Ouch! 7 ways to deal with criticism

As many of you know, this summer I’m on sabbatical as I take a 5-week summer acting congress with San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater (A.C.T.), one of the most renowned theaters and actor training/MFA programs in the country. Alumni include Annette Bening,, Denzel Washington, Elizabeth Banks, Anika Noni Rose and countless other working actors whose faces you’ve seen but whose names you may not know. Even Blaine from Glee is a Youth Conservatory graduate.

We are now in our last week and it’s been an amazing experience: creative, intense, exhausting, lively, moving. I have 15 other people in my “company” and we are like a band of brothers, spending sun-up to sundown together, exposing our most vulnerable selves and exploring expression via our voice, bodies and minds as we work to become better storytellers.

Invited to completely let go and try everything out in order to get closer to the true art of acting, we are also naked and exposed. Failures happen. Frustrations mount. And inevitably, we are forced to confront criticism.

Thankfully, our instructors are some of the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever met. They’ve worked with some of the greats and I take everything they say to heart. Plus, I am the sort  who craves feedback like a sugar addict on a juice cleanse. But sometimes, negative criticism can sting. Especially when you completely put yourself out there – as you do with your business, your art or your work.

So how can you respond? Here are 7 ways you can cope with criticism:

Breathe deeply, open your ears and listen:

Easier said than done, but put aside your indignation for a second, take a deep breath and actively listen to the feedback.  When you feel yourself slipping into your inner monologue of anger and despair – while the person is still talking – focus your mind on the words they are saying. Taking notes while you get this feedback can help you slow down and really hear the feedback so you can improve things for next time around.

Have a good cry:

I don’t recommend doing this while you are actually receiving the criticism for three reasons: One, it prevents you from practicing Tip #1. Two, if they are a nasty person, you don’t want to give them the satisfaction. Three, if this is a professional situation, it can make the critic very uncomfortable and no matter what he or she says, they will always remember you as The Crier. If you must cry (and we’ve all been there), wait until you are alone and let the tears flow. I know this can be hard, especially when you feel wronged or misunderstood, but try. And then once you’re alone, enjoy the cathartic release. Once you clear the pain physically from your body, unclench your muscles and sniffle away the last of the sobs, your mind will be clear enough to play back the feedback and find the gold.

Argue your case:

I don’t recommend this one…and this is coming from someone who has tried on several occasions. First, the person criticizing you may not give a fig what you think and so you are just wasting your breath. Second, getting defensive means you are not taking in what the person is saying to gain any sort of benefit out of it. And third, the person could be a boss, valuable client or a VIP decision maker who can make or break your career and it’s best not to burn bridges. Of course, if someone is stating outright lies, you should defend yourself but do it with facts and have an adult discussion, not a tantrum. Or better yet, as I have done in the past, go away for a bit, consider the criticism and draft a “reply” of sorts, walking the person through your thinking. You may not change their mind, but they (and others who hear about it) will respect you far more for playing it cool. Nothing good happens when you let your temper get the best of you in the moment – trust an Italian redhead on this one, please.

Consider the context:

For all of us in this summer acting program, we understand we are here to learn and the teachers are here to teach. That’s what we’re paying for. If we can’t take criticism along with praise, then what the hell are we all doing? The point of the program is to attempt, finesse and improve, and no one can do this in a vacuum. Same goes if you get negative customer, client or audience feedback. Appreciate that someone is taking the time to tell you how you can make things better and also acknowledge the relationship – you are there to serve them. They have a right to tell you how they think you did. Learn from it and improve for the next time.

Understand the agenda:

Often people criticize in a very blunt and hurtful way and it can be anything but constructive. It just feels like they personally hate you and want to watch you die. This stings the most, especially when you’re not expecting it. But as with the tip above, it’s all about seeing the bigger picture. What’s this person’s angle? Are you a threat? Does keeping you down elevate them? Or maybe this person uses fear and negativity as way to exert power, as a previous manager of mine did. At first she made me so angry, I’d cry (not in front of her – see  #2) When I realized this, I started to take her critiques with a grain of salt, throwing out the crap I thought was her own baggage and taking in what made sense. It actually helped our relationship. Or perhaps the critic has a certain communication style born out of personal tragedy or hurt. Whatever the case, consider the critique’s source and make sure you understand what’s in it for them before you take everything to heart.

