Positive Personal Brand Doesn’t Replace Corporate Culture
An employee’s conduct in the public eye is perceived as his or her personal brand. There is a lot of potential for productive personal branding when there is congruency between the employee’s conduct and the company’s culture. And, there is potential for unproductive personal branding, when there is incongruency between the employee and the employer’s company culture.
Productive Personal Branding Needs C Level Guidance
Company culture is often defined by a mix of top leadership guidance, collective conduct of its employees and how the business conducts itself in the public eye. From a corporate marketing perspective, a company should understand what its culture is as recognized by its market place.
Two brands which have defined their culture well, are Zappos and Southwest Airlines. Both are well known for their passion for customer service as well as a flair for light hearted fun and humor along the way. So, when an employee’s personal brand complements this culture, it is supportive and productive.
Another example worth examining to illustrate the importance of congruency in culture and personal branding is Apple. In the post Steve Jobs era, Apple will likely remain a company that is secretive with most topics, especially its products. Unlike the rest of the world, Apple shuns social media. You won’t find any social media buttons on the Apple website. So, employees at Apple would not be congruent in personal branding by being vocal about industry issues in the name of the company. Certainly Apple employees have as much right to use social media as the rest of us. But, due to their company culture, they must represent their own views, not those of Apple.
The company culture sets the tone for employees’ personal branding. If I worked for Apple, I would have a content strategy similar to what I have today, but I would never identify my content as an Apple employee, and I would never discuss anything pertaining to Apple.
Company Culture Guardrails
Company culture must be deliberate. It must provide employees guidelines and guardrails for use of social media in the context of their profession.
Apple is an extreme case both because of its secrecy culture and because it is such an established and successful brand. For those businesses working hard to build a brand, they will be well served to develop a corporate culture that can be supported by employee personal branding.
More Rowers in the Boat
I call this “getting more rowers in the boat.” This is the concept of content marketing by employees with subject matter expertise across the company. When most or all employees are encouraged to be brand ambassadors by sharing company content, expressing their professional opinions and generally waving the company’s culture flag, the company usually wins. The caveat of course is that the company must have employees capable of personal branding congruent with company culture. This is part art and part science.
The company culture needs to become part of the DNA of each employee. It’s not something that is communicated in policy form. Rather it’s communicated through action. This is where “leading by example” comes to life. When employees witness its leaders being ambassadors of its brand and encouraging employees to freely do so in their own personal expression, this is the ultimate in personal and corporate branding. One of the best examples of this is in HubSpot.
Personal branding and company culture are like a glove on a hand. If the fit is perfect, everything clicks and great things happen. If the fit is not good, bad things can happen that need to get addressed by management.
This is a topic that warrants attention at the CEO level. When a company CEO defines the culture and communicates it in words AND actions, then a company can expect employee personal branding to be mutually productive for the employee and for the company.
This topic interests for more than one reason. I’m teaching a two day training event entitled Personal Branding in the Corporate Workplace through the American Marketing Association. The first live event will be January 24/25, 2012 in Atlanta, GA, USA.