Do you ever feel like your good advice is wasted on the people you give it to?

In a recent research project, visitors to McDonalds and Subway restaurants were given slips of paper letting them know their recommended daily calorie total. Actually, the way the research project was run: some were handed a paper with the daily total, some got a lunch or dinner total and some got nothing at all (the control group).

Turns out the people made aware of precisely what would be best for their health at that meal, ate the most calories. They ate significantly more calories than they should – and more calories than the people who were given no notice.

There was just one exception. People who were at their ideal BMI (body mass index) ate what they should.

Isn’t that the way? People who are already doing well, get information that they are doing it right (or need to make a course correction) and continue to do well. People who are doing it wrong, persist in doing it wrong, even when they’ve been given better information than they’ve been using. They get the results they’ve been getting (and complaining about).

I feel very much like those researchers feel. For example, take profanity in personal branding. Really. Take. It. Away. I have advised some hugely successful, high profile celebrities and business leaders. I tell them: if you want to be carried in mass media and reach audiences that are G-rated, then can the profanity. They do. Their sphere of influence grows, they get television shows, they travel around the world doing intensives with their clients for tens of thousands of dollars (and more), and they get helicopters and islands in Fiji. Or, whatever floats their proverbial boat.

I have other clients who persist in using profanity as if we’ve never spoken. They complain when they are not asked back to speak, guest on a show or get referrals.

It’s not just profanity that sinks personal brands. Another stop-before-it-destroys-your-career? Lack of preparation. Yes, personal branding as a career or business builder requires us to cram more work than most people into a finite amount of time (24 hours each day). And something does give. It shouldn’t be a live audience. Be kind to your audiences. Think about them and they will laugh and applaud in the right places. They will not do that if you have not written and practiced before you expect laughs and applause.

Simple advice that is complicated to follow, if you have not been doing this personal branding thing for awhile. Unfortunately, you really don’t get the chance to make a better impression, once you’ve made a poor one.

My best advice (if I may) is to work in these good habits as part of your regular life. I’ve not met many people who were cursing up a storm with their friends who could shut it off when they were at work. And, I haven’t met many people who really could pull off a presentation without preparation.

If you find yourself following this advice on personal branding: you’re probably like the people who followed the researchers advice about calories. You already have some good habits in place, and maybe a small reminder keeps you on track.

PS. If you like advice about the do’s and don’ts of engaging an audience, and want more: I’ve got more! Email me at [email protected]. Subject line: Advice.


Nance Rosen is the author of Speak Up! & Succeed. She speaks to business audiences around the world and is a resource for press, including print, broadcast and online journalists and bloggers covering social media and careers. Read more at NanceRosenBlog. Twitter name: nancerosen

Read more: Good Advice (And Why You’re Not Taking It)