Recently I was in a conversation about local politics where I realized that I could add no more to the topic and had to keep quiet.
It wasn't because I didn't know about the subject or didn't have extensive knowledge about the events being discussed, it was because I had come dangerously close to voicing a personal opinion about a candidate. And I can't do that.
As a journalist who occasionally writes about political events, I have to remain as neutral as possible. If I openly declare support for a candidate then I'm free to write whatever I want (as long as I include a disclaimer) but if I do this, it wouldn't be fair for me to write about opponents or members of another party. If I want to cover the entire political playing field fairly (and oh what a field it is up here in New Hampshire) then when in discussion about politicians and politics I have to be careful to stick just to the facts and voice no personal opinions.
It drives me a little nuts.
Sometimes I feel like I have split personalities. There is the journalist who has to be careful about any affiliations when writing a story. There is the blogger who has to be careful of just how much family information is passed on to the public (especially where the kids are concerned). The columnist in me has to be cognizant of my audience's expectations at all times. When I was writing a column on living a frugal life I would literally have people stop me in the stores to inspect my shopping carriage wanting to know if I actually walked the thrift talk. They wanted to know if they could trust what I wrote.
We all have split personalities. There is the you that you want the public to see, the you that sells your brand and then there are the other yous, at home, with the family, off the clock.
It's not an easy task to juggle all those personalities when the public you is what you use to establish your brand and make your money. People develop expectations of you based on what you have allowed them to see. That's why when famous people we've come to respect fall from grace (John Edwards comes to mind) the results can be so devastating. Who they really are differs so greatly from whom we thought they were. We can no longer trust what they say or do. Credibility is gone and so is any chance to further a marketing brand on that persona.
Does this mean that you can never be the “real” you if who you really are differs slightly from how people might see you? Does it mean you can never, ever again express a personal political view?
Not at all, but it does mean, that if you are willing to put your self out to the public as part of your brand that out of good marketing practice you remain as consistent to that brand as you can, in the appropriate circumstances. Always. No exceptions.
You always need to be aware of where you are and under what circumstances even if means you end up biting your tongue in self control when you are dying, just dying, to contribute to that heated political conversation.
Wendy E.N. Thomas is a freelance writer and Instructional Design Consultant for High-Tech Businesses. She is located in New Hampshire, U.S and has over 25 years experience in the High-tech field as a Technical Writer/Instructional Designer.
A features writer, interviewer, and columnist, Wendy has been published in national magazines, newspapers, e-zines, and blogs.
Her current project is to blog about life living with 6 kids and a flock of chickens.