by Fleur Brown, CEO Launch Group
The past two weeks in Australian politics has highlighted the agony and ecstasy of public life to a chilling degree.
From our new Prime Minister’s irrepressible grin as he stood for his victory speech, to the tense disquiet of Tony Abbott as he hit out at the Australian media and others for the brutality of his demise. There was the subdued resignation of Treasurer Joe Hockey, a candid interview by surviving Minister Andrew Robb and a defiant comeback speech this week by Abbott Chief of Staff Peta Credlin. Whether you were a winner or a loser, there were few places to hide.
It would be easy to dismiss these uncomfortable scenes as the insanity of politics. Australian politics.
Yet our political leaders both mirror and magnify society’s trends. In 2015 we are all living our lives in the spotlight to a greater degree. Yes, even in Australia – the land of the egalitarian, self-effacing, tall poppy syndrome – it’s becoming hard to avoid paying attention to your public identity.
It’s not just one factor, but many, that has created this environment.
From the reality TV fervour which started over a decade ago with the first series of “Big Brother”, to the rise of social media and reputational ‘death by Google’ search – anyone can become thrust into the glare of the public spotlight these day, for better or worse.
Everyday life events can now carry much harsher penalties. A recent book ‘So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed’ by Jon Ronson highlights the bizarre life-shattering consequences for many every day people whose lives became caught up in the glare of social media gaffes.
Australian teenager Corey Worthington became a household name after a party at his parent’s house spun out of control thanks to Facebook. Years later, the media that wiped the floor with his identity helped redeem it through a ‘Clean the Slate’ Red Balloon ad campaign.
Others, like twenty year-old Australian actor, singer, songwriter, and YouTuber, Troye Sivan, are happily banking the proceeds from a life in the spotlight that would scarcely have been possible before YouTube and other forms of social media.
And who could forget health blogger Belle Gibson – whose star rose and fell beyond her wildest expectations within the space of one year?
The world is not only smaller and more brutal, it’s far more impatient. Our sharemarket is awash with examples of well-credentialed leaders who scarcely settle into their seat at the boardroom table before the market is baying for their resignation. Where a media honeymoon period used to last years, now it can last days or weeks.
We are all part of creating this dynamic. We are the audience that feeds and consumes the media. We are the impatient, thrill-seeking voyeurs who comment liberally and licentiously on anyone in the spotlight via our social media accounts. We are the shareholders that demand executive heads must roll via our need for instant financial gratification.
What does that mean for the average Australian professional?
Three global trends have created a revolution where a well-managed identity is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity:
1. News making has changed forever: Content from someone’s Twitter or Facebook feed is now considered a legitimate news source, even a news event. Remember the obscure Amercian girl who stepped of a plane in Africa to learn she was fired and the subject of global vitriol over a tweet?
2. Global search leaves you nowhere to hide: We live in a world where employers, customers and even romantic partners search our virtual identity long before they meet us, where unqualified competitors out-rank us online, and where the global marketplace needs us to become a ‘go-to’ person, with a very specific field of expertise.
3. The nature of the workforce is changing: In the next five years, analysts predict around half of the Western workforce will effectively be self-employed. This will create an environment where even the most reluctant self-promoter will be compelled to consider and manage their personal brand to secure and maintain their net worth.
We can no longer afford to simply commentate from the sidelines. Personal profile is no longer just for entrepreneurs, CEOs and the socially savvy. Establishing and managing our personal brand is now everybody’s business.
There are many advantages to this shift. Greatness is a lot more accessible to many – whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur, an artist or an ambitious professional looking for a way to get noticed. The less ambitious can expect to receive more recognition for their achievements and potentially a greater sense of pride and satisfaction around their work. Employees will soon shift from a workplace culture that demands we ‘check our identity at the door’ to one where our personal brand becomes a valuable negotiation tool.
On the flipside, as the boundaries blur between personal and business identity, unless we pay attention to our personal brand, our privacy and our reputation is at stake.
@FleurBrown is founder and director of Launch Group.