A difficult and pressing debate has emerged in recent years over the boundaries between corporate and personal brands, and what happens when they collide. It is argued that to attract top talent, you need to be open to individuals cultivating their own personal brand alongside your employer brand. This situation, however, raises difficult questions around content regulation and community ownership.
Writing in the New York Times, David Carr focuses on the relationship between Twitter and media organizations. He makes a point that applies to may companies as they face an employer brand that is at least in part constituted by a plethora of personal brands: "media outlets may be seen as a federation of voices, but there has to be a there there, a single unifying principle or value." The question is how to develop a focus for that core employer brand.
Meghan Biro suggests developing a set of "social ideas for leadership". She argues that it can be a great asset to have brand ambassadors in your employees, but that you have every right to control and police any output directly related to your business. She advocates a guideline document for anyone wanting to represent the company online, including how to name a brand with shared interests. She suggests a dedicated name for professional content, such as @JoeSBrandx, rather than just @JoeS. She says, "this way the company respects the individual's personal brand while providing a company-blessed channel for the individual to share information about the company, employer brand."
Another approach, discussed in an article by Mike Stopforth, is to provide direction for the content of the brand, rather than its identity. Stopforth mentions a company that chose to incentivize staff to share their online content via an internal network, and then rewarded those that sparked the most interest. He states, "in this way, staff were online, but constantly thinking about how to source and share content that was valuable to their colleagues too."
There are any number of possible answers to this question. It is, however, an inevitable question that all companies will face over the coming months and years. How do you manage the virtual space where corporate and personal meet?
Creative commons image by Daniel Rehn