While it’s only January, already this summer will be remembered as one of devastation to many Australians with the ongoing bushfires continuing to wreak havoc. While numbers are expected to grow, so far 17 lives have been lost, over 1300 properties have been destroyed, and over 3.6 million hectares have burned. When reporting on the fires, a common theme across any article or the subsequent commentary, is the Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s handling of the crisis. This initially started during his family holiday to Hawaii, but now at every turn, he faces stark criticism.

Now, I’m not here to pick sides with his handling. Every person you speak with seems to have a differing opinion. “He shouldn’t have had a family holiday during a crisis” “Everyone is entitled to time off from work” “RFS Volunteers should be paid” “The fires reflect the government’s climate change policies” “How can a man who’s been in power for less than 18-months be responsible for the fires”. These arguments are but only a few and determining what is right and what is wrong differs depending on who you speak to.

But one thing is for certain, the man who built himself upon marketing and branding will go forward having severe challenges with his own personal branding.

This raises a few lessons regarding branding which are consistent regardless of whether you are the Prime Minister during a national crisis or the manager for a small team in the workplace.

1) It’s Impossible to Please Everyone

I’ll preface these points by saying that you can never make everybody happy. No matter how positive your intentions are, no matter how good your execution is, no matter how researched you are, someone will always disagree or believe things can be done better. With this in mind, it’s important to focus on the actions that will create the best results, despite what some believe. It’s important to be considerate and aware of disagreeing opinions, however it is not always possible to appease them.

2) Your Preferred Influencing Style is Not Always the Right Influencing Style

Something I learnt a while back in my Optus retail days was the importance of adapting style. Adaptability is one of the more important parts of good emotional intelligence, but also directly relates to branding. While a certain approach may be perceived as right to your individually, it may not always be right depending on the audience.

The Prime Minister has predominately taken a pragmatic approach to the current crisis, talking to resources, logistics and processes that need to be followed. Some argue that this approach lacks empathy, social awareness, and the necessity of strong leadership in a time of need. This transcends to management of staff in the workplace. While individually you may believe what the best approach is to lead, this may not be the most effective way for those you work with.  This is where the importance of adaptability comes in.

3) Losing Branding Correlates with Losing Credibility

One of the dangers and consequences with losing branding, is the correlation with losing credibility. As soon as questions regarding branding appear, there becomes less focus on overall action and results, even if the action is positive. Despite best intentions or good ideas being presented, underlying branding issues can degrade plans. For plans to be successful you need buy in from those around you; branding and credibility are the crux of this. In the workplace, those with credibility will often receive more assistance and have more people wanting to help, compared to those who have a perceived poor brand.

In the current crisis, the Prime Minister has increased funding to the RFS, has deployed more resources to the ADF to assist with evacuations, and is reactively answering requests from state departments. However, all of these areas are perceived as insignificant due to his damaged brand. A strong personal brand takes years to build, days to ruin, and even longer to rebuild.

So while the current focus is assisting those in need and reducing the threat of the ongoing bushfires, the end of the season will produce questions, debate and brand rebuilding. As a country that values helping those in need, it will be an interesting time to see how the leader of the country can win back those who have turned their back on him.

Daniel Cosgrove

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