I am writing to you 38,000 feet above as I fly clear across the country to San Francisco, California. I started off my day in Hartford, Connecticut’s small airport, Bradley International. One of my favorite things about traveling is the seemingly unlimited amount of people watching I can do. I really enjoy seeing how people behave and interact with one another. While I was enjoying my Fall obsession, pumpkin flavored coffee, I saw a man sporting a fanny pack. Now, I’m not here to knock those who are using fanny packs, I’m here to do the opposite. I applaud fanny pack owners. As I was watching this older gentleman strutting through the airport terminal with the fanny pack I thought to myself for a brief moment…. if my Dad were alive today he would probably be strutting around the airport with a fanny pack too. Then my next thought was – and he would be damn confident in doing so!
So what do fanny packs have to do with personal branding you ask? I think there is a lot to be said about someone who is confident enough to do their own thing and go against the crowd and the ‘norms’ of society. Let’s be realistic you don’t see fanny packs around nearly as much as we did in the late 80’s and early 90’s. But when we do see people sporting said accoutrement they are pretty comfortable in their own skin and know how to rock it. As a business owner, professional or even someone in sales, so much of what you are selling is yourself, not just the product or service you represent. Personal branding is so important in the digital age, the social media age – so you have to be uber careful and cautious with how you are representing yourself.
I did a TV interview last week and one of the topics we started discussing was how unforgiving the LGBT community can be when someone makes the dreaded faux pas I am always educating about. The fact is that in any customer facing role for a company the community is watching, whether that’s the LGBT community or any other for that matter. If you say something you need to own it. If you misspoke on a topic you need to own it. It’s all part of the personal brand. Guido Barilla, the CEO of Barilla Pasta made some disparaging comments about the LGBT community a few weeks back. His mistake was that he apologized for them. If you are going to say what you believe, you need to own it and take the backlash for it, if that’s the case.
I’m the queen of making comments that are taken out of context and I am totally okay with that. A prime example is that I was recently quoted in GO Magazine as saying “It’s not always rainbows and kittens…” I am totally okay with that quote being used because I said it. It’s a part of doing business. I am my own personal brand and I understand that what I say can effect others but if every time I misspoke I was apologizing for it, where would that leave me in terms of credibility? I’d be known for flip flopping on issues without having a concrete viewpoint – who wants to hear from someone like that? Not me.
In short – if I had a fanny pack I would be rocking it right now. Since I don’t have one I’ll continue to rock my own personal brand my way, flaws and all. The personal brand where I feel comfortable enough to say anything I believe in and be prepared to reap the rewards or suffer the consequences for said beliefs. If you own a fanny pack – you should bust it out and rock it. Be proud of who you are, be comfortable in your skin, and be honest about your products, services and business. Those who do business with you will respect you for it and those who don’t, well… maybe they shouldn’t have been a customer in the first place.