Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
Corporate vs. personal branding
Traditionally, the term branding is associated with large companies like Coca-Cola, Apple and Marlboro. These companies are arguably some of the United States’ most recognizable corporate brands. Their brand represents the identity of the company.
In the words of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, a brand is much more than a logo. It is “the set of physical attributes of a product or service, together with the beliefs and expectations surrounding it.” Put simply, successful corporate branding evokes an idea in the audience’s mind that reaches beyond the corporate identity and includes the values and propositions the company stands for.
A personal brand might incorporate the same elements but it stretches to include the person, their skills, their qualifications and the beliefs and expectations their audiences attach to them.
Connecting personal and corporate branding
Just a few decades ago, very few CEOs of leading brands were widely known to the public. There are only a handful of notable exceptions like Apple founder Steve Jobs, whose personal brand has been inextricably linked to the Apple brand.
The advent of social media and digital marketing has changed the playing field for corporate and personal branding. Traditional company leaders who used to live in relative obscurity have become far more visible to a wider audience. Unintentionally, they developed a personal brand by default, which needed to be carefully managed.
On the other hand, charismatic business founders have deliberately used their personal brands and platform to advance their companies’ fortunes. Some specifically established themselves as thought leaders in their field, building their brand as part of the organization’s marketing strategy.
Right now, there is a growing group of business owners who are their own brands. Life coaches, celebrity chefs and others are using their brand to support their corporate brand. Essentially, their personal brand is their business. Social media influencers, for example, use their brand to support corporate brands.
Connecting personal and corporate branding can work to the advantage of both sides, creating synergies that help both corporations and individuals expand their audience. Because of this, it does not necessarily make a difference whether the personal or corporate brand came first.
Corporations benefit by becoming more relatable with the help of a human face or faces to represent them. Rather than being seen as an institution, those businesses are recognized for their humanity, breaking down barriers between businesses and consumers. In the long term, the business can use personal connections to build trust and sales.
Managing personal and corporate branding
Balancing corporate and personal branding is not always straightforward. Just decades ago, corporations did not need to consider their employees’ brands or how employees interacted with their own brands.
Since the advent of digital marketing and especially social media marketing, the branding landscape has changed. Anyone with a social media profile is consciously or unconsciously curating their own personal brand. As part of their social media activity, employees will most likely also interact with their employer’s brand.
This overlap has caused countless companies to re-evaluate their approach to branding. Should they encourage employees to talk about the company publicly? What happens when unhappy employees use their platform to vent their frustrations?
In light of these concerns, it may seem like a good idea to ban employees from interacting with the company’s social media, but that approach is unrealistic. Instead, most companies today choose to encourage employees to share content and expand the business’s reach. They are taking advantage of the increased credibility consumers attach to information that is shared by an individual rather than a corporation.
Other companies even leverage the power of personal brands through high-profile talent hires.
Benefits of branding for your company and employees
Leveraging corporate and personal branding means cooperating to find a strategy that benefits both parties.
As an employer, it is generally not realistic to forbid the use of social media at work or during working hours. However, it makes sense to create easy-to-follow social media guidelines. Companies are asking employees to be honest about their employment, focus on positive topics without slagging competitors and generally use their best judgment with social media.
Encouraging employees to engage with the company’s brand whilst building their own personal brand is mutually beneficial. The employee’s personal brand can benefit from positive associations with the company. As the employee’s recognition as a thought leader grows, the company gains credibility through association.
Personal and corporate brands are becoming ever more interlinked. In most cases, they are connected by default. Forward-thinking brands do best by embracing the connection and fostering positive and open communications between brands and employees. After all, each employee is also a brand ambassador.