Don’t dwell on one bad review:

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen great online reviews and received kind emails about my books, but then I let the one Negative Nellie nag at my soul. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and it’s JUST ONE OPINION. Instead, look at the aggregate, not the extremes, and see if there are nuggets you can find for delighting people even further next time. Even the casting director we’re working with, who is pretty damn direct with feedback, always adds that this is just her personal aesthetic, and that doesn’t mean other casting directors would have a problem with a piece being performed a certain way. At least we know with her there is absolutely zero B.S. which is powerful and useful to us. If it helps, create a Feel Good folder and put all praise and compliments in that folder. When you find yourself dwelling on that one low presentation score or bad online review, start reading those Feel Good items and snap yourself out of it.

Do something:

If the critique is useful and you’ve considered the source and the context to be valid, I don’t recommend you do nothing with it. Denying all feedback and continuing to do things the same old way is not a recipe for growth. Many people feel most comfortable wrapping themselves up in their cocoon of self-delusion, but try to find the takeaway in what critics offer up. You may find that something you intended did not come across as you’d hoped so you need to be clearer. Or that you overlooked a minor detail that you now understand makes a big difference. In my acting program, I’m learning that the emotions in my head are not always translating into clear viewable actions for the audience. So now I know I have some work to do. See how you can Implement the valid criticism you get into real action steps and make your work/art shine even brighter.

No matter what the situation, always view negative feedback as a chance to improve and grow. Never use it as an excuse to quit. (Tweet!)

I invite you to try one of these the next time you’re slapped with the criticism stick and see what transpires.

Have you ever received negative criticism? How did you react to it? Any good tips or tricks for how you made it work for you? Please share in the Comments…you never know when your experience can help someone else!

How to use video and social media to boost your brand: A chat with Amy Schmittauer

Today’s digital economy has introduced us to countless people I like to call “artsy-techies.” They geek out on things like hosting options, social media network features and today’s audio/video/web technologies but they are a far cry from the A/V Club nerd of yesteryear. With their savvy style, easy wit and delightful charm, they crank out more creative innovation before lunch than I do all year. It’s truly their time to shine: and what’s great is they love to teach us mere mortals how to easily put our art, story, value, services and products out into the world, too.

I’m not quite sure how or when Amy Schmittauer, the President of Vlog Boss Studios entered my orbit – most likely via Twitter! Vlog Boss Studios is a creative digital marketing agency that specializes in video content marketing. And as the Founder and Face of Savvy Sexy Social, she walks her talk and produces videos of her own. Hilarious videos (like this recent one about how you’re probably using Twitter the wrong way). Little snippets of video love that make you laugh out loud even as she’s teaching you how to use the latest social networks the right way so you can connect, promote, and attract rabid fans.

How does she describe herself? “I’m a social media frenzy!”

Today, Amy drops some mad advice on us about using video to build your brand, how to produce and host those videos in a snap and the fact that many of us are using social networks in the wrong way (one size fits all….not). Enjoy!

RS: Welcome Amy! Tell us, why should we be using video for brand building and social networking?AS: Plain and simple: People don’t build relationships with brands. They build relationships with people. (Tweet!) Video is the unbeaten opportunity to truly let your personality shine through and give your audience the opportunity to really understand and get to know you. Let them see how something is done. Let them see your expressions. Your opinions. That direct connection is huge for making relationships that count and make social media worth your time.

RS: But isn’t this stuff hard? What are my main options for creating/hosting videos?
AS: YouTube is the second most popular search engine only to Google. So it’s kind of a no-brainer to have a presence there if you’re creating video content. The visual learners go there to learn so that’s a great opportunity to tap into. But creating videos is easier every single day. You can record all the footage you need with a smartphone and edit with apps. Even YouTube has a built in editor. Don’t assume the tools are out of reach because that’s an impossible thing to say anymore. (Tweet!) My advice for new creators is to look into strong digital cameras like the Canon Powershot. It takes flawless HD video and the price point is perfect for budgetary restrictions.

RS: OK, truth time. Most of us don’t have enough hours in the day and are simply posting the same things on all our social media sites. But should we be leveraging each social media profile differently?

AS: Abso-friggin-lutely. Platforms are different for a reason and you need to respect the audiences that use each so you can customize your content to their liking. Do not auto-post between social networks. Facebook updates are not being read on Twitter. And your tweets are getting pushed down by the news feed algorithm. Saving time just means you’re making any time spent worthless. (Tweet!) Take the extra steps and watch engagement increase. One thing is for sure and that’s that people don’t like to read. Keep it close to 140 characters no matter which platforms you’re using for best chance of increased engagement.

Want more Amy in your life? Get the social action plan you’re looking for and pick her brain.

