BLOG: The social media election – The politics of personal branding

The power of personal branding is historically and most ardently showcased in politics. The political landscape has been a hub of early adoption for new and exciting channels to influence audiences and control the narrative of campaigns.

Thur, 16 Apr 2015 | By Paul Sharpe, sales and marketing director, InterQuest Group

The power of personal branding is historically and most ardently showcased in politics. The political landscape has been a hub of early adoption for new and exciting channels to influence audiences and control the narrative of campaigns. In 1961, John F. Kennedy was helped on his way to the White House by what was, at the time, brand new technology – television. He was an extremely personable character who resonated with the public and this set a precedent. It is just as critical now that our politicians are marketable as it is their brand of politics speaks to the masses. 

For a more recent example of this look no further than Margaret Thatcher enlisting the help of advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi to rebrand with clever marketing to create the ‘Iron Lady’ persona. The current digital climate is such that politicians now have a new way to push their image, with a reach that knows no borders. This is social media, and it’s just revolutionised politics.

In 2008 Barack Obama famously mastered social media by crowd funding $639m (£430m) for his campaign. Donations from the public to political parties are nothing new but what made Obama’s campaign stand out is that the money came from millions of Americans donating small sums (on average $86 per donation). The Obama campaign social media tactic aimed to engage every follower on a personal level, a benevolent use of social media that promised to involve everyone in the democratic process. This was a monumental success and it would be fair to say that social media went a long way in winning Obama the presidency. Fast-forward seven years and here we are at the 2015 UK elections. Social media is now a campaign weapon being deployed by all sides. Welcome to the war of the hashtags. 

If politicians can benefit so dramatically from this form of personal branding, imagine the capabilities it can bring to recruitment agencies. Entrepreneurs and business leaders are increasingly employing personal branding strategies; take Richard Branson or Elon Musk; both have built their personal brand to define the character of their business, align business values with their persona and leverage exposure of the collective brand. By extension, businesses and political parties alike are increasingly allowing, and in some cases facilitating, the development of the individual brands of their employees through social advocacy programmes. Recruitment agencies have a lot to learn if they are to emulate the success of these examples and influence their audience. However, the 2015 UK election is a great place to start.

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