Employees' personal brand can positively impact overall company

A decision by Forrester Research to ask its analysts to aggregate their industry-related blog content to the company Web site was criticized by some in the social media community.

A decision by Forrester Research to ask its analysts to aggregate their industry-related blog content to the company Web site was criticized by some in the social media community.

The company said its new blogging policy would allow it to build on the reputation of the analysts' personal brands while protecting the company's intellectual property.

How employers view and manage staff-created social media content is crucial for sectors that provide professional services, such as analysts, PR practitioners, media, and think tanks, because these organizations can build on the reputations of staff bloggers or employees with prolific Twitter feeds by recognizing and managing this content.

Ogilvy PR Worldwide employs bloggers Rohit Bhargava, Thomas Crampton, and John Bell in its digital practice. Bell, global MD of Ogilvy's digital practice, says that in 2009 he received a dozen inquiries on his personal blog that led to business for Ogilvy.

“We value thought leadership,” he adds. “It builds the profile for Ogilvy. It builds business for the company. The personal brand of many of our team members… is a form of thought leadership and it does benefit us.”

Even Coca-Cola started to promote its social media policy in January, notes Steve Halsey, VP of digital and social media at Gibbs & Soell.

As the media landscape continues to change, organizations are looking to understand how social media content is driving news through employee participation on blogs, Twitter, and Facebook, says Bob Pearson, chief technology and media officer at the WeissComm Group.

The firm plans to unveil its social media policies next week.

“We spend too much time talking about tools,” says Pearson, “and we don't actually spend enough time talking about how content is generated, which is something we happen to do well in our business.”

He adds: “If you're talking about business related to the company or client business, then you are absolutely representative of the firm. You should be doing that on either firm properties or you should be saying you're with the company when you're doing it somewhere else.”

For many industries, especially those that drive business by producing thought leaders, questions have risen about how an employee's personal brand may interfere with his or her work. 

Bell says Ogilvy looks at if an employee's personal brand eclipses the company brand and if that leads to an issue of time management. For the most part, he notes, when agency employees establish personal brands online, it's good for both the firm and the clients it serves.

“We sell that counsel,” says Bell, “and the reason why I feel so comfortable in the approach that we're taking is because our area of expertise is communications, which is where social media is one of the big areas where it's really felt.”

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