Personal Brands: Learning from Al Gore

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jul 03

If you’ve been focused on building your “personal brand,” a hot topic in the blogosphere these days, you’d think that identifying and communicating your personal brand would be enough.

But, bad things happen in the world and your brand can go totally south. How do you rebuild it?

Well, in the most public of personal brands, we can learn some lessons on rebuilding the brand. The most public of personal brands to learn from: Al Gore.

Yes, that Al Gore. The guy that built a life around politics and ended his political career with his defeat at the electoral college (but not the popular vote) in 2000.

Many politicians would have slunk back home to Tennessee and thought about fading into the sunset. But, Al Gore didn’t do that. Instead, he’s turned into a successful business person, won an Academy Award, and is a Nobel nominee. Oh, and worth about $2 million upon losing the election and now worth an estimated $100 million. Not bad for a washed up politician; at least one who is not in office.

The full story is over in Fast Company (and the site is not loading as I am writing this; link to come later).

If you look at the accomplishments that Mr. Gore has done in business, they are easy to list:

  • Buying a cable distributing company and changing the format from formal news to user-contributed news. Profitable.
  • Establishing an investment firm. Profitable.
  • Touring with this little slide show on global warming. Yes, that one.

But, how do you do get started rebuilding a brand and building a business? How to turn nothing into these fabulous accomplishments? This is the instructive part for all of us who work in cubes.

Mr. Gore used what we all need to be using in our careers:

Networking. Al Gore talked to lots of people for ideas, confirmation of his ideas and looking for partners to help in developing business. He built up this network by doing things for others, keeping in contact, and asking for help — exactly what we need to do.

Unique value proposition. The growth in social networks on the Internet didn’t have an equivalent in mainstream media. Taking user-generated content and airing it on the cable network channel was pure risk — but pure differentiation of what is going on in cable right now. We need to differentiate what we offer to people the same way — determine our unique contribution to others and work that to build our brand.

Dust off ideas from the past. The slide show on global warming was an old idea. Mr. Gore took that slide show, upgraded it, started showing it on a paid basis, and then modified it as needed to get a laser focused presentation that would make a difference. We all have ideas sitting around on our hard drives or book shelves. Before we throw them out, let’s consider how they would do in today’s environment with a different slant or point of view.

Coaching. Mr. Gore listened to what his coaches told him to do — and then did it. Need to be in Paris a week from tomorrow to promote the movie? Al was there. Need to tweak a section of the presentation? Al was on it. Need to give some help to others when Al had no time? He found the time to help. Commitment takes many forms; coaching from experts means taking the advice and executing it to perfection.

Al Gore is a great example of great risk, great — but close — failure in a nationwide election, and then going back to his roots to find what worked and what didn’t for Al, the person. Then turning that into a brand-stomping success.

We can learn from Al Gore.

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About the Author

Scot Herrick is the author of “I’ve Landed My Dream Job–Now What???” and owner of Cube Rules, LLC. Scot has a long history of management and individual contribution in multiple Fortune 100 corporations.

  • Well said. No matter our political inclinations we can admit that Gore went from “robotic & bland” to “personal; focused” and even “controversial.”

    Gore did what the right-wing did to win (awesome movie: …So goes the nation): He focused on his core constituency, or Community. That’s what I call the #1 Focus Factor to leverage our personal brand.

  • Scot Herrick says:

    Of course, he did this in spades because of a lifetime of networking and leveraging his positions in government. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t do the same thing in our own way with our experience and networking as well.

    Al’s just a bit more visible than we are…!

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