Older Americans know the names Walter Cronkite, Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Dan Rather, Tom Brokaw and Peter Jennings. They were the most famous news anchormen of the historically dominant television news broadcasters ABC, CBS and NBC. For generations they informed the American people at six o’clock in the evenings about national and world events.
Sunday morning political talkshows are also linked to household names such as Tim Russert, George Stephanopoulos, Bob Schieffer. In style and tone these news shows were tailored to those respective individuals. It was, and still is, a question of branding, with the networks seeking to establish an almost personal relationship between news moderator and the audience, with the hope that viewers would trust the moderator with supplying them with critical news in precise, objective and investigative way.
And it’s no different in American politics, where it is often less about substance and more about personality, character and values, such as marriage, family, love of country and faith. Question marks in those areas mean questionable credibility. Americans first size up the candidate as a person, then they consider his or her politics.
A persuasive curriculum vitae (resumé) in the American context stresses achievements, awards and areas of special competence. It is not an official document produced by a neutral party such as a government agency or an educational institution, but rather a testament to how what was learned has been applied in the real world.
Resumés in the U.S. are in a way (self-)marketing documents. Americans highlight not only their subject area expertise, but also their character strengths, such as persistence, discipline, teamwork and, of course, leadership. Every American reader of an American resumé knows that they are carefully written subjective statements aimed at a specific effect.
The safest way to win an NBA championship is to land one of the league’s few unstoppable players. But even superstars require the right surrounding parts. They are the Australians. And every team in the NBA could use one.
Australian players tend to be the opposites of most American players. They don’t seek superstardom. They actively avoid attention. They excel in the egoless roles that most players reject.
Aussies can be so obsessed with their teams, in fact, that individual awards make them uncomfortable. They want to win more than anything else. “The kids in the U.S. are told from the time they’re 12 years old that they’re the next Michael Jordan.”
Facing a Selfie Election, Presidential Hopefuls Grin and Bear It. July 4, 2015. Jeremy Peters and Ashley Parker. New York Times.
“Press that white button! This right here,” the former secretary of state instructed a technologically deficient fan in New Hampshire who was fumbling to work an iPhone camera. Her patience thinning, Hillary Rodham Clinton took matters into her own hands and jabbed the button herself.
Who wants their babies kissed or their yard signs autographed anymore? This is the Selfie Election. And if you are running for president, you have no choice but to submit.
Candidates can now spend an hour exhausting a line of eager selfie seekers. Jeb Bush has perfected a technique suited to his 6-foot-3 frame: For his shorter fans, he will take the picture with his own outstretched selfie stick of an arm.
“They just have to put up with it, because how do you decipher who is a fan and who wants to fill their profile with pictures of them with candidates?” said Mr. Robinson, editor of The Iowa Republican, a political publication.
Senator Marco Rubio will indulge people who want selfies. But he often travels with a professional photographer who takes photos of him with voters as an aide trails behind, handing out index cards listing a website where supporters can go to download their pictures.
The benefit? Not only does the photographer speed the process and produce higher-quality images, but voters are asked to provide personal information on Mr. Rubio’s website. Before they can view their photos, Rubio supporters have told the campaign their name, their home and email addresses, which issues matter most to them and if they are willing to volunteer.
Robert H. Goddard, now considered the American father of modern rocketry, was often mocked and ridiculed by his fellow Americans during his lifetime, but was well-respected in Germany, largely because of his persuasive techniques.
Early in his rocketry research, Goddard funded his own testing, but as his work grew in scope he began to seek outside funding. However, as a publicity-shy man who tried to keep media-focus on his work instead of himself, most of his attempts to solicit financial assistance failed, with the exception of the Smithsonian Institution, which agreed to grant Goddard modest funding.
In 1917, Goddard made several proposals to the U.S. Army and Navy about the possibility of his rocket research being used in the military. Although both organizations were interested, the only one of Goddard’s proposals that he was allowed to develop was his idea for a tube-based rocket launcher to be used as a light infantry weapon. This launcher became the precursor to the bazooka.
After WWI, Goddard returned to researching rockets, and in 1919 he published a book titled A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes. As part of this book, he mentioned the possibility of sending rockets to the moon. At the time, this was considered an outlandish and impossible suggestion. Although this was only a small part of the book, Goddard was soon subjected to what David Lasser, the co-founder of the American Rocket Society, called the “most violent attacks.”