Are you using video in your social media efforts? Want to but not sure where to start? Fire away your Q’s for Amy in the Comments below!

Lance Armstrong: Death of a brand…or fall of an idol?

I was hesitant to weigh on on the Lance Armstrong debacle for a variety of reasons. My husband, an avid cyclist, can’t even bear to watch the taped Oprah interview that sits on our DVR – and I’ll admit, I haven’t watched it all the way through myself. I’ve sat by and read the tweets, the comments, the passionate defenses, the harsh rebukes. And I waited….

But Lance Armstrong is a brand, and so I feel compelled to say…well, something. People have been asking me.

I’m no expert on the events that lead us here. I don’t follow cycling the way my husband does.  In my house, I didn’t comment a few weeks ago when I glanced into the trash to see some Armstrong socks tossed among the food scraps. Instead, I teared up. And as Armstrong’s yellow jersey was torn open to reveal the ugly guts of a drastically different man – and brand – we all thought we knew, I can merely make some observations for you to think about when it comes to personal brands.

Here’s the deal: Lance Armstrong cheated and lied. Period. For all his defenders, it’s no excuse to say “Everyone does it” or “But look at all the good he’s done.” He lied and cheated, yes, but it also doesn’t take away from all the good that the amazing LIVESTRONG charity does for cancer patients…and which I hope it continues to do. It doesn’t detract from how Armstrong inspired and motivated millions of people over the years. No one is saying that.

All it says is that this man, held up to showcase what hard work, determination and the human spirit can accomplish…this man, it turns out, is a liar. But what impacts the brand for me is not just that. People make mistakes, they lie when they are backed into a corner. But Armstrong went beyond. He not just lied, he slandered. He bullied people into getting into the muck with him, and those who wanted to do the right thing or tell the truth. He branded people liars and frauds. He sued people who were telling the truth and won. He ruined careers, lives. All in an effort to save his own skin and keep the lie going. Keep the brand and the myth alive.

Apologies are common in our media world today. And many are willing to forgive. Hugh Grant bounced back from his hooker escapade. Eliot Spitzer got a new media career after his public scandal. Michael Vick continues a successful football career after running dog fighting rings. People have even forgotten about Ray Lewis, linebacker for the Super Bowl contending Baltimore Ravens, and his homicide plea deal so long ago. Forgiveness, a comeback, a new lease on life. As long as someone pays their debt and apologizes, we as humans love a good redemption story.

But my problem lies with the trail of hurt, lies, bullying, and selfishness that Armstrong leaves behind. Some say the bullying and intimidation leaves deeper scars than the lies. And he destroyed not just anyone, but people he once called friends. Given what is now revealed about him (note: many who follow cycling closely always kind of suspected he might not be the nicest of men), I can only assume this mea culpa comes not from wanting to do the right thing, but wanting to single-mindedly compete again and perhaps regain some lost endorsements. Time will tell.

Former Armstrong teammate Frankie Andreu has this to say on ESPN Radio: “Anybody that crossed his path or didn’t go along with his plan, he set out to take them down. And he was very powerful and influential and did take them down,”

Gotta love that trademark determination, no?

Before you lynch me, I am well aware everyone has their motives. I don’t believe everyone whistleblows out of the goodness of their hearts, nor do I believe this is the first or last we’ll hear of illegal performance enhancement in cycling – or any sport. But those issues do not justify the choices Armstrong has made, the brazen lies he told, how he’s hurt and destroyed people or most importantly, how he has let us down. Especially those who publicly defended him.

Mostly, we as a society are tired of seeing idols and heroes fall. I know I am. The whole thing just makes me very, very sad. Not angry, not judgemental. Just sad. I experienced the same thing when OSU coach Jim Tressel fell from grace. And even over the debates about Joe Paterno’s actions at Penn State. Sadness.

This is the inherent danger with building a personal brand or tying a brand so closely to a human being. The operative word being human.  You have to accept the person foibles, misjudgments, vanity and all. While sponsors dropped Armstrong like hotcakes, it’s sort of too little, too late. The damage is done, the name tarnished for all time.

I hope LIVESTRONG can survive…and I think it will. If anything, people are more determined to ensure it does. No one can take away all the good Armstrong’s celebrity, backing,  influence and committment made to cancer research and survivors everywhere. I’m glad some good came out of his relentless quest for success.  And I admire the guy for surviving and thriving after cancer. I really do.

