Thursday, August 25, 2011

Digital making corporate brands equal the sum of personal brands

I've been observing the activities of some individuals employed by quite large and well-known organisations who, through their own significant digital footprint, are building a personal brand that arguably outshines that of the organisation that employs them in the niches within which they specialise.

To me, this creates an almost symbiotic relationship between the employees' personal brand the the brand of the employer. It suggests that if certain individuals resign, there is a much greater risk for the employer that client and even wider relationships will follow them out the door. It also places additional demand on internal brand management.

It's an issue that many of our more open-minded, early adopter organisations in the digital space have not entirely thought through. At the outset, positioning these digitally fluent individuals as the faces of the organisation in online networks was a simple proposition. The individuals were credentialed and validated by the corporate brand that sat behind them.

But as the phenomenon of personal brand has rapidly evolved through digital media, organisational brands have become less relevant to the acceptance and credibility of the individuals that represent them.

It's an issue that's not going to disappear. In fact, it will accelerate as a greater number of employees are granted access to social media and other networks to converse on behalf of the company - whether as part of a deliberate strategy to build online brands, or simply using new forms of media to deal with day-to-day customer queries.

This trend will crystallise what many brand experts have argued for years - that brand starts internally, with total alignment of employee behaviour with brand values and promise. Organisational brands will increasingly become the sum of the collective personal brands they employ.

The implications offer enormous potential for the organisations who get recruitment, induction and behavioural modelling absolutely right. It presents enormous risk for those that get it wrong.

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