By Sharon Irwin-Foulon
Love it or hate it, you have to admit Miley Cyrus has been very clear that she is shedding her child-star image. And while Hannah Montana fans may mourn the loss, Cyrus appears to have purposefully laid the bait for a new group of fans (or maybe she is growing up with her old ones) who embrace her more "grown up" image.
Then again, so has Justin Bieber. He, too, has shown signs of trying to break free of his child star image. But much to the chagrin of his fans, and anyone else who noticed him, he isn't garnering new fans or endearing those who are growing up.
Why such different responses to a similar message? It all comes down to reputation management. Cyrus appears to have a well-thought out plan for changing her good-girl reputation, while Bieber seems to be sorely lacking a plan of any sort. Consistency and clarity of message win out in this game of getting people's attention.
There are valuable lessons about personal branding from Cyrus and Bieber that you can heed, regardless of the industry or role you play in your day-to-day life:
Hannah Montana got our attention (with many consistent messages) from the grave. Whether it was her attention-grabbing performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, a mini-documentary telling her story, the "provocative" photos and video for her song, Wrecking Ball, or tweets, Cyrus always stayed on message, in a manner that got attention. She was carving a new reputation as a very specific type of grown up girl.
Bieber, on the other hand, is sending mixed messages. His DUI and drag racing charges and suspicion of drug use and vandalism don't align with his music and on-stage performances. As a result, even his good deeds, such as helping victims of super-typhoon Yolanda, seem contrived in light of his off-stage persona.
Consistency builds trust and manages others' expectations of you. Without consistency, Bieber just leaves us confused.
So what's the lesson for those of us whose careers don't include the paparazzi? When you are marketing yourself internally in your organization or to prospective employers, your reputation is a vital part of the hiring and promoting process. You need to be purposeful about how you want to be known and then develop a plan for managing it. Here are three things to remember:
1) Know your audience. Attention is hard to get. Everyone is busy and distracted. Taking the time to decide whose attention you want will help you be thoughtful about both the messages you send and where. My grandmother knows Bieber because he was in the newspaper; she isn't sure who Cyrus is because she doesn't stay up late enough to watch the music awards. Who knows about the work you are doing that most excites you?
2) Be choosy about what feedback you listen to. It's easy to be a critic. And everyone has an opinion they are happy to share. Be selective in what feedback you choose to act on. This will ensure your target audience is understanding the reputation you are trying to build in the way you intended. I have a hunch that Bieber is just as confused about what his messages are as we are.
3) Communications comes in many forms. The way you dress, who you associate with, your online profiles, how you manage conversations, meetings, and written communications are all input points to your reputation. Like Cyrus, ensure they are consistent with the message you want to send.
Keep these tips in mind as you build your own personal brand and you'll be well on your way to becoming a celebrity in your career.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sharon Irwin-Foulon is the Executive Director of Career Management and Corporate Recruiting at Ivey Business School at Western University in London, Ont.
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