New And Improved…


So, this week I witnessed the clash of values vs. public relations.

It took place in one of my favorite coffee shops and as far as I was concerned… it was over before it started. It’s not that the young PR executive didn’t come prepared for battle… she brought… Wikipedia.

Yes, this was a discussion about personal branding… a concept which seems to be everywhere these days. I was simply minding my own business… writing an article for one of my clients… and was asked to join the conversation.

The claim from the PR side was pretty straight forward… with the right investment ($$$), their agency can “make” the client whatever the client wants to be… overcome whatever poor reputation the client’s developed… and frame the debate along the lines that the client wants it framed.

The client… for their part, wasn’t sure how to measure the ROI, and was concerned about whether the “new packaging” being proposed ($$$) could actually reverse the negative that had seemed to have (rightfully so) spun out of control.

Then… they asked me.


So, after clarifying what had gone (seriously) wrong… I asked a question. “What’s the thought process behind spending a small fortune ($$$) on a branding campaign, as opposed to fixing the problem, training and upgrading your team, and making things right wherever, and with whomever, they need to be made right?”

And out it came…

“What you’re talking about could take months…”, said the agency exec. “We can change the perception in the marketplace significantly faster and with way less internal upset. Even Wikipedia says while previous management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging.”

Oh… well, I guess it’s settled then… isn’t it?

Just one problem… it’s not sustainable. There’s only one thing worse than being really bad at something in business… and that’s being really bad at it, while telling everybody your good at it. Sooner or later… the negative hits critical mass.


I’ve written and taught more than a few articles and seminars over the years on the subject that it’s what’s inside that counts… it’s who you are when no one is looking… and it’s your core principles that make tough decisions easy.

The problem with packaging isn’t the packaging… it’s that there is no guarantee that the packaging is a true representation of what’s inside the box.

There is no doubt that more and more… especially in service businesses… as the owner, you and your values are the brand. But make no mistake… it’s not what you SAY about your company and your values that matters… it is what your customers THINK and EXPERIENCE about your company and your values that matters. It’s who you really are… that counts.

And no amount of PR ($$$) is going to provide cover… for long.



What do you want your clients to think of you?

What does the fly on the wall think?


Photo Credit: