Personal branding tips for professionals from Jackie Kennedy

472px-Whitehouseportraitjackie_curvecorrectedThis is part of our series, “The Originals.” These posts focus on showcasing pop culture icons who have made their mark through content creation and branding. Keep coming back to see who will be featured.

Relatively few people have created personal brands that can withstand the test of time.

Jacqueline Kennedy, also known as Jackie O., is remembered as a demure, well-spoken and cultured woman. A fashion icon, too. She was perhaps the first First Lady to garner cultural clout equivalent to her president husband’s political power.

As noted by historian and journalist Carl Anthony, she became an icon.

“The deeper her icon was scrutinized and the less she said, the more metaphoric were the media parables idealizing her as the perfect American wife and mother, the unerring, upper-class model to follow in fashion and décor, and the adventurous jet-setter pursing culture and leisure,” said Anthony.

Kennedy, perhaps inadvertently, exemplified some of the top must-do’s of modern day personal branding. Here’s what professionals can learn from Jackie O.

BE AUTHENTIC

Kennedy took her public role seriously and did what was expected of her by addressing her audience and maintaining the ideals of an all-American family. But she also kept true to herself in the way she spoke, dressed, and carried herself. This, even in the face of initial concerns and criticism from Kennedy staffers.

Kennedy’s brand, so to speak, wasn’t initially perceived as a success. But by striving to retain her identity, she ultimately won out because the public saw who she really was.

When the presidential campaign began in 1960, the Kennedy administration feared her demeanour wouldn’t stick with Americans, according to Sandy McLendon, a design historian.

“John F. Kennedy and all of his campaign team were very, very leery of Jackie because she was very, very high society, she was very sophisticated, well groomed, well read, well spoken –– she would speak French at the drop of a hat […] –– and they were like ‘are we really going to put this rare bird out there in front of this nation and have her accepted?’” said McLendon. ”And a crazy thing happened. Women took to her immediately. They loved her sense of style. They saw her as an idealized version of themselves and it was quickly recognized that she was a huge strategic asset.”

 

BALANCE YOU AND YOUR ROLE/RESPONSIBILITIES

Kennedy struck a balance between her role and its expectations, and who she really was.

She did what was expected of her at the time, and used that credibility to push forward on initiatives she cared about.

As Allida Black wrote in “The First Ladies of the United States of America,” Kennedy managed to balance the traditional First Lady role with her own style and interests.

“To the role of First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy brought beauty, intelligence, and cultivated taste. Her interest in the arts, publicized by press and television, inspired an attention to culture never before evident at a national level,” Black wrote. “She devoted much time and study to making the White House a museum of American history and decorative arts as well as a family residence of elegance and charm. But she defined her major role as ‘to take care of the President’ and added that ‘if you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.’”

Her family was paramount, but Jackie O. accomplished many things while in the White House and beyond. The key was being authentic to who she was and what she cared about, and doing a masterful job of balancing her job and her passions.

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