Employee Brands Are The Unique Fingerprints of Corporate Brands

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August 22, 2013

Personal brand.  Employer brand. These phrases are commonly heard today.

I am not a branding expert, guru, or maven.  I won’t even try to tell you how to build your brand from the ground up nor how to use social media platforms to promote your brand.  What I am interested in is the way that personal branding is affecting me as a consumer.

As someone who is an active user of social media, I have learned a bit about how to build my own brand online.  I set about to be myself, the “real” me in all I write online, and that in itself has helped to create my brand.  It’s also given me the perspective to look at how other people build their brands.  Some are purely annoying- trying to “sell” me something. Anything.  Some people build a false brand and it can be disappointing to learn that they are not who they appear to be. But, for the most part, I think there are many people like me.  People who are being genuine with who they are and what they represent.

The importance of an individuals brand goes beyond just who they are.  It can be a strong connection to the employer brand.  Each employee who creates a brand online is like a unique fingerprint of the hand of the corporation.  I find myself beginning to make purchasing decisions based on some of the individuals out there who do such a good job of showing who they really are.  It makes me want to do business with their companies and, in tough economic times, this can be a very important business advantage for the company.  Subconsciously I think I have been gravitating to brands I didn’t use before because if they can hire such great people, surely they must be a good company.

Are you changing your purchasing habits based on the employees of a company that you encounter online?  Have you stopped purchasing from certain companies based on their employee’s online presence?  Let me know in the comments.  I’d love to see which way the pendulum is swinging…

14 Comments

  • Trish- great point- I do- and I am always trying to support brands that focus on delighting their customers/clients. Nordstroms comes to mind, as does Apple, Best Buy and Amazon. We had a similar experience buying a car where we went with the individual who listened to us best and treated us well. The reverse is true- when an individual is not empowered to do right by the customer- it could be several months or years before I will go back- and I do share my experiences with others- !

  • Trish-
    While I am still trying to wrap my head around what all this Employer/Employee Branding means, I do believe strongly that there is a connection with Customer Service. Brand to me means authenticity, unique, and distinctive. Because I come from a retail/hr/customer service background, my expectations are a lot higher. I will use Saturn for example. My husband and I owned Saturns for the better part of ten years. Now that the company is gone, I am a little leary about trusting a new brand..

    I am also influenced strongly by not only my individual experience of a brand, but also how other’s percieve the experience. I do a lot of research before any major purchase.
    Let’s keep this conversation going. I find it fascinating!
    Cheers!
    Shennee

  • an interesting perspective – that, of course, deals (mostly) with the positive aspects of the link between personal/corporate. I think that’s also at least partially (and I suspect more than partially) behind corporate/institutional concerns about social media. After all, maybe every employee “should” be an ambassador – but, let’s face it – many aren’t.

  • This is a good topic of discussion Trish. Social media has made brand loyalty a lot more difficult for companies to manage. A poor experience by one person can have a profound impact on how others perceive the brand. But let’s face it-you don’t really hear about the other neutral or positive transactions that took place. This is why companies should be emphasizing customer service to ALL of its employees, whether they’re customer-facing or not. One dynamic personality shouldn’t be the face of the brand.

    Thanks again for the post Trish!

  • Hi Trish –

    Great blog and so timely! Every company should worry about their brand and how their employees interactions with customers influence their brand. It influences my decision making everyday as a business owner.

    Best-
    Chernee

  • Trish, we’ve always been judged by the company we keep, so it’s very natural to judge a company/any org by its employees/members. What social tech does is to multiply the reach and leave a trail of good or bad impressions. Every employee has always been an ambassador for the company/org “brand,” but now any mistake in HRM — hiring, onboarding, compensation, etc., etc. — which shapes who those ambassadors are and/or affects an ambassador’s behavior is “shouted from the rooftops” via social tech. And that’s the result regardless of whether or not companies/orgs enable or limit social tech access. I can do more brand damage iin 140 char today from my smartphone than could a clutch of PR folks in a week when I began my career. All the more reason for companies/orgs to provide guidelines and training in social tech. Great topic. Naomi

