BBC One’s The Apprentice returned to our screens last week with Lord Sugar telling one unlucky contestant to pack their bags after a dismal showing in a sales task.
The usual over the top soundbites were on show including my two personal favourites – “I’m disgustingly ambitious” and “I’m like a Swiss army knife of business skills”.
Nonetheless, whilst The Apprentice continues to be a popular ratings hit with the British public, it does raise interesting questions about personal brand and integrity. Candidates after all are competing to demonstrate their business credentials to Lord Sugar and millions of viewers watching at home, but the show is often used as a platform to mock their shortcomings.
We must remember that this is a television program, commissioned to attract millions of viewers every broadcast. Entertainment will always come first. The Apprentice is labelled as a reality “business” show with the sole purpose of finding Sugar’s next business partner, but it is a show in itself – and contestants are “characters” put to the sword before Lord Sugar, the protagonist who decides their fate.
Bearing all of this is mind, the team at ClearlyPR were asked for their thoughts on Wednesday night’s episode and whether The Apprentice is the best place to boost your personal brand:
“The great thing about The Apprentice is that candidates can showcase their strengths to a wide audience but, at the same time, any weaknesses or any areas of incompetence are highlighted to the nation. The problem is that the latter is far more often the case.”
“The Contestants on the show inevitably become more recognised as TV personalities rather than serious business men/women. If they have done well in the process then this can only be good for them, raising their personal profile even more. After all, the very fact that they have been selected to progress on the show by Lord Sugar will obviously get them noticed by employers. On the other hand, if they make constant mistakes and become public laughing stocks for their errors or personal characteristics, this could contribute to career suicide in the business world.”
“At its conception, The Apprentice was meant to be a unique and innovative television show dedicated to discovering the nation’s next best entrepreneur. Apart from a few exceptions, it’s mainly instead been a constant source of entertainment due to the casting of the most deluded people Britain can offer. However, its most successful export is public enemy number one: Katie Hopkins. Yes, she is basically a Disney villain in human form, but in terms of personal branding… well, I’d say she’s been pretty good at it post-Apprentice. For people who genuinely aspire to prove and develop their business acumen, The Apprentice is more like an entertaining side project where you get to run around London in your suit, trying to flog anything from fish to board games. In my opinion, it’s better if you’re a big personality and want to create a public identity from your appearances on the show, like many other reality vehicles.”
“Honestly, if you’re terrible in a business environment, then you have no place on a show such as The Apprentice. Being visible to such a huge audience can either make or break a career – it’s all dependent on their skill-level. Obviously the best candidates rise to the top and the poor ones fail – it’s a crucible for success, with the imperfections burned out.”
“I think there are two types of people who apply to go on The Apprentice. The first is those with a high degree of self-confidence who believe it is only a matter of time before Lord Sugar realises that they are the only one capable of co-founding a business venture with him.”
“The other type falls under those who know deep down that the process is full of stumbling blocks and their chances of success is limited. Indeed they see The Apprentice from a bigger perspective and look at the likes of James Hill, Katie Hopkins and Luisa Zissman knowing that reality television can offer them fame and fortune. For those seeking fame, it doesn’t matter if they are incompetent on the show – their personal brand is more to do with their outgoing personality, and not their competence in the business world. Nevertheless for candidates who value integrity and are competing solely to secure the business partnership, they do run the risk of embarrassing themselves and damaging their personal brand.”
“Personal branding is as much about your reputation as it is your ability to actually deliver on what you promise you can do. The Apprentice is fantastic in the sense that we see a collective of individuals (rather than team players) who understand the key character traits that make a good business leader. However, their overuse of hyperbole and constant verbalising of each skill they say they have demonstrated on the show actually weakens them as a potential business leader – they fall into the trap of ’telling’ rather than allowing their actions to ’show’ what they are good at. Get this balance right and The Apprentice can most certainly enhance your personal brand. Get it wrong, however, and you may find that an even greater challenge awaits you after your time on the show has ended – how to persuade someone to want to employ you.”
“It’s a rarity for someone to come out of The Apprentice better than how they went in. After all, they purposefully select people who are funny, deluded, or generally just great characters in order to make it entertaining TV. Entertainment is great, but it often comes at the expense of someone’s genuine business acumen. Much like X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent, it becomes more about their personality rather than their skill set, and these personalities are usually nothing more than brief laughing stocks, as opposed to the future of the corporate world. Would Alan Sugar have subjected himself to this back in his youth? I highly doubt it.”
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