The Armstrong brand may well survive. But the man has fallen in our eyes and I don’t know if he can ever come back. Another hero lost to reality. Another inspiration who has let us down like children who’ve been told there is no Santa Claus.

And yet. And yet…..I don’t want to stop believing in future heroes that will surely come our way. No matter how many times I get hurt. Do you?

Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. According to this CNN article, “In place of a record seven wins by Lance Armstrong, the chronicles of the Tour de France bear seven record vacancies.” The records now show, in essence, that no one won.

How fitting.

What is your take on the Armstrong legacy and brand? Do you think the charity will survive? Do you think he’ll make a real comeback? Please share in the Comments below, I’d love to know what you think!

What is the You Economy? A chat with Tara Gentile (take the survey)

Welcome to the You Economy. PS, if you’re a “creative entrepreneur” you’re already part of the movement.

At Red Slice, one of my values is that creativity and cash flow are not mutually exclusive. We’re seeing it all around us in the New Economy: people building brands based on a social mission; billionaires supporting philanthropy and profits at the same time – and thousands of small businesses and “solopreneurs” creating positive change, healthy businesses and meaningful lives.

Tara Gentile is a crusader in this mission – with a different slant. She’s a writer, speaker and business coach leading what she terms the You Economy. What does that mean? “I’m redefining the whole business paradigm as the exchange of commerce, experience, and meaning so that my clients can earn more while making their customers’ lives richer.”

See? Passion, profits and doing good can all co-exist. Tara is living proof: “I’m an aspiring theologian turned business thinker. I’m the daughter of a creative entrepreneur – though she didn’t realize it at the time – and the mother of a daughter I can’t imagine will be anything but!”

Tara’s the author of The Art of Earning – a guide to rewriting your personal money story for the New Economy.  And if you’re a small business or solopreneur, help her spread the word about the power of microbusiness by completing the $100 Million Microbusiness Survey.

RS: Tara, welcome! Please tell us about what your do for entrepreneurs and what you see as the biggest barrier to small business success.
TG: I enable people to discover what is really valuable about what they do. We most often get into business for ourselves but our self-interested motivations don’t cut it when it comes to really developing a business that works! It’s all about seeing things through the customer’s eyes. That takes some experimentation, insight, and confidence. It’s also takes getting out of your own head and into someone else’s.

The biggest barrier to success for small business owners is themselves! Business owners get so caught up in doing things “right” that they forget to do what works best for themselves and their customers. I find there is still an immense amount of fear in doing business, as well. Fear keeps you from clearing your schedule to work on your latest & greatest idea, it keeps you from trying something new to engage your customers in a new way, it keeps you from offering the product or service that will make your business go from surviving to thriving.

RS: What is the $100 million microbusiness survey and how did it come about? What do you hope to achieve or find out?
TG: The $100 Million Microbusiness Survey is an attempt to gather data on $100 million of economic activity by microbusiness owners. Because we tend to measure our business production in terms of “salaries” and not revenue that’s streaming into the economy, we sell ourselves short.
In 2009, 95.5% of US businesses were microbusinesses. In 2008, $265 BILLION of net income was achieved through sole proprietor businesses in the United States. In 2009, $837 BILLION worth of sales were generated by non-employer businesses in the United States. Yet, we know very little about these kind of businesses.

My goal with the survey is to better understand who these business owners are, what difficulties they face, and maybe – just maybe – how we can help them to achieve their dreams through media awareness & government policy.

RS: Great stuff! PS, everyone with a microbusiness reading this should take the survey now and let their voice be heard. In your opinion, what is the future of small business success in this country – or even worldwide? Any juicy trends or predictions to share?
TG: The future of business in the United States – and around the globe – is small business. More specifically, the future is microbusiness. My “juicy trend” might seem like a downer but really it’s quite optimistic: the jobs aren’t coming back. Our economic production will continue to grow through technology, not human resources. If we want people to be earning real money in fulfilling ways, we need to plug them into real businesses.

Those businesses may represent ways in which they would have been employed in the past (think freelancers earning more with greater flexibility) or they could be in new fields, serving people in new ways. Government needs to make it much easier for us to take agency over our livelihoods. We need health solutions that work, tax solutions that work, child care solutions that work, investment solutions that work.  And we need it now. We, the microbusiness owners, will pull us out of this downward spiral. We are the New Economy.

Connect with Tara Gentile on Twitter or Facebook. And please take and share the $100 Million Microbusiness Survey today.

Have you built a business that may not have existed 50 or even 25 years ago? Does your business enable flexibility and creativity in your own life? Please share in the Comments below!

