We’ve just had a two-week master class in personal branding from Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump at their respective conventions. They and their teams worked hard to help America understand where they choose to play, their own stories leading to what matters and why for them, and reasons we should believe they can and will do what they promise. They played this out in their messaging, tone and temperament through carefully crafted agendas and speaker line-ups to maximize their impact. Context. Purpose. Strategy. Communication. Implementation.
Overall, when he’s able to stay on message, Trump’s branding is about emotional fixes to bleak problems while Clinton’s is about disciplined, logical, competent evolution. The lesson from the Brexit vote in the U.K. is that emotional arguments beat rational arguments. While Trump’s adding some rational support points might help his case, making emotional connections is an imperative for Clinton.
Context: Where to Play – Target And Frame Of Reference/Environment
Trump is focusing on the disheartened, disillusioned and discouraged. He’s painting a context of doom and gloom. Clinton sees a more positive current state, an America that is the “best country” on the planet.
The choice of context and where to play informs every other. Personal brand positioning cannot happen in a vacuum. It starts with whom you are trying to reach and an understanding of their perspective and with whom they will compare you. So start by assessing your target audience, allies, capabilities, competitors and the conditions in which you are operating.
Purpose: What Matters And Why – Own And Organization’s Benefit/Story And Driver/Values
The core of positioning is the benefit. As a leader, your own positioning becomes inextricably linked to your organization’s positioning. And no one really cares about you or your organization. All they care about is what you are going to do for them.
Trump is focused on fixing what’s broken. People that back him will think he and he alone can take on the establishment to make their lives better. The story he and his family told at the convention is one of a man who can take on any challenge and triumph.
Clinton’s story is all about qualification, determination and her step-by-step path to this moment. The argument she and her backers are making is that everything she’s done has made her the most qualified presidential candidate ever.
Strategy: How To Win – Services/Reason To Believe/Competencies/Attitude
Trump has invested little time and effort talking about plans and competencies. He’s going to make America great again by standing up to the establishment. The details are unimportant.
Conversely, this is Clinton’s strong point. She has detailed plans and a strong record of public service. The people that back her believe in her competency.
Communication: How To Connect – Message/Anchor Statement/Tone And Temperament/Relationships
On July 30, 2016 DonaldJTrump.com came up as “Make America Great Again.” The top of the page says “Trump Pence|Make America Great Again! 2016.” His message is clear. His tone is bold and brash.
HillaryClinton.com came up as “Hillary Clinton 2016.” The top of the page says “Hillary | Act | Issues | Shop | More | Espanol” – website navigators. There is no message there or anywhere else on the first page. Her tone is methodical, calculating, competent.
Implementation: What Impact – Media/Plan/Behaviors
True to form, we never really knew what the next speaker at the Republican convention was going to say. Some backed Trump. Some did not. There was a lot of emotion and passion.
After a rocky start, the Democratic convention settled into a tightly controlled string of A-list politicians and celebrities all on message, for the most part all talking about Clinton’s qualifications and determination.
Implications For You
• Take your personal branding seriously. Position yourself or others will position you.
• Use this framework or another framework to guide your thinking through the key pieces step by step: context, purpose, strategy, communication, implementation.
• Live it. Of course your actions must match your words for you to have any credibility. But if they don’t match your underlying beliefs, you will get caught sooner or later.