Thanks, Betty, for Being Yourself

“I didn’t have the vaguest idea what being a first lady was and what was demanded of me.”

The solution? “I just decided to be myself.”

— Betty Ford, from the Los Angeles Times

Photo: Courtesy Gerald R. Ford Library

This gem comes from Saturday’s LA Times obituary of our former first lady. One might say she was an accidental first lady. But sometimes accidents have the best outcomes.

Betty Ford didn’t have time to prepare and develop a platform and create messages, all of which can be highly effective. Instead, she just had to jump in and be herself.

It worked because, even when you are developing a platform and delivering messages, what today might be called personal branding, being authentic is the surest road to success.

Authentic is the only way to sustain a brand, especially a personal brand. After all, it is you.

It’s also the best way to engage an audience. One proof point from the Times article: “when he [President Ford] ran for election in 1976, one of the most popular campaign buttons read ‘Betty’s Husband for President.'”

The other part of the story is that, when the pressure of having a job she never wanted got to be too much, she self-medicated.

Thanks to Betty’s authenticity, she turned that into a gift also. Addiction wasn’t something people talked about in those days. Nor was breast cancer, which she also fought and won.

It’s hard to imagine that now, but we can thank Betty’s frank authenticity for freeing us to get the help and support we need.

Being herself was the best brand ever. No consultant could have dreamed up anything better.