Personal branding vs corporate branding

social media starThe whole personal branding sphere is taking off in a big way, with individuals using social media to build a brand, and in many cases a following for their thoughts and their work.  You could have a widely read blog or an influential Twitter account for instance.

All of which is fine, but it creates an interesting situation with regards to how these individual brands work when placed inside an organisation.  Does it change how these people should be managed?  What do you do if their personal brand is at odds with your corporate brand?

It’s a new enough phenomenom that it hasn’t really been dealt with yet, but the times are rapidly changing, and it’s an issue that managers will need to get to grips with sooner rather than later.

First things first though.  This isn’t something you can quash or remove.  People increasingly work very hard at their personal brand, and many will arrive at your organisation with a following already cultivated.  It’s perfectly reasonable for them to defend this work, especially as it’s quite probable that their following will last for longer than their job with you.  Besides which, if you manage things properly then you can start utilising your employees networks for your own benefits.

Nevertheless it does raise some interesting questions.  I mean can you impart any kind of control over these communities?  Should you compensate the employee if you ask to utilise them for work?  How do you balance things between those with a following and those without?

Here are a few things you’ll need to consider when managing such employees:

  1. Make sure they stay focused – Building up a following online can be addictive and there is a real temptation for people to work on their own communities rather than the work they should be doing.  So it’s important to make sure that you measure the output of your employees and ensure they are pulling their weight.  Without sitting over their shoulder monitoring what they do all day it’ll never be possible to check whether they’re building their own profile or helping yours, but if you focus instead on their output rather than their input then you will know if they’re doing their job effectively.
  2. Be up front about what is expected – Before you start you should determine whether the two brands do overlap, and therefore whether any work can be done to the benefit of both parties.  If there can be you should sit down and discuss the best way for this to occur that you’re both happy with.  This discussion has to happen to ensure you’re not saying different things, or even hampering your marketing efforts.
  3. Focus pay on results – People with a large following may expect a pay rise in return for access to their large community of followers.  Doing this may cause inequities between your team, so instead focus on the outputs they’re achieving, as some may do just as well without their social media followings.
  4. Be clear on who owns what – Lets say you provide time and resources to building that persons following on social media, there may then be issues over who actually owns the community that was cultivated.  You should create a clear understanding about what is and what is not expected, and make those guidelines clear before any work is begun.  That transparency and clarity will avoid any conflicts later on.

Whether you adopt an open or closed policy will be a matter for you to decide based upon your own business needs, but the important thing is to provide guidelines right from the start on how things will work.  Having social media stars on the payroll can be an undoubted advantage for any business, but as with any employee, you need to ensure they’re managed in the right way.


11 thoughts on “Personal branding vs corporate branding

  1. Interesting. I can see this issue getting more and more common, especially if people begin to resemble freelance 'guns for hire'.

  2. Adi, you're right – interesting topic and indeed related to my topic today. Social media has blurred the lines between corporate and personal branding and the expectations have shifted radically. There is a greater need for accountability as we have increased access and insight into what we represent personally.

    • And of course the flip side is that with many digital tools now (smartphones, tablets etc) the boundaries between work and social are also increasingly blurred. It's an interesting situation for sure.

  3. Interesting thoughts Adi. I'm sure that smart employees have always had one eye on building their own network; indeed that is the reason many of them are hired in the first place.

    The onus is on employers to think about this and put clear policies in place for how they deal with social media and who owns the assets (i.e. followings) that are created in the process of using them.

  4. That whole debate between personal vs corporate branding is certainly becoming a growing issue. And as you mention, it stems from the blurring line between what is private and public, what is an employee's "own time" and that of the company's.

    The only way to mitigate such situations will be through clear guidelines and clear goals between all parties involved. Easier said than done, though.

  5. This is really an interesting topic. We've heard of corporations having problems with their employees who wants to move along but the employers wants access to their social media connections since they were communities built while the employee was in the employment. But this issue of employees who have already built a following before coming to the organization speaks of a different thing.

    I must agree with your points. A clear distinction must be established from the beginning to avoid conflicts.

    • Quite. It almost becomes a debate over what is work and what is social time. The boundaries between the two are becoming increasingly blurred. I think the natural progression is to move away from concerning oneself with how people do things and focusing fully on the results they achieve.

  6. Organisations tend to demand compliance rather than encourage initiative. Building or developing an online brand can be at odds with a corporate agenda… but take Matt Cutts, the poster boy for Google. He has his own blog which he updates regularly but makes clear has nothing to do with Google. Having said that, he does use and promote Google products.

  7. Good points on driving the herd to your ideal vision towards brand building. I see corporate branding as an entity itself on which is represents itself albeit acknowledging a core culture that circulates within. While personal brands relies heavily on the proprietor being the ambassador for that brand and being identified with it.

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