from following suit in their own favor.
The world of business is much the same. Many brands exert so much effort on portraying themselves as somber experts that they often overlook the human experience of consumer relations. The brands we really notice tend to be the ones with a humorous or otherwise laid-back, common-sense message. Even though you’re marketing a serious product to a serious crowd (such as car insurance or home loans) you can still successfully appeal to your consumers and stand out from the competition by lightening up.
The moral of the story: maybe you’re taking yourself a little too seriously. Don’t be afraid to mellow out a bit, because a slightly more casual demeanor can humanize your company’s image and appeal to the right crowd. I’m not saying this PR approach is going to be right for every kind of business, but when used appropriately it can vastly improve your brand’s rapport with the public.