Serena Williams lost the US Open tennis final recently, and ended up on the front page of the world’s newspapers. She graced the Yahoo news page, became a top global trend and even got coverage on CNN.
Oh, and who beat Serena?
Serena got multiple times more publicity than the winner because of her on-court spat with an obscure chair-umpire. The controversy catapulted her to the top of world news for a couple days.
The phenomenal tennis star understands a key idea: image is everything.
Serena may have lost the final, but she got so much publicity that her book, her business brand and her image got free global media coverage.
Image is everything. The role of image is powerful in securing our spot in the social jungle, that mass of faceless humanity.
People love individual faces. We see this in the media, where individual stories dominate. The masses blur into non-personality.
And the individual that wins public appeal is the one that rides on the power of personal image.
Image is an extension, a projection – through a medium – of one’s self.
The concept comes from the common act of using a mirror to extend or project the physical body, by way of the mirror, so that we see what we could otherwise never see – our own face.
In being able to see our own face, we could make it the way we think looks best.
And we enhance the face simply because we want to present a good image to the public. When others look at us, they should see us and take notice. But it also makes us feel better.
Maybe its human nature, but most people desire to be noticed by other people.
And the more people that notice us and look at us, the better would be our lifestyle, because then we could get those adoring people to give us what we want.
Thus, Serena grabs the world’s attention, and sees book sales and sales of her branded products escalate, thus perpetuating her wealth, and her lifestyle.
Image plays a powerful role in how we live and achieve our dreams.
This idea that image ‘makes the person’ seems lost in our country.
Look at our capital city. Everywhere it looks so drab and nasty and falling apart, as if it’s old and tired and haggard and cares not that anyone would enjoy it.
Instead of presenting the image of a people who loves the aesthetic of a Garden City, Georgetown presents the image of a people who tolerates trash, garbage and nastiness to fill their environment with filth.
Looking at Georgetown, especially the main downtown area around Stabroek Market, causes this image of Guyanese as a lazy, nasty people, which we are definitely not. But that’s what the image of Georgetown presents.
Maybe the Mayor and City Council takes the blame, but then we have a national government that seems stunted to the extreme where the concept of image is concerned.
Government seems clueless in this matter of managing the nation’s internal and external image.
Yet, the image we present to ourselves and the world affects and impacts so much – including the vital area of investor confidence. Confidence is an intangible quality. Although the country’s international credit rating plays a part, if the image of the country is good, investors would love to finance projects here.
A good national image would attract eco-tourists, generate economic activity and bring a sense of confidence, high self-esteem and morale to people across this land.
Government, in fact, fails miserably in marketing a good image of even itself.
The consulates and embassies abroad do absolutely nothing to market the image of this country.
In the Caribbean, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados and even tiny St Kitts-Nevis have so enhanced their international and internal image that even alarming crime rates do not distract from these societies being seen as safe, beautiful places.
Not only does our government stupidly stifle the State-media and thus bring harm to its image as a confident, professional leader of the nation. But it fails to implement a sound Public Relations, Media Relations and Citizen Engagement strategy.
Government seems to hire its cronies and subservient supporters, perpetuating the image that it is unprofessional, scared and timid, and seeks to hide behind a wall of mediocre inefficiency rather than build its own image as a professional 21st century leader of a great people.
It is the silliest thing to see, and we’ve been doing it for almost 50 years.
We live in a world today where trust and openness, a clean, healthy environment, a literate, refined society, and a national image strategy define the best nations in the world.
Here, we look at the state of things, as things fall apart, and we bemoan how hard it would be to turn things around.
Turning things around is simply the matter of working on our image as a people.
Of course that comes with certain responsibility, like developing an efficient garbage collection system, maintaining decent public order, ensuring social justice and even developing a national zoning and planning system for the landscape to be aesthetically pleasing.
But with a national image strategy, we would have the vision to make those happen. Engaging citizens in this image strategy would ensure its quick success.
The US and other developed nations work on their image, with even the CIA involved in strategies to ensure the US image abroad is solid. Today, China, India, Brazil and Russia – the emerging powers – all work hard at their image, both at home and abroad.
It impacts the economy in a real way.
Our politicians do not even care about the image of the National Assembly, allowing dirty, destitute people to live at its front gate.
Branding is everything, and we must see this country as a brand. The word ‘Guyana’ should be a branded asset as much as the word ‘Demerara’ has become a lucrative brand for sugar produced in Malaysia and sold in North America.
Sports stars, Hollywood types and successful business people know the power of branding and image.
We have to learn to see ourselves the way Serena Williams sees herself, because then even if we lose, we would win.
Image is everything.