PR industry experts are inundated with columns and advice about how clients should manage their personal brands. Much of that input is common sense: don’t get coked up and crash your Porsche, don’t beat your girlfriend and land in jail, don’t get drunk and start tweeting. Most of the public is able to avoid these situations. (Thanks, moms.)
Nevertheless, brands love spokespeople. Brands need spokespeople to provide that human element that connects with the complex psychology that is consumer behavior. From Donald Trump to Eva Longoria, personal branding is big business, and a dangerous one, because all humans are fallible. But if there were ever a control in the experiment of personal branding, it would be Tim Tebow. The guy is as clean as a bag of cotton balls.
In fact, Tim Tebow’s personal brand is so sterling that even without a job—he has yet to be picked up by an NFL team after being dropped by the New York Jets—his sponsors aren’t worried at all. ESPN, Nike, TiVo, FRS, Fox Sports and Jockey are all on board with whatever happens next in his career, even if it doesn’t include football. Those brands are even lining up to retain his services after he hangs up his cleats. That’s personal branding done well. But there is more to successful personal branding than avoiding mug shots and visiting children in the hospital.
There is authenticity. Tim Tebow lives according to the values he espouses regardless of what his handlers, agents and PR people do. Tim Tebow runs the Tim Tebow show (which is his life), and his fans adore him for it. In a parallel universe, Charlie Sheen fans feel the same way about his personal brand. For some reason, many PR experts struggle with this idea of authenticity. So do young celebrities like Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus; it’s hard to be authentic when you are still wrestling with who you are and the trappings of becoming an adult.
Personal branding is often over analyzed and over complicated by our industry’s penchant for jargon and muddled analogies, but the core of it is this: be yourself. Be authentic. You don’t have to be famous to have a personal brand. In many regards your personal brand is your reputation, and as human beings most us fall somewhere in between Tim Tebow and Charlie Sheen. But if you’re interested in job security, you’ll want to be more like the former than the latter.
And don’t forget to call your mom on Sunday. Tim Tebow won’t, that’s for sure.