I’m sure some of you saw my short vlog bidding Desire a farewell. While I still think DC will be a little less fabulous, a recent NY Times article made me re-think my position when it comes to the reasons for Desiree Rogers’ departure.
First, there was this opening paragraph:
Ms. Rogers had appeared in another glossy magazine, posing in a White House garden in a borrowed $3,495 silk pleated dress and $110,000 diamond earrings. But if the image was jarring in a time of recession, Mr. Axelrod was as bothered by the words and her discussion of “the Obama brand” and her role in promoting it, according to people informed about the conversation.
“The president is a person, not a product,” he was said to tell her. “We shouldn’t be referring to him as a brand.”
…But that’s the thing. The Obamas are a brand. While they may not be a product, there is a level of personal branding that was a part of both President Obama’s election campaign and now his presidency. And I realize that some people hate the idea of personal branding and that it’s taking away from the fact that we’re dealing with people and not products. But in my mind, the thing that makes personal branding so key is that it is about who you are as a person and the aspects about yourself that you want reflected in the public eye. I really believe that if Desiree Rogers wasn’t creating events that were reflecting the “Obama Brand”, they wouldn’t have happened.
Then the Salahis happened.
While I do believe that there’s a little bit of falling on the sword going on with Desiree’s departure, I think there was also the issue of balancing building her own personal brand and also still promoting the Obama brand and making that her top priority.
Here’s what I mean by that:
Ms. Rogers’s hip style, expensive clothing and presence at fashion shows at first were seen as symbolizing a new Camelot but ultimately struck many as tone deaf in a time of economic hardship and 10 percent unemployment.
The White House eventually clamped down on her public profile. She was ordered to stop attending splashy events and showing up in fancy clothes on magazine covers. When Michelle Obama learned one day that Ms. Rogers was on a train heading to New York to attend an MTV dinner, the first lady told her longtime friend to cancel, associates said.
When I read this, the first thing I thought was: Wait a minute. She was going to go to this MTV dinner without the White House’s permission and, moreover to a dinner that Michelle Obama wasn’t invited to? #iCant.
I realize that perhaps Desiree was trying to build relationships but the way to do that when you’re the White House Social Secretary is a.-to not be in a hurry to be in the limelight and b.-build relationships within DC. To my understanding, it seems as though the White House Social Secretary must have a knowledge of the way Washington works and it’s possible Desiree didn’t grasp hold of that knowledge. But more important, she may have been doing the #2 item on this list of how to get fired for building your personal brand: putting her own brand over the White House brand when it came to her own priorities.
Seems like a classic case of not balancing your brand with the company’s brand. And in that case, it easy to understand how Desiree could have gotten in trouble with that.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m still sad to see Dez go but I’m starting to understand how the idea of personal branding could have played a role in why she left.