If you have to say it, you aren’t it.

The other day I was looking for reviews of a car that I’m interested in. I somehow ended up on Fox News. Before the video review played, a Fox News interstitial played which spent 30 seconds telling me how fair, balanced, multi faceted and great their reporting was. As many media watchers can attest to and a simple Google search reveals, there is a great deal of opinion around Fox News’ perceived or real bias towards conservative viewpoints.

Clearly, Fox News is aware of this perception, otherwise they wouldn’t bother with the tagline “Fair and Balanced” or the 30 second ad extolling their own virtuous reporting.

Let me get to the bottom line here: it doesn’t matter what you say about yourself. Your actions are your brand. If your actions say that you are unfair, and off-balance you can swear up and down that you are but no one is going to believe you. And worse still, you make yourself look even more unfaithful to your brand by not being true to yourself.

It’s not about what you say. It’s about what others say about you. And, what others say about you is defined by who you are and how you act. We’ve talked a lot in the last few years about examples of companies responding well in crisis, and those who clearly just don’t get it. But the every day, ongoing actions and messages coming out of an organization are just as important for brand building as the crisis management.

I can scream up and down that I am in fact the fastest mountain biker on the planet, but at the end of the day, my race results and lack of career in pro cycling show that this element is not part of my personal brand. But, deep interest in all things bicycles is part of my genetic makeup. People who know me as a person know this is important to me.

And while this example is all about personal branding, this applies to any company, institution or organization as well.

So what can you do to create the impression you want people to have without trying to change their opinion when your actions are counter to what you are saying:

  1. Be what you say you are. If you say you’re fair and balanced, try actually being fair and balanced.
  2. Build your brand around more than a slogan. Give people permission to act on the company’s behalf as companies like Zappos and Netflix do. They are the brand and our interactions with them shape our feelings about the brand.
  3. Interact with your customers through social media and use it as an opportunity to change minds.

What are other brands have a disconnect between their actions and corporate slogans? How could they better embody the brand?

Previously posted on

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