Brushing Up Your Public Image

By Hannah Wallace May 31, 2007

If you’re in business, you know it’s challenging to control your message. Not only is the media more fragmented than ever, but laypeople are often providing news and opinions through blogs, MySpace pages and online videos—also known as consumer-generated media, or CGM. Every gaffe or poor performance can be recorded and immediately posted on YouTube.

I shudder when I think of the plump, middle-aged suburban mom who was recorded by her teenage son as she was sunbathing on a public beach last year. She was listening to an iPod and singing—loudly and badly—to Boyz II Men’s I’ll Make Love to You. The video was an instant hit on YouTube, airing more than a million times and making it on Good Morning America’s video of the week segment.

Still, companies can use the new media to their benefit. When Jet Blue’s CEO, David Neeleman, issued a mea culpa last winter for leaving passengers stranded on a tarmac for hours in a snowstorm, he went directly to consumers through YouTube. Bloggers pounced on it, calling for a Passenger’s Bill of Rights, but just as importantly, the open apology helped redeem Jet Blue’s reputation as a company where the CEO goes front and center to take responsibility.

Of course there’s no way to prevent snowstorms or every embarrassing moment—although taking away your son’s camcorder might be a start—but it’s made me think more about the importance of public image. Several stories in this issue focus on this topic.

Steve Shenbaum and Blair Dalton and their company, Game On use improvisational techniques they learned as theater majors to teach celebrity athletes like Pete Sampras and CEOs how to create a positive public image. From his office on Bradenton’s IMG campus, Shenbaum distills his approach this way: “Just treat people right, believe in yourself, in your product, and be honest.” (A caveat on honesty, though: You don’t have to bare all. Another one of Shenbaum’s cardinal rules is to be brief. “It gives people much less to work with,” he says.)

We also have a story about how three local companies successfully changed their brands (“Brand New”); another that takes a look at Clarke Advertising’s decision to target age-defying baby boomers (“YAH, Baby!”); and a feature about Sarasota County’s latest marketing effort to lure the film industry (“Get The Picture”).

Happy marketing.

Filed under
Show Comments