Last week, we kicked off this conversation by shedding light on why companies should encourage employees to build personal brands and how it impacts organizations. You can catch-up on “Unlocking the Power of Employee Advocacy Programs & Personal Brand Alignment” here.
In this article, we’ll dive deeper into how organizations can actively shape their employees’ personal brands, assess their readiness for personal brand and advocacy programs, and examine the various levels of responsibility a company takes for its employees.
The Company’s Role:
Companies can play a significant role in shaping employees’ personal brands, depending on their positions within the organization. We see many examples of companies’ role in positions such as Brand Ambassadors and Spokespeople, where companies often guide and maintain these executives’ personal brand, while also providing training, guidelines and sometimes content, to align personal brand with the company’s values and messaging.
Other situations where companies actively lead in this regard include:
- Influential Industry Experts: Some employees become influential thought leaders in their industries. In such cases, the company may support or promote their personal branding efforts, as it directly benefits the company. These employees are encouraged to share insights through industry events, speaking engagements, articles, and social media.
- Public-Facing Roles: Executives are viewed as extensions of the company’s brand. Hence, the company may actively guide and monitor their personal branding efforts to ensure consistency and alignment.
- Community Engagement: Companies may encourage employees to participate in charitable or community events, showcasing these efforts as part of their overall brand image.
- Talent Acquisition: During recruitment phases, companies leverage employees’ personal brands to showcase their culture and values, featuring them in recruitment marketing materials to attract like-minded candidates.
- Crisis Management: In sensitive situations, the company may guide and partly assume responsibility for key employees’ personal branding, ensuring their public actions align with the company’s crisis communications strategy.
Not many companies decide to create Employee Advocacy Programs, which – in my opinion – is one of the most powerful tools to an organization. Companies that establish advocacy programs, where employees are encouraged to share company-related content on their personal social media profiles, use the guidelines and content libraries that they create to align employee personal branding with the company’s goals, build a culture of personal growth and create an environment of belonging and pride.
In the end, the extent of the company’s responsibility varies based on the employee’s role, industry, regulations, and other factors.
Balancing the encouragement of personal branding with individual freedom of expression is where many companies find the challenge. Achieving this balance without the right strategy can be daunting, which is why some companies hesitate to leverage the power of employee advocacy and personal branding
The strategy begins with the responsible departments within the company, leading employee personal brand alignment. Clear communication, collaboration, and mutual understanding of objectives are key to managing personal branding effectively within the corporate context.
Who Takes the Lead?
The conversation about personal branding typically starts with the Human Resources Department in collaboration with the Marketing or Communications Departments, with one of these departments often taking the lead role.
HR plays a central role in employee development and engagement, introducing the concept during onboarding, performance reviews, or talent development discussions. HR emphasizes how personal branding aligns with the company’s values and goals.
The strategy is crafted with the Marketing or Communications Departments, providing guidance, resources, and guidelines, particularly regarding online presence and messaging. These departments support employees in using social media effectively and aligning their personal brands with the company’s messaging.
One of the strategic tools created by communications departments is Personal Brand Playbooks – a personal favorite. These playbooks can be invaluable, allowing these departments to build guidelines tailored to the corporate goals, values, and different senior executives’ levels and responsibilities.
Training & Development:
Companies can incorporate personal branding discussions and workshops into employee training and development programs, led by HR in collaboration with the marketing and communications departments. In these sessions, employees learn about the importance of personal branding, its alignment with the company, and practical steps to enhance their personal brands.
For senior executives, thought leaders, and experts, customized coaching and mentoring programs can be highly effective.
In summary, the responsibility for leading these conversations varies depending on the company’s culture and structure. However, collaboration between HR, Marketing, and Comms is essential for a holistic approach addressing personal development, company branding, and alignment with values.
Is it for Everyone?
The decision to encourage employees to build personal brands depends on factors like company size, industry, culture, and employee roles. Considerations include the industry landscape, company culture, employee roles, willingness, and interest, stakeholder expectations, resource availability, strategic goals, and legal aspects.
The benefits of aligning employee personal brands and advocacy programs are substantial. With a well-managed and strategic approach that aligns with company objectives, it’s a positive move for many businesses. Renowned companies like IBM (IBM Voices Program), Adobe (Adobe Life Program), Salesforce (Employee Advocacy Program), Microsoft (Microsoft Life Program), and Hubspot (Brand and Buzz) have shown how various approaches can be successful.
In conclusion, personal brand initiatives can be a strategic asset when thoughtfully implemented. It’s about finding the right approach that suits your company’s unique goals, employee preferences, and industry context.