In 1926, Goddard successfully launched the world’s first liquid-fueled rocket. Partly due to Goddard’s poor reputation and partly due to his media-shyness, this launch was largely unnoticed. In 1929, following one of Goddard’s rocket launches, a local newspaper mockingly printed the headline “Moon rocket misses target by 238,799.5 miles”
Although Goddard had difficulty convincing Americans that his ideas were useful, his work was very persuasive to Germans, and it wasn’t long after his book was published that Goddard began receiving queries from German engineers asking about his work. Initially Goddard answered these queries (his help is even acknowledged in Hermann Oberth’s 1923 book Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen) , however, increasing aggression from Germany began to worry him, and by 1940 he had stopped responding to the engineers’ questions.
Realizing that he may have inadvertently assisted in German development of long-range missiles, Goddard attempted to warn the U.S. Army and Navy about a potential German threat from rockets. Although Goddard was not able to sell his idea that long-range missiles were a possibility (both organizations considered his warnings too far-fetched to be worth contemplation), he was able to sell himself well enough that between 1942 and 1945 the Navy employed him as Director of Research in the Bureau of Aeronautics, where he worked developing experimental engines.
In the children’s book series, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket (the pen name of American Daniel Handler), three recently orphaned children are initially placed in the custody of Mr. Poe, the banker who is in charge of the large fortune that they will inherit when Violet, the eldest, comes of age. Mr. Poe soon finds a distant relative who is willing to adopt the orphans, and the children move in with Count Olaf, their third/fourth cousin several times removed.
As it turns out, Count Olaf is not interested in raising the orphans, but only in stealing their parents’ fortune. After his first failed attempt to steal it, he has to go on the run to avoid the police, and the children are sent to live with a different relative.
Undeterred, Count Olaf will attempt to steal the orphans’ fortune multiple times over the course of the next several books, each time masquerading as a respectable member of the local community. In the first book, he is a count, in the second, he pretends to be a herpetological assistant, in the third, a retired captain, and so on.
Every time that the children discover one of Count Olaf’s disguises, they attempt to elicit the help of their legal guardian and/or the banker Mr. Poe. Even though the orphans point out mistakes in the count’s disguises, Count Olaf is so skilled at selling himself that the adults ignore the mistakes and contradictions in his product (his disguises) until they become extremely obvious.
Career Development offices at American universities advise on personal branding tactics in order to improve the career prospects of undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students. Yale University, for example, helps students understand how best to use LinkedIn in order to network with contacts and employers.
When uploading a photo, students are advised: “To be mindful of the image you want to project. Be sure that it is appropriate for the audience who will be viewing it.”
The office also recommends that students join Ivy League groups and alumni networks to take advantage of connections with other elite universities. Further, Yale students are advised “to connect with those with whom you share common interests.“
Personal branding is not new. People have always taken into consideration how they are perceived by those they are trying to persuade. It is natural that the marketing techniques used to sell products are being applied to selling a person, or a person’s skills, experience, value.
Books, seminars and companies advise individuals on how to best manage their reputation in the Internet. Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and other forums and communities exert influence on how people are perceived. Perceptions are personal and subjective. Branding means presenting the messenger in the most positive light.
See what books Amazon offers on personal branding.
Celebrity endorsements help in the sale of many products in the United States. A famous person links themself personally to a specific product or service in an advertisement, explicitly or indirectly saying:
“I use this product. It is good. I like it. You will like it, too.” The hope is that potential customers will respond with “I like, respect, admire that celebrity. If it is good enough for them, it must be good enough for me. I‘ll buy.”
Golf champion Tiger Woods signed endorsement deals with General Motors, General Mills, American Express, Accenture and Nike. In 2000, Woods signed with Nike a 5-year, $105 million contract, which became the largest endorsement deal ever signed by an athlete at the time. Woods is frequently seen wearing Nike apparel during tournaments and has a building named after him at Nike headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon.
At some point during the life of every American they hear the figure of speech: “You sell yourself first, then your product or service.” The presenter needs initially to get the audience to accept them as interesting, motivated, experienced, as a person with expertise.
It is the initial hurdle the presenter needs to overcome, the first yes to be gained. The audience needs to be convinced of the messenger before being convinced by the message. Otherwise audiences ask themselves “If the presenter isn’t convinced of himself, why should I be convinced?”
In amazon.com there are 226 results when searching for “sell yourself first.” On YouTube 37,900 videos are found. The bookstore chain Barnes and Nobles sells 24 books related to “sell yourself first” with titles such as: Invisible to Remarkable: In Today’s Job Market, You Need to Sell Yourself as ‘Talent’, Not Just Someone Looking for Work…, Good in a Room: How to Sell Yourself (and Your Ideas) and Win Over Any Audience…, or The One Minute Sales Person: The Quickest Way to Sell People on Yourself, Your Services, Products, or Ideas—at Work and in Life.
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