The Convergence of Personal Branding and Corporate Image – Or Not?

What is your “personal brand”? This is an area of growing concern in today’s times as more and more people participate and engage in social networking. Before the Internet revolution, the term “brand” was only used in the context of the business world.The word “brand” brings to mind many variations of the same concept such as: “trade name”, “trademark”, and “a name, sign, symbol, or slogan”. Essentially a brand from a corporate perspective is the embodiment of anything and everything the company says, does, doesn’t say, doesn’t do, how they say it, what others say about them, how others perceive them, etc. The phrase “you are your brand” most effectively exemplifies this concept.Fast forward to 2010 and this age of transparency to look at the term “brand” in the perspective it is used today. This is where the concept of “personal branding” plays a crucial role. Social media networking has enabled everyone to have their own personal brand by way of publicly sharing anything and everything they “say” on the World Wide Web. If you cut through all the semantics and take this concept of personal branding down to the most basic level, what you are left with is simply what is commonly referred to as your “reputation”. Your personal brand is your reputation.What happens in this advanced age of technology and social media marketing to a company’s brand reputation when their employees have their own personal brand? This topic was discussed and debated at great length in Fortune Magazine’s article Building Your Brand (and Keeping Your job) by Josh Hyatt. Josh spoke about Scott Monty, Ford’s first global digital and multimedia communications manager and his use of social media to promote his own personal brand and Ford’s corporate brand. In summary, Scott was a social media guru with a high degree of credibility and 3,500 Twitter followers prior to accepting a position with Ford and had already earned his personal brand reputation. Scott used his social influence to further the goals of Ford and enhance their brand synergistically with his own brand. A perfect match!What ensued after this article was published was an incredible amount of criticism about the way the author portrayed Scott Monty which is really not relevant to the topic of this post. This author sees the mutually-beneficial business relationship between Scott and Ford as an example of how to handle our new age of business that we find ourselves in today. It works for Scott and it works for Ford making this a win-win proposition.However, more often than not, employees don’t capitalize on their personal brand to enhance the image of the company they work for. This is not to say that they wouldn’t want to help out their company, but rather to imply that many people use social media for their own personal use that has nothing to do with where they work. Yet companies are concerned with how their brand may be affected by an employee’s use of social media. Some companies prohibit their employees from using social networking sites in an effort to avert any damage that might be done to their corporate brand.The solution to this potential problem is quite simple. If people would understand the impact their written word has and use good judgment in what they post, there would be no problem. Fortune Magazine also featured a case study called Edit Thyself, a very befitting title. The study discusses a young woman who was just “letting out some frustration” when she Tweeted something about her boss that got her fired. Moral of this story: Don’t let out your frustration in PUBLIC because EVERYONE will see it. Call a friend instead which is exactly what this young woman learned from her experience.The bottom line here is, when using social media, remember that anything and everything you write can and will be read by anyone and everyone. Yes, some of the social networking sites like Facebook have privacy controls set-up, however, these controls change often and it is highly possible that you might forget to control these settings for even one comment that might not sit well with someone in your life – and that someone could be your boss.It is really a matter of common sense. The problem is that, unfortunately, not everyone uses common sense either because they don’t have any or because they are busy doing a million things at once and they forget to think. This puts companies in the position of having to be concerned about their employees’ personal branding. Do they have a right to censor their employees’ personal branding? The answer to that is not clear, but until common sense becomes commonplace, companies do have something to be concerned about.

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