With so many companies who are recognizing the power of inside out communications — leveraging employees as external brand advocates — this is fantastic post by Michael Brito, Edelman Digital, explains how to balance personal brand with a corporate brand. This is a definite read if you are someone who participates in a social media ambassador program or if you are a company that has launched or is exploring the possibility of one.
Everyone has a brand whether they like it or not. I am not talking about the clothes you wear or the car you drive either; that’s definitely part of it. The brand I am talking about is your attitude, how you carry yourself and the perception that others have about you; not that you have of yourself. Do you have a mediocre brand or one that is stellar and stands out from the crowd? Whatever the case, your personal brand is a direct reflection on the company you work for; especially with this new dynamic called the social web.
Some may say that there is no conflict, but I beg to differ. I have worked for some really large brands and over time built up my own personal brand because of it. There is always a potential conflict but there is also a way to manage it effectively.
The personal brand
So you’ve got a new gig, you report into duty, join or lead a team and then you have to figure out how to deliver value to your customers. Value can mean just about anything these days especially if you work in social media in some capacity. Along the way, you develop your skills; earn some street cred, gain a few thousand Twitter followers and then start speaking at events. And if you’ve got a good head on your shoulders you will figure out how to differentiate yourself from your co-workers. Maybe you start a blog, podcast or do something insanely awesome that gets you quoted in the media. At the end of the day, you become your new brand and you are lovin’ life.
The corporate brand
The corporate brand is much bigger than you. It’s probably older than you and it definitely has more coin than you. They are backed by investors, engineers, executives, lawyers, shareholders and other really smart people. They’ve been around for a very long time; long before you existed and will probably outlive you as well. Yeah, they may go through a few logo changes and maybe even an acquisition or two but they aren’t going anywhere. Not anytime soon.
They hired you for a reason; to be awesome. I can only assume that the job description didn’t say something like “have a strong personal brand” under the job requirements. And I am almost certain that the recruiter didn’t tell you “as a result of working for our company; we are going to help you create your own personal brand.” But being the smart cat that you are, you did it anyway or maybe it just happened by accident.
Now when the people in your inner circle think about the brand; an image of you pops in their head. Maybe it was a conversation on Twitter, Facebook or some other online interaction. The brand is not just you anymore; it’s a hybrid between you and the company you work for which is where the potential conflict can begin.
Mending the two together
Building a strong brand means leaving the ego at the door. Egos complicate everything and most corporate brands don’t do well with them. Having an ego will cause the legal and PR departments to watch you like a hawk and monitor everything you say or do online. Why? Because egos have a way changing the context and meaning of a word. It also clouds judgment. I think we all have egos, but it’s important to keep them in check.
Blatant self-promotion is an example of what NOT to do when talking about the corporate brand. If all you do is spam your community about you, there is a problem. Instead, try and provide value to the community. Be relevant. The best piece of advice I can give is to “say what you mean & mean what you say” AND don’t pretend to be something you are not. Liars are always exposed on the social web and it can even get you fired if you are not careful.
Be smart when you communicate and don’t forget that others’ are watching. If you build the corporate brand the smart way (i.e. say what you mean, mean what you say, provide value), your personal brand will grow and grow with credibility. You will become a trusted source of information; maybe even a subject matter expert about the company you work for.
It’s really not hard if you pay attention and think before you speak.
And for those with egos … unless you build an app that solves world hunger, please don’t invite me to “like” you on Facebook. I’d much rather just be your friend.