Build Your Leaders

Postcard from Asheville

September 2014

Polished Personas

When people ask what I do, I like to tell them that for the first half of my career I helped businesses market their goods and services, and now in the second half I’m helping businesspeople market themselves. Or put another way, I am in the persona building business.

According to Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, personas are the masks, faces, orfacades we present to the world. Lest you think masks are bad things, I can assure you they are not. We all need personas to succeed—even survive—in the world. We use them to make specific impressions, facilitate communication, and protect our inner selves.

Jung wrote that personas are a compromise between society’s expectations and our personal identity; or I’ve heard it said that they are the place where the soul meets society.

Most businesspeople spend little time thinking about their personas. When we don’t develop and manage our professional personas, we invite others to do it for us. We lose control of how we are perceived and give away our most important asset without even realizing it.

We may not be able to control our image, but we can manage it. One simple way is to determine the three to six brand attributes you’d like said about you, whether at a backyard barbeque or in a board meeting. Then, evaluate every aspect of your life from the car you drive to how you dress,as each either supports or diminishes those brand attributes.

When FleishmanHillard appointed me the general manager of its Atlanta office in 1989, I became the youngest general manager of an international firm in Atlanta. I knew I’d have some credibility issues.

I decided early on that I wanted to be known for being creative (a big thinker), strategic (marketing-driven approach), and somewhat upscale.  Everything I did reflected these attributes. For example, if you walked into the lobby of the agency you would have noticed a huge folk art rocking giraffe (creative), television sets running business and financial news (marketing-driven), and fresh flowers (upscale). I believed that no detail was too small, and my perseverance paid off.

Year after year, I was voted one of Atlanta’s “Big Idea People” and “Marketing-Driven PR Professionals” in the Atlanta Business Chronicle’s All Star Issue. And when I left FleishmanHillard ten years later, the chairman of the board sent out a memorandum to the worldwide staff saying how much the agency would miss me; I was “one classy guy.”

In truth, there weremany others who were more creative, marketing-driven, and classy, but no one—no one—attended to his image as much as I did. That said, this strategy never would have worked if there had not been an element of truth in it. I am creative. I am more a marketer than a PR guy.And at times I’ve been known to be classy.

When was the last time you thought about the image you are projecting? Take it from a professional persona builder: a polished, professional persona can greatly enhance your career.

# # #