Monday, June 28, 2010

What you can learn from Tom Cruise about managing your brand

This post is dedicated to my good friend Jackson Wightman, blogger, retail entrepreneur, master of all things PR and known the world over for his lists posts.

It is also dedicated to my love of celebrity gossip, but that's something you can ask me about if we ever meet.

I came across this article about Tom Cruise's "comeback" in The Ottawa Citizen recently and couldn't help but think of a great list post about we could all learn from TC about managing a brand, whether it be your personal brand or your corporate brand.

  1. Avoid Nepotism: Back in 2005, Tom fired his longtime publicist and hired his sister.  His previous PR rep kept a firm grip on his image and wouldn't allow questions about his religious beliefs.  The big lesson here is that you should always hire the right person for the job, because investing in people is the single most important investment you can make.  Your employees are your brand and they represent you every single day.
  2. Hire People Who Challenge You: As a follow-up to the point about nepotism, I also think that Tom Cruise didn't hire people who challenged him.  I bet that he said to himself "I'd like to talk about my beliefs more" and hired somebody who was going to let him do exactly that - and look how it all turned out.  If you're hiring people who simply nod and agree when you propose something then you're not getting any value out of having them around.  Innovation is often the result of conflict and is the result of overcoming conflict.  If you don't have anyone challenging you, then you're never going to innovate and move things forward.  
  3. It Doesn't Take Much: Tom Cruise's image was destroyed by a few key events but the most popular one was the jumping on the couch incident from Oprah.  A lifetime of goodwill can vanish pretty quickly so it is important to remember that it really doesn't take much to ruin your brand.  A few bad days or even one bad moment everything people perceive you to be is forever changed.  If you're company doesn't have a social media policy then maybe it's time to think about drafting one.  I am completely in favour of trusting and freeing employees to be who they are but as you can see from the issues with Tom Cruise...  one jump and you're done.
  4. You Gotta Know When to Shut It: Just like knowing when to fold'em, you have to know when to shut your mouth.  This is an important skill and one that can be very difficult to learn (trust me) but knowing when to shut your mouth will save your behind time and time again.  In Tom's case, he should have backed off getting involved in the private lives of other people (Brooke Shields). 
  5. Go to the Box, Feel Shame:  This is a classic line from the hockey movie Slapshot, and it means that there will be times when you need to give yourself a timeout.  In Tom's case, this was a two year break from the intense glare of the public spotlight.  For corporate brands, this might not be possible and may require a re-branding exercise but I think that more and more, brands should be asking themselves if they need to take a break instead of constantly thinking that everything they do is magic.
Tom Cruise is still a fantastic actor who makes entertaining movies.  I have also heard that he is a genuinely nice guy but I think the the rough path he has taken in the last few years is paved with lessons for all of us.  The question is whether or not we both to listen to them...

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    1 comment:

    Jackson Wightman said...


    Thanks man. You managed to pull some interesting and useful lessons (BP execs shld all read this)

    I am not a TC fan or a fan of his work, but he is an example of image rehab, as you suggest.