Election 2016: Politics and Personal Branding with Mr. Leonard Kim

The United States is experiencing a presidential election that is unprecedented in both its scope and nature. We have the unexpected and bombastic businessman Donald Trump battling it out with the first female presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton. With the Twitter wars, numerous scandals and vivacious debates–Americans, and the world, have become quite passionate about who they support.

Of course, you can find countless articles and news programs detailing every minute of the fun. Here, I wanted to work on a two-part series–starting with personal branding. I decided to interview  Leonard Kim because he is a well-known leader with regard to building your brand.

Leonard Kim is neither Democrat nor Republican and is judging the election as a pure spectator. He is the managing partner of InfluenceTree. At InfluenceTree, Leonard and his team teach you how to build your brand, get featured in publications and grow your social media following. In addition, he’s a Top Writer on Quora, an online knowledge market. He is also a regular contributor with popular Inc. magazine.

Given the attention the 2016 Presidential election has received– in terms of personal branding, what do you think makes it different from any other U.S. presidential election in recent history?

Leonard Kim: What makes this election different from any other presidential election in recent history is how much both parties utilize social media. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump don’t rely on what the media says about them. They create their own narrative by getting on sites like Twitter, Quora, and Facebook to share their message.

This completely changes the playing field because you don’t get a specific set amount of time to see the candidates in a controlled environment. You get to see everything they do online as well. That lowers the value of what the media has to say and increases the value of the personal brand to the forefront of the decision of the voters.

If someone were to run for political office, what are the top three suggestions you would give them immediately?

Leonard Kim:

1.  Air out all your dirty laundry.

Remember when George W. Bush ran for President? He got so much flack because he tried to cover up a DUI. That almost cost him the election. After that news was released, he had to go in and defend himself each time the DUI was brought up. If Bush had talked about his DUI and got in front of it beforehand, he would have been able to control the narrative. Then no one would have been able to use the dirty laundry against him.

2. Be relatable to the people.

Most people feel that they need to look as professional as possible or no one will take them seriously. I see this all the time. People put out thought leadership pieces everywhere but don’t showcase any of their personality. This makes them completely unrelatable, just like the heroes we see in our textbooks. History books cover up the failures of our leaders, so people like us are unable to relate to their success. That’s because they are put so high up on a pedestal.

What has made my career take off so quickly, and has helped some of the candidates in this and other elections, is being relatable. Talk about your failures, the lessons you learned and just talk like a normal person. If people think that you’re just like them, they will be able to relate to you much better and trust what you have to say.

3. Connect to others.

Say what you may about President Obama, but as a person, he’s great. He plays basketball. He drops microphones. He makes jokes. He’s human! He’s not stuck behind a podium just spitting out the same rhetoric. Instead, he talks to and connects with the people, then defends the ones who are oppressed and refuses to give power to the ones who try to oppress. He truly just goes out there and connects.


Does the perception of U.S. elections really affect reality? Why or why not?

Leonard Kim: The perception of the U.S. elections may affect reality outside of the U.S., but it doesn’t change anything here. The only time something will change is after a President is elected.

Do you have any general branding tips for our two presidential candidates?

Leonard Kim: Instead of attacking each other, talk to your audience about how you will make the country better and help regular people like the people reading this post.

Can you list one personal branding technique you like best about each candidate?

I like how Hillary is really able to hone in and create such a strong support group of voters who will stand by her side. She created the campaign #imwithher and I think it’s brilliant. It gives voters a strong sense of community and helps them fight for an equal cause together.

I like how Donald quotes tweets from his supporters and shares them on Twitter. That shows that he doesn’t only listen to what other people say, he shares it with his audience. It helps boost the morale of his supporters and lets them know that they aren’t just heard, but that their opinions matter.

It was a pleasure interviewing Leonard. What have you learned from his insights? Don’t forget to follow him on Twitter @MrLeonardKim!

Photo By: Evan Duning

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