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  • Personal Branding Lessons from the Real Housewives

    I admit it: I am addicted to the Real Housewives.

    And not just the show with the New Jersey ladies from my home state. I watch just about every edition sans Miami, and I secretly hope there is hope for the Washington, D.C. show to return.

    If you keep up on this “garbage,” as my husband calls it, you know that many of the ladies are not just rich–they have their own businesses. Many of these businesses emerged when the women came into the spotlight, a luxury that most of us don’t have.

    Okay, okay, so most of the shows feature uppity ladies that undeniably have too much Botox. But I like to think that we can learn from them–because many of them have their own brands, some successful and others not so much.

    Define your umbrella–don’t just use one

    Exhibit A:  Bethenny Frankel from The Real Housewives of New York. She is a model brand that has launched everything from books and beverages under her Skinnygirl brand–something she was working on before the show began filming. Her brand is her personal umbrella that has let her drive various innovations–all in the name of staying healthy.

    It would be interesting to know where Real Housewives of Orange County star Gretchen Rossi is going with her startup. She seems to have created a variety of products that she likes, but are not tied together the way Bethenny’s seem to be. There are handbags, cosmetics and other wellness products. They are all beauty-related, but one can’t help but think this housewife tried to capitalize on the show’s popularity before thinking her brand through. Is your brand like that–all over the place? Can you offer multiple products or services  under a more uniform umbrella ala Bethenny?

    Let good behavior propel your brand

    For these women, bad behavior can help launch a brand, though I’m not sure how positive the brand’s perception will be. For the rest of us, good behavior typically leads to a strong brand, especially when we don’t have the PR power of national television for a boost. The same way that you want to strive for a glowing reputation, make sure your behavior aligns with your brand.

    Take a lesson from New Jersey’s Teresa Guidice…consumers may not want to put their hard-earned dollars into her books or her booze depending on how they feel about her on-show antics. Her behavior has been questionable, as is the reality that her products will continue to take off. New York’s Ramona Singer is another housewife often at the epicenter of drama, and I think her behavior may hurt her jewelry and wine products–none of which I have seen in stores.

    On the other hand, Atlanta’s NeNe Leakes is outspoken but most viewers seem to like her–a notion that has launched her entertainment career. Despite her sometimes-controversial actions on the show, Leakes has managed to secure high-profile acting spots. In her case, standing out helped her build her brand. There are no products with NeNe–her brand is her personality and talent.

    Use your innate interests

    Atlanta’s Kandi Burruss isn’t about the drama on the show, yet she has taken her personality and personal tastes into a product line of sexual toys. The idea may seem wacky, but viewers enjoy Burress’ sex talk throughout filming–as well as her Kandi Coated Nights show. That was the perfect impetus for her to create the line of products because it branched out from her sexually charged interests and daring personality.

    Chances are, cameras are not rolling on you but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a tip from these ladies. Some have built brands based on their interests, while others derived their brands simply from being in the limelight.


    Kristen is a copywriter and author who enjoys what she does for a living. Kristen is also a Certified Professional Resume Writer. Kristen writes regularly for MediaBistro, SheKnows and FreelanceSwitch. She is a panelist on the biweekly, award-winning podcast FreelanceRadio. Kristen is the author of Ramen Noodles, Rent and Resumes: An After-College Guide to Life and her new book, It Takes More than Talent: Business Basics for the Creatively Inclined is due out in January 2013. She has been featured on NPR, CNN, MSNBC, and CareerBuilder; and also in the Boston Herald, the New Jersey Star-Ledger and in the Asbury Park Press.

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