While you were sweating over a rack of BBQ ribs on the grill this past weekend, Chris Brogan was blogging. And on his way to writing a July 4th treatise on the emergence of mobile knowledge workers, Chris also touched on the theme of “Loosely-Joined Employees.”
“The age of half-owned brands is upon us,” Chris writes, citing Robert Scoble as the impetus for this trend. “…Is Jeremiah Owyang about Forrester, or is he a half-owned brand that Forrester can claim for the time being?” (emphasis added)
It’s an oft-cited maxim at SHIFT that “we run a talent agency, not a PR agency” – so Chris’s words rang true for me. Think about some of our most recent hires: Doug Haslam (@DougH, with 4,000 Twitter followers), Chris Lynn (rockstar blogger), Amanda Gravel (blogger), Sandy Kalik (tweeter), et al.
We’ve made many more hires than this handful, of course, and expect great things of all of them – but, specific to these “well-known” people and their personal brands? We consider them to be “on loan” to SHIFT for the duration of their tenure. And I expect more and more of our employees (and future employees) will have their own personal brands either well-established or on the rise.
In this scenario, what is the responsibility of the Company? What is the responsibility of the Personality?
The Company’s responsibilities:
Job #1 – Protect itself.
The Company can’t slavishly cater to the Personalities: it is unfair to the scores of people who work doggedly to help the Company succeed without a single thought for marketing themselves publicly. There are plenty of hard-working, mission-critical employees who will never blog or tweet or otherwise participate with true intensity.
The Personalities must also make it clear that their writings do not necessarily reflect the opinions of their employer. Again, the Corporation must think about the entire team. If the Personality inadvertently causes real trouble, they won’t get much sympathy from the many colleagues whose livelihoods are now in jeopardy.
Job #2 – Get the hell outta the way.
There’s a reason why that Personality was hired. They are rockstars. They are passionate and opinionated. Let them do what they do, and empower them as much as is possible – without risking the completion of workaday assignments. Give them a Flipcam, some tech support, whatever. Beyond some simple guidelines about what’s OK (or not OK) to blog about, don’t censor them. Invest and trust in their talent.
While their personal brand is affiliated with the Company’s brand, shore up the Company’s weaknesses. Make sure that Training and Service Quality are up to snuff, so that the positives of the Personality’s brand are only augmented by the marketplace’s subsequent experiences with the Company. This helps y-o-u, as well as the Personality. It becomes a virtuous cycle.
The Personality’s responsibilities:
Job #1 – Stay humble.
The Personality is part of a larger entity. Whether working in a Company with a dozen or a thousand employees, it’s critical to realize that the quiet contributions of these employees make everything else possible. The Personality must avoid being a diva at all costs.
Job #2 – Boost the Company’s brand.
Chris tackled this topic in his own post. It can often happen that the Personality is far better known than the Company where they are employed.
While their brand is on-loan to the Company, it is the responsbility of the Personality to ensure that the Company derives substantial and long-lasting business benefits from the affiliation. Yes, the Company is thrilled to be working with the Personality – and the Personality should be equally delighted for the stable income.
This promotion of the Company’s brand need not be overt nor too frequent. But the Personality ought to find ways to talk about their work with the Company – successes, lessons learned. Maybe post the Company’s logo to their blog in a “My Employer” section. Post valuable content to the Company’s site and link back to it from the personal blog, etc.
The loose melding of Corporate and Personal Brands will get complicated, but, it is going to be an important part of the future of Marketing. Better to start thinking about it now.
Posted on: July 7, 2008 at 2:24 pm By Todd Defren