In late August I sent out an email that attracted so much attention I thought I’d better blog about it!
It started with a post about the pantsuit that Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris wore to give her signature speech at the Democratic Convention. While I talked mainly about her outfit — and what a close match it was for what we must assume is her personal brand — I did also admit to being a fan.
Many people loved the substance of the email, and asked for a way to share it with others. Yet some people really hated it, and some of them (perhaps not all of them!) also reached out to let me know.
So here we are. Talking again — and potentially for the last time — about politics and personal brand.
Why This is a Blog Post
It’s not so strange to have political themes running through our blogs in an election year — as we strive for currency and relevance. But the main reason this is a blog post is because posting it caused such a kerfuffle! (Wow, never thought I’d get to use that word in a sentence.)
I was just as surprised by the reaction when the Democratic women in our Success thru Style tribe were upset by the second email, where I wrote about the women in the White House, Melania and Ivanka Trump.
And it opened up for me a host of questions, such as:
- As a business owner: is it advisable to confess one’s political leanings? Yes or no?
- As professionals: how do we behave when we disagree? Do we no longer “agree to disagree,” but instead want to work only with people we agree with?
- My own personal brand: was I really being “brave,” as some of you suggested — or was I just being me?
Personal Brand and Your Business
In the second email I wrote about the women currently holding center stage in the Republican Party. The RNC convention followed the DNC’s, and I would have naturally moved on to write about them. Fair is fair, after all. And, as I pointed out in the email, they are more high style than Washington is used to — more New York than D.C. So, a lot more for a personal branding stylist to write about, frankly!
Ivanka looked amazing for her speech, in a navy blue monochromatic, off-the-shoulder, blazer and slacks that we could all drool over because it looked like something we could aspire to wear! I made this point because one of my criticisms of the Trump women’s style is that it runs the risk of not being “relatable.” They wear couture every day. Most of us do not. Yet that pretty and elegant outfit was very much on brand for Ivanka — which is what our clothes are supposed to do: reflect who we are, as well as who we aspire to be.
I have no problem acknowledging this! I can’t agree with the woman’s politics, but from where I sit in the world of style – she’s got it going on! Yet, I got crap for this too! I have to admit, I was shocked.
It distresses me to think that we live in one of the most diverse regions in the country, and yet can’t get along with people who don’t hold the same views we do. It must, in practice, be very hard to avoid them!
Often, as employees, we don’t choose our closest co-workers. But as business owners, we do have say. Still, people of various backgrounds and beliefs are all around us. How do we manage to just work with people who share our political beliefs? More importantly, why would we want to?
Do you stack your company with just Republicans or Democrats? Do your values discourage you from hiring someone with different political views? Do you believe you can build a great company with this approach?
Your Professional Brand
I would describe a “professional” brand as your personal brand in the world of work. Whether you are a business owner or you work for someone else, who are you in the world of work? How do others perceive you?
It is a truism in marketing that your brand — or your identity — is not primarily defined by the way you see yourself. It is actually the way other people experience you that creates your brand. This is true whether you are a person, a small business, or a huge corporation.
So in the second email I posed some pointed questions about how we are showing up in spaces where we are not philosophically aligned in the area of politics.
Some people thought I was way out of line with the Kamala Harris email. Some of them told me so politely. Some were so rude it blew my hair back. Really, I knew we were on a slippery slope with the civility thing — but seriously! I was dismayed.
Whether you believe we should all park our politics at the door, stash it away in the hall closet, or whatever — when you show up in a hateful way in business (and in life), it can’t be anything but a negative drag on your personal brand. If someone outright offends you, personally, there are even nice ways to deal with that. But if they just disagree with you and you lose it — I invite you to consider the costs to your brand, and the possibilities you may be shutting off.
The word “diversity” is used to mean a lot of things these days. Race, religion, ethnicity, culture, abilities, gender preference. Why not politics? We all work together. Can’t we do it with open minds, remaining curious and respectful even when we can’t see the other side? That would be my wish for the world – especially the world of business. And especially the business spaces where women gather. I really think we need tolerance and civility in our spaces! Now, more than ever.
My Personal Brand and My Business
I guess I made my own views clear when I sent the first email. Whether it is “advisable” or not, my personal brand — my identity — is built around being accepting, tolerant, open minded and authentic — as I said in one of the emails. And I try to be that in every area of my life.
Finally, I am devoted to the success of women – on a planetary scale. Although I am a Democrat, there have been many, many Republican women I have liked and admired over the years. I expect there will be more of them in the future. When they are trailblazers, I will acknowledge them — no holds barred! That’s just who I am.
A Stand for Civility and Agreeing to Disagree
Am I naive, or was there once a time when we weren’t so polarized? And now, are there actions we can take together to come together, to ensure we are all seen and heard — even when our politics are not on par? The world is in turmoil. About this, I know, we can all agree. It would seem to me that we need each other now more than ever. My plea is for unity. Emotional support. More love than hate.
How you decide to show up in both good times and bad is your personal brand. What will you choose?
As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.