"Our Corporate Brand is Cramping My Personal Brand"

This post appeared earlier this week at SmartBrief on Social Media.


As the Millenial Generation comes online in the business world, corporate leaders will increasingly need to factor how-to deal with “personal brands” in their thinking. 


IStock_000000433132XSmallWhile we’ve all grown accustomed to the fact that prospective employers will be Googling us and scouring our Facebook profiles for incriminating photos, at some point the reverse will also be true:  star employees will carefully evaluate the reputation and socialstreams of their would-be employers, to determine whether they want to associate their personal brand with that of the corporation.  This will only accelerate as the improving economy increases young employees’ options. 


It makes sense.  It takes an incredible commitment to cultivate a personal brand.  To go from 3 Facebook friends to 3,000 is no small feat; same goes for Twitter — to grow a personal fan base requires a savvy combination of content creation, curation, promotion and cool. 


Why would someone go to the trouble of grooming their social graph into a consequential aspect of their job market attractiveness, only to grab at the first offer from a crappy company whose own reputation (or following) is not as impeccable or large as the employee’s own?


The same line of thinking will ultimately apply to current employees who wind up creating a following, whether on-the-job or during off-hours.  Their growing base of fans/followers will make them feel special.  If their employer does not offer that same magic feeling — or worse, if the employer makes a habit of screwing up online or off — the employee is likely to eventually walk out with those would-be customers, rather than sacrifice their own standing in the social hierarchy.


How corporations react to this emerging reality will differ.  Some will continue to be arrogant; to presume that the paycheck conquers all.  Some will bend over backwards to please all employees all the time, lest an enemy rise from within and reveal the chinks in their story across the socialverse.  Smart companies will find a way to attract strong personal brands to their banner.  After that, the key is to leverage these “well known” employees’ social graphs in ways that are mutually beneficial — without ever being exploitive, nor ever allowing these employees to gain enough leverage that their eventual departure could impact the company’s reputation or revenues. 


To the company: I’d suggest creating a program to identify and groom would-be stars from across the current employee base as well as online.  Set basic (but not draconian) ground rules.  Figure out what types of corporate content they’d like to help create or promote.  Determine the pivot points where they reflexively defend the purity of their socialstreams.  Make it a process that works for both parties.


To the “personal brand:” I’d ask them to remember that a paycheck is a good thing.  I’d remind them that they elected to take their current position, and as long as they draw a paycheck, their first duty is to their employer.  Most importantly, I’d suggest that their social graph was not the only reason they were hired — the effort and savvy that they put into their personal brand is likely expected to translate to other parts of the job; the part that requires working, not tweeting.


As the push/pull of corporate and personal brands continue to intermingle, we can only expect this situation to get more nettlesome — and fascinating.

Posted on: November 4, 2010 at 7:18 am By Todd Defren
17 Responses to “"Our Corporate Brand is Cramping My Personal Brand"”


  • Alex says:

    You are absolutely right about the importance of personal brands. Young people, such as new graduates wanting to succeed in PR, are far less worried about losing their jobs than they were. They know that the job for life no longer exists, and many take gap-years breaks for travel while they decide where to work next.

  • Hannah says:

    I completely agree with this, especially the fact that younger job seekers are taking more into account when evaluating a potential employer. Yes, as a millenial, I know our generation has always had access to company websites in order to research them. However, social media gives us an entirely new perspective on these potential employers, especially with Twitter. At any moment, we can see what people from around the entire world are saying about the company and what it produces. While the job market is more competitive than ever, we have learned from past generations that there has to be a balance between our paycheck and working in an environment that we enjoy being in, making hiring for the employers more competitive as well.

  • Emma Cornish says:

    I think you have made a great point here. Technology such as social media has become such a common part of day-to-day interaction–especially in the younger generations–that I think a company’s image in the social media circles will become a deciding factor for some. Great post.

