Recently our local American Marketing Association Chapter (Triangle AMA) announced their upcoming February luncheon entitled, “Never Mind the Company – Are You Managing Your Personal Brand?” The event’s description went on to say:
“Managing your personal reputation is more critical today than ever before. Don’t get caught with a tarnished personal brand. What could you be doing to leverage today’s tools to enhance your own reputation, as well as your company’s?
Google is more than a search engine. Google is a reputation engine!
Your potential, or even existing, customers are deciding whether or not to do business with you, based on what shows up in search results. A future employer or a current coworker could be checking you out this very minute. A single, negative review can have far reaching repercussions. You wouldn’t want it to happen to your company’s brand. But what have you done about protecting your personal brand, let alone building it? Learn from world-renowned online reputation management expert, Andy Beal.”
The title and content struck a nerve with one of our executives. He did not like the idea that our company pays our membership fees to the AMA, but the chapter was encouraging its members to focus on their personal brands over that of our company’s. In his email to me he wrote,
“…I thought this was a terrible idea. As a company leader, it makes me question paying for membership in an organization that is going to promote teaching staff how to market themselves…I could understand if this was a complete B-to-C chapter, but I would think a good portion of the members have their company paying the membership fees.”
Surprised by his email, I took a few minutes to soak it in before responding with the following:
“I disagree with you on this, and have to side with the AMA. I honestly believe that there is a huge value for companies to have employees with strong personal brands. Your company brand is a combination of all of your employees’ personal brands, plus the companies individual brand. One employee’s personal brand can make a company’s brand or kill it. That’s the fine line you have to walk though…I see your concerns, but if a company can put proper policies in place to protect itself, there is a huge potential value for the company. If we could get our employees to grow their personal brands as industry experts, think about the potential value to the company.”
After reading my response, our executive saw the light, and actually suggested I write this blog post.
What many marketers fail to realize today is that each of our personal brands impact our company brands. This is why so many large corporations were absolutely terrified by social media a few years ago. A post to your personal Facebook profile page can, and has in some cases, made headline news resulting in terrible PR for the company you are associated with. But the flip-side is also true.
A blog post under your personal brand that makes it to page one of Digg can quickly pay off huge dividends to your company if your name is associated with your company. Imagine if the post was cited by news companies, and resulted in you being noted as an industry expert. Customers buy from people they trust and know, so there is no better spot to be. The potential value for your company could be huge.
This puts businesses in a tough spot. Do you want employees blogging and tweeting away under their personal accounts while they are at work? In my opinion…You Most Certainly Do! You need to encourage your employees to share their knowledge and expertise with the world. In the end, they will get more gratification from their daily work, and the business will see value out of the industry content created from both social and SEO perspectives. Notice that I put industry content. You don’t want Sally spending 20 hours of the work week blogging away about her cats while in the office (unless of course those cats or the topic tie back to your company in some way). But you also don’t want to discourage her from blogging about her cats altogether. Content she creates about things she is passionate about will help grow her writing skills, and it will also humanize her to her audience and network. I wouldn’t recommend she post it to your company blog in most cases, but I would encourage her to post it to her personal account(s).
This does open the door for the next great social media blunder by one of your employees, so you have to be prepared. Create a policy around social media if that gives you comfort. For me, I simply talk to my employees and make sure we are on the same page. We are a close knit team, and it is an unwritten rule that our conduct (and personal brand) reflects on the company if we choose to have any association with the company brand. We all acknowledge this and understand that if something were to happen the necessary actions and repercussions would result.
The battle between company brands and personal brands will continue to rage for years to come. My hope is that over time more and more executives and traditional business professionals will see the light as our executive did. With proper policies in place and proper utilization of the tools at their disposal, business can reap huge value by encouraging the personal brands of their employees. As the adoption of social media continues to grow and become the norm, it only makes sense that we harness its power much as we would encourage our employees to attend and grow their network at industry-related events.
So if you can attend this week’s Triangle AMA meeting, I highly recommend it. If not, keep an eye out for Andy Beal (@AndyBeal) and his personal branding presentation.