Personal branding experts tell just about everyone that they need to be promoting themselves — that a personal brand is the secret to better jobs and better pay. That can mean that anyone employed by your business, down to the receptionist, may be promoting himself through blogging, social media and other tactics. The consequences for your business can be varied, but it's important to consider what your employees' personal branding will mean to you before you need to address it.
The Benefits of Personal Branding
From an employee's point of view, personal branding is a set of strategies that make it possible for an individual to establish his expertise (and even to improve it), as well as to demonstrate the quality of his work. From an employer's point of view, it may seem like personal branding can be useful when deciding which applicant to hire, but perhaps not much else. If you're willing to dig a little, however, there are many benefits to working with an employee interested in branding himself.
An employee with a personal brand is always looking for opportunities to expand upon it. Handled correctly, that can lead to an ambitious employee stepping up and taking on bigger projects. After all, when someone wants to be known as an expert, he needs work in his portfolio that proves the claim. It might as well be work for your business in that portfolio. You can even build some of your projects into great ways for people outside your business to connect with you, along with your employees.
It can take some planning to make sure that your employees' personal branding dovetails with your company's needs. There are plenty of books and blogs out there offering advice on personal branding (often with plenty of contradictions). That means that you may need to sketch out a game plan, even show your employees some successful personal branding strategies. If you discuss the fact that you're willing to help make the process easier, provided that your employees do a little promotion with you, you may find some great resources within your company that you didn't even know you had. You may not have time to put a full training program in place, but even something as simple as checking out a few of the better blogs on the topic of personal branding and recommending them to your employees can be a good first step.
The Concerns of Personal Branding
When building a personal brand, most individuals try to avoid tying their brand to the company they currently work for. That can mean that they're spending plenty of time (possibly at work) building up a name that ignores the fact that your business has provided them with an opportunity. It's not necessarily easy to convince an employee that promoting your business along with his own career is worth his while, but there are ways to handle these situations. Offering time in the office to work on personal branding under the condition that your employees also promote your brand is one way.
However, there are also concerns that if an employee has access to an audience, through blogging, social media or other strategies, he can also cause harm to your business. There simply isn't a filter between your employees and the rest of the world these days. Anyone can say anything and then be quoted on it. No matter your stance on personal branding, it is becoming necessary to offer every employee some level of media training.
Training can be instrumental in keeping a particular employee's personal branding strategy from adversely impacting your business, even if it's something as simple as showing your employees that you keep up to date with mentions of the company online. Understand that some employees will still assume that if they use their names, any online branding efforts won't be connected with your company. That can lead some individuals to make choices that reflect poorly on your company, no matter how they reflect on the individual in question. Not only is education necessary, setting policies and enforcing them is also important.
Setting Personal Branding Policies
As an employer, you can set all manner of policies for your employees — and that includes what you consider is appropriate in terms of personal branding. However, it's important to remember that just because you set a policy, you have no guarantee that your employees will actually follow it, especially when you can't check up on what they're doing every hour of the day. It's important to set policies that will actually be followed and that benefit both you and your employees.
It's not unreasonable for employees to expect policies that allow them to continue to build their careers. In all likelihood, your employees will be looking for other jobs in a few years. Telling them that personal branding is not an option is just a way to speed up their decision to go job hunting. If you can make it a win-win situation, you may just wind up known as the small business owner who has snagged some excellent (and well-known) employees. It makes sense to read up on personal branding, especially the techniques that many experts on the topic recommend, so that you know what to expect from your employees and you can set clear policies ahead of time. In particular, it may be worth focusing on online tools that allow your employees to publish information without going through an editorial or filtering process.
Provided you're working with reasonable policies, the best steps to take can be simply educating your workforce about the Web in general and personal branding specifically. The more tools and information they have at hand, the better both you and your employees will look.
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