Finding your brand voice

Norma Maxwell, the creative sprite behind Connect Interactive, LLC asked me this great question recently:

How do I determine my brand “voice?”

Voice is so key to your brand communications. Remember the three-legged stool of brand: Visual, verbal and experiential? The “verbal” component – what you write and how you talk is a key component of a strong brand. Is it cheeky or irreverent? Is it formal or conservative?

Here are three guidelines for landing on the right brand voice for your business:

Know your strengths: What do you bring to the market? You may want to sound like Apple, but if you don’t deliver what they do and you’re not hip, innovative and well-designed, it’s fake. Don’t copy someone else – what does your business bring to the table? Play off of that.

Know your customers: Who is your ideal customer? Flesh out that customer profile and understand what makes them tick. What is their sense of humor, what do they need to hear, what will attract them? What cultural references will they understand? Map this to your strengths and give them what they want to hear.

Know yourself: Especially for solopreneurs, write like you talk. I know I do. Bring your authentic personality to the party.

The point at which all three of these things intersect is where you can find your brand voice. Think of it like a Venn Diagram – where do all three meet? Therein lies the magic.

How do you know if you’ve landed on something good? If it’s fairly easy to write your copy and the words just flow – and folks are responding to your voice through comments, tweets or sales, then you know you’re on the right track.

How to Parlay Your Personal Brand into Your Business Brand

This is the number one brand challenge I hear from small business owners. “But so much of my business is tied up in my own personal reputation and who I am. How do I ensure the company builds its own brand, independent of me, so I can expand?”

Take a tip from Warren Buffett, who announced his heir for Berkshire Hathaway as an unknown 39-year old named Todd Combs. He is quoted in the WSJ as saying, ‘He is a 100% fit for our culture. I can define the culture as long as I am here. but we want a culture that is so embedded that it doesn’t get tested when the founder of it isn’t around.”

A culture that is embedded. Ah, Warren: a financial and branding genius.

Companies do this all the time, so it’s not as hard as you think. The company brand reflects the values and philosophy of the founders, but in a way that applies to the corporate entity. See Disney, Nordstrom, McDonald’s, Facebook, Microsoft, Nike, Wendy’s. Many of these companies end up with very strong brand stories about their founders’ passion and values and serve to further attract customers.

Here are some tips on how to inject your personal brand into the DNA of your business so that it lives on even if you are not at the helm:

1) Depersonalize: The biggest thing about personal brands are the values and attributes that the founder shows as a human being. Take those and make those the values and attributes of the company as a whole and how you do business. If your own reputation and image is based on honesty, integrity and straight talk, then bake those attributes into your company’s standard operation procedures, policies and visual identity and make sure they live somewhere that the entire company can see. Turn what you are known for into what your company is known for. I also call this “operationalizing your brand.” If people come to you because you are the type of gal who always returns calls the same day, then make that a company policy that any call is returned within 24 hours, no matter who received the call.

2) Document: You can’t measure and manage to something that is just inside people’s heads or inherent in only your own personal actions. How is that repeatable? Once you develop your values, mission, and the brand attributes for which you want to be known, write them down. Revisit this brand playbook periodically – it may need to evolve as you grow. This playbook can then start to inform all of your brand communications: visual, verbal and experiential. This is the whole premise by which I consult with my clients and why I wrote my book. Ya gotta WRITE IT DOWN if you want to standardize it.

3) Hire Right: Warren Buffett and others understand that brand informs culture, and culture informs how you hire and who you hire. Do you recruit people intentionally who understand and embrace your brand? (Hint: if it is not documented anywhere per #2 above, that’s your first problem) Or do you just hire the marquee names and checklist of skills on their resume? I recently heard a recruiter talk about how they hire by the Iceberg principle. Meaning, above the waterline, you look for the right skills and resume from a candidate. But it’s the skills below the surface – if the person embodies your brand, culture and values – that matter even more to success and longevity of the company. She said more often than not, the problems occur because of misalignment on these “below the water” soft skills and attitudes. If you have personal values and a reputation that is the number one reason people do business with your company, then you’d better make damn sure you’re hiring people who reflect that same work ethic and brand. See Mr. Buffett’s quote above. Use your brand strategy to guide hiring decisions – not just to decide upon your colors or packaging.

Photo credit: Brooke Lark, Unsplash

The brand strategy “recipe” plus thoughts on the personal branding gold rush

Two juicy audio nuggets for you, loyal readers. One is a great interview with Amber Singleton Riviere of Upstart Smart Radio (a fab resource for entrepreneurs) on what exactly is included in a brand strategy. We also discuss the all-important difference between a brand strategy and brand and marketing tactics.

