Though they all seem to be taking hard a line against George W. Bush (case in point, last week's Bush-bashing Democratic debate), there is one thing they're at least disagreeing about, how to present themselves to the American public, and more specifically, how "personal" they should get on the campaign trail.

A Sunday, Sept. 7 New York Times article, "Democrats Split on Pushing the Personal or the Political" by Adam Nagourney, illustrates just how different the candidates are in this area. John Edwards regularly mentions his father's life as a millworker and Richard A. Gephardt shares stories about his father's career as a milk truck driver and his son's successful battle against colon cancer when campaigning. Other candidates like Howard Dean and Joseph I. Lieberman avoid personal details. The candidate's different takes on airing their personal lives, notes the Times article, "reflects fundamentally different calculations by the candidates about what voters are looking for in this election."

It's a fine line to walk for the candidates, trying to determine how much of their personal lives they should share in an effort to connect with the public. It's one business owners have also had to walk, as Inc. senior editor Michael Hofman discovered when he wrote "Emotional Branding" back in the May 2002 issue of Inc. In it, he spoke with business owners who have used their personal lives as a way to market their businesses. Ivan J. Juzang, CEO of MEE Productions Inc. honed his start-up story to woo investors; Veronica Rose, CEO of Aurora Electrice, boiled down her life story into a two-minute pitch for prospective customers; and Marina Inez Poropat, CEO of Intaglio, found that people were so interested in how she was able to start up and compete successfully in a male-dominated industry that she had to share her story.

In any case, both political and entrepreneurial, there's a balance to be struck. Share too much information (à la Clinton) and you risk losing some serious credibility, but share nothing, and you could come across as a stuffed shirt. Most importantly, branding yourself really means deciding what you're comfortable with and what you perceive others to need from you. Most of the owners in "Emotional Branding" developed their "personal pitches" to market their businesses in direct response to the curiosity their customers, prospects, and potential investors had about them and their backgrounds.

We'll see how it turns for the Democratic candidates. Right now I'm an issues person, but if they don't start differentiating themselves on what's really important sometime soon, I just might need a little family footage to help make my decision in 2004.