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Guest

What American Idol Can Teach Us About Branding

By: Guest | April 26, 2011 | 
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Becky Johns is a PR professional, blogger, and photographer.

American Idol fans were outraged the last two weeks as we watched some of our “favorite” contestants get eliminated from the show. How could this happen when the results are based on the popular vote?

The judges were shocked, the media played up the story as a huge upset and many people were confused why perhaps the most technically talented singer was the one to leave the stage. There was even discussion of changing the voting system to prevent this situation again.

Stop shaking your head. This isn’t really about American Idol.

It’s about branding.

There are many factors in play to determine  success, other than talent alone.

While American Idol calls itself a singing competition, it might be more clear that it’s really a popularity contest. That, or it’s the one place teenage girls across the country are exercising their right to vote. And in your professional life, it’s no different. It’s never just about talent.

The Five Key Elements of Your Personal Brand

Your personal brand is a package, made up of a combination of factors.

  1. Solid, relevant experience.
  2. A strong portfolio of work to show success in previous projects.
  3. Great writing samples.
  4. A digital footprint and a respectable social presence online.
  5. Confidence in your skills and ability to clearly present ideas.

But, these factors alone won’t amount to your influence or likeability. Your personal brand is your total package and includes things such as causes you’re associated with, hobbies you take up in your spare time, your physical appearance, your clothing style, your charisma, and just like American Idol, your ability to deliver a performance.

I’m not suggesting you be fake or that you  just show someone what you think they want to see. Your personal brand is about being entertaining, having a certain energy which draws people to you and helps reinforce your talents by highlighting your strengths. For products, a strong brand is not always about highest quality, rather, it’s about delivering a positive experience at the right price point. For PR campaigns, it’s not always about how great the plan looks on paper, it’s about how effectively your message works with human beings.

Life is marketing, especially for PR pros and people working in the social media world. Invest the time into developing your skills and talents—they will set the stage for your success. But, don’t underestimate that it factor. The world won’t always pick its favorite based on deserving talent. Become a frontrunner by having a compelling story to tell, a personality to compliment your skill set and an interesting personal brand to wrap it all up. Be the complete package.

Becky Johns is a PR professional, blogger, and photographer. Her blog about communications and social media, I’m Working On It, is a young professional’s viewpoint on the industry. By day, Becky is part of the agency communications team at Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago. In her free time she chases adventure.

4 comments
skywardjason
skywardjason

What I love about this post, Becky, is that it really shows how the principles of branding can be applied in any situation. I think back to high school and to me, that's where a lot of people begin taking on a self image, and therefore a personal brand. It literally never ends from there.

Great post Becky!

SmartBoyDesigns
SmartBoyDesigns

This post is certainly bringing out some great thoughts. As I look back on American Idol, it's amazing to see how far some singers have gotten through the competition - with little more then a great backstory, personality and little talent. Often they have far outweighed the pure talent.

beckyjohns
beckyjohns

@SmartBoyDesigns I agree. I'm always shocked how much the performance, the look or the backstory has to do with contestants advancing. I've always said American Idol was not a vocal competition. Not that previous winners haven't been extremely talented, but it's not often the real determining factor in who advances or ends up winning.

Jk Allen
Jk Allen

Hi Becky,

I'm not hip to what's been happing on American Idol...I just can't seem to keep up with that show any longer...but I loved the way you used it as an example where our personal brands can be highly effective, and even have the ability to trump talent.

I can attest to this in a number of jobs that I've had. Having the ability to prove that you have the appititude to learn to do new things can far outweigh proven experience, if your [personal] package is presented right! Of course "keeping it real" must be a staple of all that we do! What's anything minus integrity!

"Life is marketing..."

Thank you Becky!