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As an elected official, your personal brand is your most valuable asset. It shapes how constituents perceive you, influences your ability to rally support, and can ultimately determine your impact on public policy.  

Whether or not you’ve intentionally crafted a personal brand, as an elected official or candidate you automatically have one, according to Meredith Glacken, founder and principal at Foresight Messaging. She developed her personal branding expertise during two tours on Capitol Hill, political campaigns in over a dozen states, and a term as a speechwriter for the U.S. Secretary of Commerce.

“If you are an elected official, or if you’re in that [candidacy] process currently, you’ve already participated in the process of personal branding,” she explained in a recent Fireside webinar. “You made a choice to show a voting electorate who you are and what you have to offer.” 

The question is not necessarily how you can develop a personal brand, but how you can take control of your brand so it works for you. To do that, elected officials and political candidates need consistent strategies for connecting with their communities and showing up for them daily. 

Start with an Authentic Narrative

The most essential component of a successful personal brand is authenticity, which, at its core, means supporting issues you genuinely believe in.

“If you’re looking to connect with people and make an impact, speaking about the things that you feel most passionate about, really comes through. That amplifies your credibility and authenticity,” said Nicholas Graham, vice president of corporate communications and public affairs at FiscalNote, in the same Fireside webinar. Graham has more than 25 years of experience across the corporate, government, journalism, and agency sectors, including work as a press secretary for two senators and one executive commission. 

Authenticity also means creating a brand that is true to your personality. Otherwise, it will ring false to residents and voters, no matter how good of an actor you are. 

For example, if a quiet and serious person tries to position themselves as fun and outgoing, it will feel forced. Instead, they should create a brand that emphasizes their strengths as a serious problem-solver or a good listener. “Don’t feel like you have to force yourself into a box that is so far out of your comfort zone that it winds up being a distraction from your messaging,” Glacken advised. 

Leaning into your strengths also means focusing on the types of outreach that are most authentic to you — whether that means social media, in-person events, virtual town halls, traditional broadcast media, or something else. Put your efforts toward the channels you feel most comfortable with, and you’ll be more likely to resonate with voters. 

Finally, the most crucial aspect of brand authenticity is actually being authentic — and that means not lying. “One of the things that I have seen often is the so-called ‘cover-up,’ … being the most destructive part of the story rather than the original infraction,” said Graham. He explained that owning mistakes is ultimately best for elected officials, because “if you want to be seen as somebody who is just like your constituents,” part of that is “being able to own and admit that you make mistakes just like everybody else.”

Building Your Personal Brand: How Do You Stack Up?

Be Consistent with Outreach

When most people think of branding, they think of the attention-grabbing stunts or appearances politicians do to get their name out there. But just as important to your brand is how you operate daily, responding to community concerns, managing casework, and keeping them updated on how you work for them. 

Consistent communication, both in terms of regular outreach and timely constituent responses, is essential. To be consistent, elected officials and political candidates need an organized system for tracking communications, ideally with a sophisticated tool like Fireside

“It’s about having a system, whether you’re operating with pennies or you’re operating with millions of dollars,” Glacken said. “If you have a CRM platform that you can use that can help you organize in a way that’s user-friendly, that’s really the most efficient way of doing business.”

A consistent outreach strategy should also involve forming connections with local newspapers or broadcast channels, Glacken says. It may sound outdated, but local media remains a profoundly effective way to reach large portions of the electorate. 

However you manage it, the ultimate goal is to remain consistent and compassionate to make trustworthiness and reliability a part of your brand.

Develop a Digital Strategy that’s Right for You

Many people associate branding with their social media presence. While an elected official’s brand encompasses a lot more than their social media, knowing how to use — and not use — digital platforms is a key component of modern branding. 

Elected officials absolutely should have some presence on social media, preferably with accounts across all the major platforms, including Facebook and LinkedIn. This is what your audience expects of you as a public figure today. The most well-known platforms are also the ones with the widest reach — after all, Facebook is still the most used social platform for advocacy, according to a recent FiscalNote report.  

What accounts you use most, and what you post on those accounts, will depend in part on what feels authentic for you. Some people love making videos of themselves on TikTok, for example, but those who don’t can stick to text-based channels.

That doesn’t mean you can’t make an effort to learn. “If you know you’re not comfortable with a certain communications platform, don’t just give up,” Glacken advised. “Work with your staff and do your best to get as good as you can communicating on as many platforms as you can” so you can extend your reach as far as possible.

The digital platforms you choose to use will also depend on what your target audience expects. Candidates and elected officials trying to cultivate a brand among young voters, for example, would do well to get on TikTok, while those with an older following may want to stick with traditional platforms like Facebook. 

“You don’t have to be all things to all people,” Glacken says. “You can single out certain groups of people that you really want to hear your message.” Being selective about what platform you’re doing that on should be part of your communications plan

Ultimately, your social strategy should come down to knowing where your target audience likes to spend their time, knowing where you are most comfortable, and creating an approach that balances those preferences. 

Crafting a Personal Brand that Resonates

Politics has always been about branding, but in today’s fast-paced political environment, that may be more true than ever. Defining what your personal brand is and developing a strategy for conveying it are key to success for elected officials. 

Precisely what your brand is and how that’s communicated will depend on what’s most authentic to you and where your voters can best be reached. But there are a few basic essentials for good branding. Staying honest, being responsive to your community, and developing a strategy for consistent communication across all channels will set up your personal brand for success.

Remember that constituent management isn’t just about managing the two-way communication between residents and your office. It also means fostering meaningful connections with the people you serve. Lacking the right tools to communicate with your constituents? Fireside is the leading constituent management platform. Our easy-to-use interface eliminates the need to switch between multiple tools for constituent management and communications, so you don’t get bogged down in sorting mail and planning outreach.

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See how easy managing your constituents, casework, and outreach can be with Fireside.

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