The second is our frank audio discussion on the new personal branding gold rush. Seems more and more people are building businesses out of their personal brands. We also talk about things like transparency, niche communities, self-expression, and the importance of authenticity and value.

Are you ready for a Big Turn Off?

Yes, I know. We normally ask for people, places and things to turn us on, ignite our creativity, spark our inner muse.  But good friend of Red Slice and Guru of New Sarah Browne just unplugged and regained some sanity on her recent trip to Alaska. I loved what she had to say in this interview at The Big Turn Off and how she views the whole world of social media as a branding mechanism.  As a branding strategist, I 100% concur with her opinions: just because you can brand doesn’t mean you should.

I’m especially torn about the whole personal branding movement we’re experiencing. From Gary Vaynerchuk’s call to arms for following your passion and monetizing it to smaller players in a niche space, millions are flocking to their own platform. Part of me loves the freedom of self-expression that we are experiencing. As an actress, I’m all about telling stories and not letting old fuddy-duddy gatekeepers, networks or publishers prevent someone with an important message from getting it heard in the world (and especially when said-gatekeepers give wretched people like The Real Housewives and the cast of The Hills a voice). I love the niche interest sites, the recipe blogs, the wine sites, the inspirational communities that have been birthed in recent years.


With any freedom, there is a quality-control price to be paid. People out there claiming to be experts who will “gladly share their secrets of success with you if you become a member, pay $5000 and attend my boondoggle conference in the desert every spring.” Exploitation comes in many forms and while there are those out there offering true value, many others are the digital age’s new used car salesmen or snake oil peddlers. Just because I can self-publish a guide at Kinko’s and spin it out via social media to the masses does not mean it’s high value or useful to anyone.

I’ve been skeptical now for a while of anyone whose personal brand comes off” infomercially.” If I see a web page with lots of exclamation points, testimonials, different size fonts, random use of color, and lots of words in BOLD, I tend to put my guard up. Again, some of this is very useful information to be shared and enjoyed but…..how can we tell the good from the bad? I don’t necessarily believe all content should be free either (that is for another blog rant). After all, someone has worked hard to research, filter and write useful content and I believe it’s not our God-given right to get everything in this world for free. But it’s a blurry line, isn’t it?


What are your thoughts? How do you feel about personal branding in the digital age? Are things getting our of hand? Do you need a break> Any platforms or gurus out there you really like who are bringing good stuff to the party? Share in the comments.

It sucks when you ruin your brand, doesn’t it?

As with all branding, personal branding – formerly known as “your reputation” – relies on clarity and consistency across what you say, how you look and what you do. We all work very hard to build up and safeguard our personal brands. Often, as we go through life, we don’t even know what our personal brand should be until we really get clear on who we are and what we are all about. You then find that your natural actions – your attention to detail, your creativity, your positive energy – created that personal brand long before you even thought about it.

Yesterday, my personal brand took a hit. And it wasn’t even intentional.

I won’t bore you with the details but suffice it to say I did something – in all innocence, I swear – that I wasn’t supposed to do. I broke the rules without meaning to. Now a person who I truly admire but who I have never met thinks I’m horrible. Of course they would: they don’t know me personally and my brand has not had a chance to prove itself over and over again. They have not seen me stop for a stop sign when no one else is around, or inform the restaurant hostess that the ladies room is out of TP, or give back the extra change I received in error from a distracted barista or use a corporate credit card with full responsibility. Their interaction with my personal brand was limited and so I didn’t have that “cred” built up. Now this person either thinks I’m stupid or a scammer. And they told me blatantly that “I was smarter than that” so I can only assume they think the latter.

As someone who detests breaking the rules (and detests it even more when others do) this was a hard pill to swallow, needless to say. I realized all the explanations in the world won’t change this person’s mind. I was upset all day yesterday and into today, much like the horrible feeling I had as a child of doing something wrong and knowing mom and dad were disappointed in me.

That’s the thing with brand: You’ve got to be vigilant. You need to remember that every new customer does not have history or know the story of how special you or your business really is. You have to prove it every time. And when things go wrong…and they will (hello BP, Tiger Woods, and now Maria Ross) I guess the most important aspect of your brand is how fast you recover, how sorry you are, and how you try to make amends.

Have you or your business ever suffered a brand hit? Please share the story and the lessons you learned in the Comments.