The great divide between personal branding and corporate reputation management

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I was chatting with a friend the other day who said to me:

“There are a lot of people out there who have carved out nice personal brands for themselves on the back of social media but that doesn’t mean they necessarily are equipped to manage a corporate one.”

I had to think about this twice.

On one hand, it’s blindingly obvious that they are two very separate things.

But on the other, these people carry a bit of weight when they critique the efforts of brands, and due to the influence they have, can distort reality (and cause a few headaches along the way).

So, I thought it was worth highlighting the differences (and pros and cons) between managing a personal brand and being responsible for a corporate one, here goes…

The DNA of personal brand management (vs corporate reputation management)

You are the singular voice

You are responsible for every bit of outgoing communication on behalf of brand ‘you’ – this means no one has to sign anything off, board members don’t chase you for an explanation, and you can act in any way you see fit.

This also means that no-one else can misrepresent you and your beliefs. One ’employee’ equals only one legitimate touch point.

You can change things incredibly quickly

It is a lot easier to change the behaviour and output of one person as opposed to ten thousand, so if you feel a change needs to be made you can instigate that immediately. Big brands don’t have this luxury, and are required to communicate the new approach internally, do their best to encourage it’s adoption, and then communicate it externally.

You can manage expectations better

A person will always be given more rope than a big brand.

For example, you may have a popular blog that receives regular comments from readers and from time to time your other commitments may get in the way of you responding immediately. Your readers will understand that and cut you some slack.

We don’t view brands in the same way. If a customer doesn’t get attended to within the time specified, all hell can break loose. If you are responsible for managing the reputation of that brand your ability to affect change lies predominantly in the hands of the people on the front line.

You can set your own goals

Without anyone to answer to, you have complete freedom to dictate the output you produce.

Managing a brand isn’t so easy. Any number of internal pressures can result in the activation of external activities to address that pressure. This can sometimes lead to delivering against business objectives or simply buy you some time to get your house in better order.

There is no magic wand.

You can take risks

Some of the best personal branding techniques involve an element of risk.

It might involve saying or doing something controversial or taking the path less travelled for the hell of it.

When managing a corporate brand taking risks is the last think you are in a position to do. Sure, you can be creative or activate unique solutions, but ultimately you can’t do anything unless it is considered right for the brand (and this is incredibly subjective within any organisation).

There are a bunch of other things that a personal brand operator doesn’t need to worry about, including:

– No-one is paying you (directly)
– Your opinions are yours, not someone else’s
– Your community is normally a much more manageable size
– You’re not affected by mistakes made by others
– Your advocates are less likely to turn on you at once
– You aren’t operating in a ‘real’ competitive market

It’s at this point you may be asking yourself: Is the big brand model flawed in today’s environment?

That is such a lovely hypothetical question, one which is the subject of another post, but it is important to remember that the revenue generated by one person (unless you are Michael Jordan) doesn’t compare with the ability of a big brand to do so.

Is there a moral to this post?

Sure.

It’s fun to be the critic and it’s even more fun (for some people) to get talked about on the back of showing up an organisation, but I reckon you might feel different if the shoe was on the other foot.

And, while some things might seem easy to do in theory, putting them into practice within specific organisations isn’t so simple.

Do you think people who show proficiency in developing and managing a personal brand have the skills to do the same within larger organisations?

Why has personal branding become such a talked about topic?

Let’s have a discussion below…

Adam

COMMScorner.com is the blog from Adam Vincenzini which focuses on social media and PR. Connect with Adam on Twitter or subscribe to his blog.

1 Comment

  • Reply November 6, 2010

    Joady Weatherup

    The interest in personal branding from the corporate’s POV may be because succesful personal branding has something important to social media that corporates struggle to gain in the social media space: a type of authenticity, that manifests in the vernacular that is distinctly individual rather than ‘signed off’. And users can smell ‘comittee approved’ statements it a mile away.

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