In this episode, John and I discuss a recent disaster involving exaggeration in personal branding and aviation marketing.

We all think, “this  is the sort of thing that happens in OTHER industries, not aviation!”

But unfortunately, this isn’t the first and, unfortunately, won’t be the last disaster we see. It’s important to show your company, product or service in the best possible light, but it’s even MORE important to be scrupulously honest, especially with verifiable facts. Exaggeration can kill your credibility fast.  And credibility is hard to come by, and even harder to get back if you’ve compromised it.

Some folks will say this is a social media problem, but that’s kind of like calling Watergate a telephone problem.

We talk about what went wrong in the case study we observed, and how to prevent exaggeration-related mishaps in your own marketing and personal branding.


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Here’s what happened:
An aviation artist in the industry had a strong social media following and great write-ups in local publications.   So far, so good, right?
Exaggeration in personal branding - Aviation marketing disasters
Well, one of the dangers of social media is that you may get the sense that you’re talking to one person when you’re actually talking to EVERYONE.
The military aviation community is a small world. People who have been certain places and made certain accomplishments all know one another and become suspicious when something they read doesn’t match up with what they know.
Exaggeration in personal branding - Aviation marketing disasters
Specifics about airplanes are, shall we say,  warmly debated by military professionals and fans.
Exaggeration in personal branding - Aviation marketing disasters
And claiming a status that rightly is reserved for people who have served in the military might result in being called upon to justify it.
Words and images are amazingly searchable on the Internet. The partial photo was posted as a response to being called up on to provide proof of military service.
To be fair, we don’t know WHO posted these photos on a personal Facebook profile, and she later indicated that her account had been hacked.
All the more reason to keep your account access safe and private.
Exaggeration in personal branding - Aviation marketing disasters
Yelp reviews are very public, and very permanent.  They (like most review sites) have a appeal process. See our video about responding to bad reviews.
But much better to not have a problem in the first place.
One of our Insiders summed the situation up nicely.
Exaggeration in personal branding - Aviation marketing disasters
Of course, we have a long tradition of “tall tales” in this country, and anyone who has sat around a hangar with old-timers for any length of time has probably heard a few doozies.
Exaggeration in personal branding - Aviation marketing disasters
And whether exaggeration is for entertainment purposes, or is even morally right, is a larger topic than this humble marketing blog can tackle.
The recent movie “The Greatest Showman” shows that the question of exaggeration has been a controversial topic for quite some time in this country.
Exaggeration in personal branding - Aviation marketing disasters
This hit my particularly hard, because I’d been recently been informed that my Project Management Institute (PMI) membership had lapsed, although I claim it on my LinkedIn.
I quickly caught up the paperwork and paid my overdue dues, but this is a strong reminder that we have to be vigilant that everything we say about ourselves is true and current!
Exaggeration in personal branding - Aviation marketing disasters
So, how do you go about personal branding with confidence?  This profile or Lorre White is a great example –
  • This is a “third person” article.
  • She talks more about her ideal customers than about herself.
  • She includes a “real” photo. (Nothing wrong with looking your best, but don’t stretch reality!)
Speaking of photos, a great way to promote your personal brand without exaggeration is to show candid photos of you “doing your thing.”  These are not perfect or professional photos, but they add a lot to the marketing materials of the company or person represented because they are real!
Top row – The Chase Family of Chase Aviation, aircraft maintenance in progress at SSC
Bottom row – Shane Ballman of Synapse MX speaking at an event, Benét Wilson, aviation journalist covering an event, and myself and John Williams with the legendary Penn Jillette at a marketing convention. (Yes, he’s a brilliant marketing strategist, but that’s a story for another day.)
Personal branding - Use real photos that show you "doing your thing!"
We also recommend our clients develop a “racecar graphic,” with logos from all of the publications and organizations they are associated with. Once again, it’s very important to ensure each of these is verifiable.
Exaggeration in personal branding - Aviation marketing disasters
Aviation Sales TrainingQuestions about what to include (or not!) in your own personal branding?
Join our Aviation Sales Basics course, in progress now!  We cover sales and marketing tactics from an aviation industry perspective!
We get into deep discussions about YOUR challenges!
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