Building a personal brand can at times be opportunistic. A challenge or crisis that suddenly falls in our path not only tests our quick thinking, but our humanity. How quickly we think and how much we demonstrate our compassion could directly influence our image, our reputation, our brand. Billionaire Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Buffett was pointing out that anyone’s reputation can quickly take a hit and because of that, it’s important to always act with integrity. The opposite can be said of quick action building a positive reputation.

Reputations can be strengthened, and brands can be enhanced when individuals are seen showing kindness and concern, especially during times of crisis. We see that when presidents visit devastated areas following a natural disaster, hugging impacted residents. We see that when governors and mayors visit communities shaken by violence. We saw that in the aftermath of 9/11.  We saw that during the COVID-19 pandemic. There are countless of examples of elected officials and celebrities showing compassion to others who need it.

And then there are unknown super-heroes, too. When Hurricane Ian tore through Florida’s Gulf Coast, wreaking havoc along its path, 29-year-old Michael Ross was with his family in Bonita Springs. He could have stayed inside his parent’s house, protected from the storm surge measuring about 6-feet. Outside the window, Michael and his family watched as the rising flood waters threaten their safety. But something else caught Ross’s eye. Outside the window, clinging to an air conditioner was an endangered kitten. Ross headed outside and waded through the surging waters, risking his life to save the cat’s.

“I was able to go out there and get it, and it’s a good thing I did,” Ross said. “After that video was taken, the water came up like another 6 feet. And that air conditioner he was sitting on was underwater.” Ross also told the Naples Daily News that the high winds and water washed away that home and many others in Bonita Springs.

Ross’ girlfriend captured the harrowing cat rescue on video. It quickly went viral after she posted it to social media. In addition to saving the cat’s life, Ross is leveraging his viral fame to collect donations. Earlier this week, more than $20,000 had been raised through a GoFundMe page to support displaced pets and people in need.

“It’s just important that everybody helps each other out, I think, right now.”

While you’re not thinking about building your personal brand as you’re putting your life on the line for something or someone else, just know that others may be positively impacted by your heroic actions and reward you – and your brand – for it.

To see the video of Ross saving the kitten, click below:


Denise Kaigler is the founder and principal of MDK Brand Management, a firm specializing in brand strategy, business consultancy and career coaching. Prior to launching her business in 2015, Denise held senior, executive and C-suite roles at several global brands. Denise is the author of Forty Dollars and a Brand: How to Overcome Challenges, Defy the Odds and Live Your Awesomeness, available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She is also the creator and executive producer of Brand Rewind ™, a multi-media experience that explores the actions and behaviors of personal and business brands and empowers others to learn from them. Sign up for the Brand Rewind ™ newsletter and subscribe to the Brand Rewind LIVE YouTube channel by clicking here.