  • In a way, though, savvy job seekers have been checking out potential employers for eons. So that part is unchanged; only the ability to accumulate greater amounts of information on that employer has expanded exponentially.

    Personal brand in a professional environment? Totally agree that guidelines will help, but the “trick” is in explaining the rules of the game without coming off like Simon Legree.

    Nothing gets a reaction out of my undergrad students at Curry College more than my suggesting that what they present as their “public face” on Facebook is of great concern to me as a potential…or current…employer.

    “It’s none of your business what I post,” they say.

    “Perhaps you don’t understand,” I counter. “What part about ‘you represent me as an employee of my organization’ don’t you understand?”

    Still working out the kinks in that one! :-)

  • Alan Berkson says:


    Very forward thinking. Over the next few decades we will be seeing more of a post-industrial employment model. Those companies (and individuals) most able to recognize and adapt to it will be the ones to thrive.

    Alan Berkson
    Intelligist Group.

  • Good to have come across a great blog that we can recommend to our students. Kudos!

  • I personally have a strong personal brand +500 on Linked In, Over 1000 on FB and +6,000 on Twitter. I know who my community is and what they enjoy and the mix I have. But as a part time employee for my current company I was not even given an interview to work for the actual brand I am so passionate about. They wound up hiring someone from Boston and I am in Detroit even though I was often the first person people turned to when they did not know who was in charge. Needless to say, I am NOT going to try and solve their problems anymore. I know what I am passionate about and I am going to try and solve other people’s problems instead. Since I have been doing this and trying to solve them for about nine years with out any luck in getting the organization’s attention enough for me to speak.

    When I apply for a job I do a Google search and I look for the organization on Twitter. Just because I know that would be the way to find the actual “contact” person. Funny how you mention that though. I am NOT picking and choosing and I think it is a long way off but if you are a good candidate and it is worth your time. You should do some investigating and find out as much as you can about the company to begin with.

    Great food for thought.

  • min li says:

    I totally agree that the company brand does dominate over the personal brand. For one, I too am aspiring entrepeneur trying to fit my products in the business scene. But let’s face it the company brand is already established itself while i climb bit by bit. I mean, my personal brand is no Clark Kent compared to the ones already there. But trust me, sooner or later independent minds will come to think like me.. and when that time comes, my personal brand is one of the so called company brands already established.

  • Dan says:

    But the biggest difference is, when you’re building a company brand you’re spending eight hours a day doing that, not in your free time with your personal life!

  • Jason Murphy says:

    I deal with this from time to time. I’ve been growing my personal brand since 2004, when I graduated college.

    7 years in and I have a pretty decent following, +4,000 on Twitter and +500 on LinkedIn. I also blog.

    Getting ready to write a blog post today about how college kids need to start making use of their down-time and using it to build a personal brand. This leverage will only help them in the job hunt.

  • alexis ceule says:

    I totally get this! I do see where an potential employee might see a poor corporate brand identity online and hesitating to jump on board with them. Kind of like looking at a house from the outside. It might be in a great neighborhood (industry) but the outside is not up to date. It’s messy, inconsistent, sparse… sorry for the lame analogy, but I see this. Why would you want to go on with a company that doesn’t appear to have a dedicated interest in giving the impression they are up to speed with the simplest of technology. It’s an easy solution. It would give me the impression that business decisions travel at the speed of a slug in that company and we all know how frustrating that is. Or worse yet, decision making is a difficult process. I get this.

  • Interesting food for thought here, while I do see that just as potential employers can check up on us via the social networks, in the reverse, potential employees can do the same. I do not see however, people turning down positions because the corporate brand doesnt’ fit in with your personal brand, if that were the case, employement rates would be even lower!

  • I personally think we’re a long way from people turning down a job ’cause the offering brand is not in par with their own personal brand likes. Especially in this particular historical moment, there must be a far better reason to turn down a job, unless you’re called “Chris Brogan” or “Seth Godin”. But in that case, I’d guess you can already choose from a fairly reasonable pool of jobs.

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