Make an Impact With Your Image

Make It Genuine

But you can't do something selfless while looking for selfish gains. "Charity has to start from your heart," says Vojdani. "You have to feel you're doing it because you believe in the cause, and you want to make a difference."

Sam Christensen echoes that belief. The image and personal branding consultant in North Hollywood, California, who has worked with many entrepreneurs, actors and politicians observes, "The more genuine someone is, the more power we're willing to give them, and the more trust we'll give them."

The public isn't stupid. Fake your passion for an issue, and your lasting impact may be your last. But if you do something big and sincere when you're small and unknown, you won't be small and unknown for long. You'll own the world, or at least your piece of the universe. And your competitors will feel as the giant ground sloths must have when they looked up to see a meteor hurtling from the heavens above.

Down and Clout

Their heads are dropped on a steel plate. Their necks are flexed on a pendulum. Their rib cages are rammed with a 51.5 probe that flies through the air at 15 miles an hour. "The knees are impacted, the torso is flexed, and the hips are rotated," says Mike Beebe, general manager of Denton ATD Inc. in Milan, Ohio, one of the two companies in the world that make crash test dummies. Every day, the dummies are built to react the way a human being does upon a negative impact.

You want to make an impact in the business world, but in a good way. If your credibility is clouded by a potential scandal, don't be a dummy. Here's a plan for recovering from a negative impact, according to Joanne McCall, owner of McCall Public Relations in Aloha, Oregon:

1. Tell the truth-quickly. "If you try to hide something, reporters will figure it out, and you're going to look bad. At least if you tell the truth, you'll be perceived as someone who can admit a mistake and take responsibility for it."

2. Provide regular updates to the media. Show how you're dealing with the situation.

3. Assure the media and the public that it will never happen again.

4. "Develop good relationships with reporters at various media outlets. If there is a problem in the future, they may give you the benefit of the doubt."

Geoff Williams is a full-time freelance journalist in Loveland, Ohio. He was 16 when he visited Meteor Crater, but it made an impression that's still with him today.

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Geoff Williams has written for numerous publications, including Entrepreneur, Consumer Reports, LIFE and Entertainment Weekly. He also is the author of Living Well with Bad Credit.

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This article was originally published in the October 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Impact!.

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