Personal Branding: Enron

In my last three posts we have taken a look at brands we admire and trust, our online tone of voice, and the halo-effect of associating ourselves with great brands. But, I think it’s important to take a minute and talk about authenticity.

It doesn’t do any good for us to create and manage our brand if we’re not 100% authentic about it. People have a way of sniffing out insincerity – especially online.

Our personal brand should be an honest representation of us and who we actually are (and we should manage and improve it over time). Associating ourselves with things we don’t care about just to appeal to others is the ultimate personal betrayal and will undoubtedly be uncovered.

Let’s look at an example. Before its bankruptcy in 2001 Enron was billed by top management as “the best energy company in the world” and they hoped to be able to call it “the best company in the world” soon. It seemed everyone was a fan of the brand – it was ranked #22 of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America by Fortune.

Being associated with such a respected source as Fortune, in such an esteemed manner wasn’t new to Enron either. They were also recognized as “The Most Innovative Company in America” five years in a row by the same publication. Talk about some strong associations and the halo-effect! They had built a brand on the widely held impression that Enron was the best and most innovative company in the entire country. They had done a good job of fooling their audience – the employees and the financial markets.

In fact, Enron had almost no real assets to back its accolades – or its balance sheet. It had positioned itself as a leading employer, at the forefront of innovation, and as one of the best companies in its industry – if not all of business. As we all know now, it was a house of cards, and the brand image that it worked so hard to create was never supported by actual performance or integrity.

I’m sure there are some “Enrons of personal branding” out there. People puffing up their brand with no real performance or sincerity to back it up – let’s build our brands so that our integrity and authenticity can never be called into question.


Jonathan has broad ranging experience and currently works in eMarketing at Thomson Reuters in the Twin Cities area.  He is a recent graduate of Oklahoma State University where he majored in Marketing.  Prior to returning to Thomson Reuters, where he had an internship during college, he worked for Expedia in an account management role for their North American lodging business. Jonathan is an avid enthusiast of all things marketing, economics, and travel. And, he is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.  Connect with Jonathan on Twitter (@jonathanpetrino), LinkedIn, and his website.

Related posts:

  1. Personal Branding with Purpose: What’s Your Intention?
  2. Personal Branding Predictions for 2010
  3. Best Practices for Personal Branding via Twitter

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