What Richard Sherman Taught Us About Personal Branding

First impressions form in 1/24th of a second. 38% of that impression is based on the vocal aspect of the interaction. That is an extremely quick judgement, and your personal brand can all be compromised within that time frame by not using appropriate vocals. I’m not talking about the content of what you say, yet your tone, decibel, and overall attitude of your speech. 

Whenever I network with new people, I always like to think that the interaction will enhance or contribute to my overall reputation. However, when I asked friends of mine how I come across, they told me that there have been certain instances where my demeanor is perceived as being indifferent or aloof. Now, people thinking I have an indifferent towards what they say is not good. But when networking with potential employers or contacts, this perception could tarnish my standing within the professional community. This means that my “aloof” personality would inhibit anyone’s interest in what I could be saying. I could be giving them a million dollar idea, but if they are receiving it from someone they don’t care for, they will not listen to me. 

How does this fit into personal branding? Well, for me, the public relations field is reliant on a practitioner’s ability to connect and bond with various people or publics. As a result, I gain respect in the field and build a solid reputation for my client and myself. Through the perceived negative tone or attitude of my voice, I am hurting my reputation as a likable practitioner as a byproduct of that first impression. This helps no one, least of all me. 

When you apply this to a celebrity or public figure, vocal impressions become even more important. Richard Sherman is a prime example of how negative vocal impressions can tarnish a personal brand within seconds; Twenty nine, to be exact. Anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past week has heard about the post game interview between Sherman and Fox reporter Erin Andrews. In the interview, Sherman voiced his opinions on San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree. As harmless as that sounds, Sherman came off in an extremely aggressive and loud manner. Now, for anyone who didn’t watch the game, let me take you through a series of events.  

Crabtree was thrown a pass that if caught, would have won the  game for the 49ers, then sending them to the Super Bowl. However, Sherman, who has been self-styled and publicly labeled as “the best corner in the game,” broke up the pass, resulting in an interception. The Seahawks won the game, and Sherman’s play went down in play-making history. However, immediately after the play, Sherman is seen running up to Crabtree. He says something, pats him on the butt like all manly athletes do, and Crabtree subsequently shoves him away by hitting Sherman’s face mask. This results in Sherman running over to Fox reporter Erin Andrews, and giving the now infamous interview.  

This chain of events has been analyzed by every major network on television, from CNN to ESPN. Everyone wanted to know why Sherman was so passionate and angry about Crabtree. People figured he had been “talking smack,” if you will, to Crabtree, hence the subsequent face shove. However, it has since been revealed that Sherman was actually attempting to shake hands and praise Crabtree for having “one hell of a game.” But who cares about that? No one. Because the last 29 seconds of airtime Sherman received resulted in him as being labeled unsportsmanlike and “thuggish.” Various ESPN analysts labeled Sherman as an ungracious winner, Tom Brady publicly scolded him, and Sherman’s own coach, Pete Carroll, admitted in an interview that the outburst was not handled well. 

Now, of course, some may say that any press is good press. Those people could have a point. Sherman has been talked about consistently for the past week, analyzing and debating his entire career and personal reputation. Richard Sherman was trending worldwide on Twitter for the next 48 hours, he doubled his Twitter followers in 24 hours, and appeared on various social media sites almost as many times as Miley Cyrus did after her VMA’s performance. So sure, Sherman has exponentially increased his exposure and visibility. However, the entire reputation Sherman has built up for himself as an excellent athlete, an intelligent Stanford graduate, and generous community contributor was pushed aside the minute he opened his mouth. 

Sherman’s outburst overshadowed Seattle’s victory, took the attention off of Crabtree for his unsportsmanlike shove to the face, and launched a firestorm of negative media attention. Sherman technically did not say anything that was offensive. He is known throughout the NFL as having a loud, cocky personality. However, the aggressive manner in which he shouted his opinions squashed any understanding the public may have had  for him. Sherman has since been called a bully, villain, and a thug, all of which he has publicly dismissed. 

People have called this interview the ugliest thing an athlete has ever done on national television. Now, do I agree with that? Absolutely not. The content of what Sherman said was not offensive, or even very polarizing. He did not go into the interview and curse, or hit someone, or bully anyone. He simply stated his opinion. His outburst will only maintain relevance so long as this football season, and will be trumped by the next outburst an athlete has on-air. Sherman is still debatably the best cornerback in the league, and will remain so until he retires. Until then, his personal brand will continue to mold itself into what it was before this incident; As long as he remembers not to yell at any more reporters.  


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