  • Nice idea here, Trish. I have been pretty conscientious about not specifically naming my employer. In my safety posts, I speak frequently about them, or about past employment, but I don’t mention them. It’s not a secret, and it wouldn’t take most users 5 minutes to find it out.
    I’m very proud to work where I do, doing what I do. We make great products that I believe make a difference. They are essential to daily life.
    I will re-tweet items that come from our brands from time to time, or from our recruitment team, but I try to not spend time selling the company. If someone asks, I’m ready to talk, but my online presence is ME, not an employee.

  • Your blog made me think, as you always do!

    I was reminded that branding was what we used to do with cattle and that was about ownership and belonging and recognizable and traceable directly to the owner.

    It is as you say about developing a unique personality or fingerprint of what you stand for. You make a superb point it goes way beyond of which you are and ultimately defines character and time reputation and what you stand for. There lies the rub!

    We are all too familiar with what happens to those who fall of their “pedestal” brand or “what they become known for” Failed businesses and personalities are strewn all over the road to “image” which is what the brand defines.

    We only have to look at the US Car business and many other manufacturers, who so many years ago made the “product of American choice” Where, are they today? Did they as you say fall away from the very concept of what they were portraying? Or did they not live up to their image or did it simply become outdated?

    I believe that you raise a critical question at a crucial time. That of what do we want to be known for? And then consider how we go about reinventing ourselves to keep ahead of the economic curve. I don’t mean change the brand, or maybe I do? Perhaps that is what is needed as long as the cores stuff remains the same, and then I wonder does that have to stay?

    I may even conjecture that we need to consider how we market our brand always being mindful others are thinking the same and that reality and concept must be the same, or is that true?

    That’s a scary thought, is the brand just that, a marketing gimmick! Is it all just image?

  • Trish-I think the analogy of an individual SM presence to a “fingerprint” is brilliant. In direct response to your questions, I have not found myself altering any purchasing habits based on individual fingerprints, but I would qualify that by saying I’m very new in the SM space.

    I also like what Naomi points out regarding SM platforms being used to “shout from the rooftops”. So true. It begs the questions as to whether SM space isn’t, or won’t become crowded with society’s shouters? Hmmm…

  • From my perspective, an employee’s online presence will not necessarily make me any more willing to buy their products or services, but it can quickly eliminate their organization from realistic consideration.

    What a positive online presence will translate into is a context upon which I can gauge other claims from their organization and the relative degree of confidence the employees of an organization have in the quality and fitness of purpose of their offerings. It is not the sole criteria in an acquisition decision, but effectively executed- each one of these social media interactions “shapes the battlefield” and supports the official messaging of the organization and offers valuable insight that makes an acquisition decision easier to justify. I look for consistency in the messaging between the official and unofficial narratives or useful information along the lines of “Product X is great for application Y but you need to know D, E, F and Q if you intend to use product X for application Z”

    What a negative presence does is severely damage an organization’s competitive position. If a person who I know is closely affiliated with an organization speaks to me in a way I find condescending or otherwise offensive…I have to assume that that view is widely held by that organization. That guilt by association will make it easier to find reasons why that organization’s product or service isn’t a good fit for my organization’s unique needs when decision time rolls around. Social media simply means that offensive messaging find its way to more people faster and lives forever in Google’s cache.

    I segregate my social media world into two – my professional persona and my private persona. @randydarthur on Twitter and http://www.trustedcloudservices.com are my professional personas. There I will talk cloud computing, IT Service Management and explore some of the commercial aspects of IT Outsourcing as a representative of CSC management. I won’t discuss things like religion or politics that are bound to get me in trouble with some elements of my readership. I will accentuate the positive things we are working on, as opposed to to slagging the competition – if I talk about what CSC is doing at all. My intent is to learn more about emerging cloud computing services and validate the approaches that we are taking with an expert audience. If I have a different point of view with one of the industry experts that post in these venues, I will advance my viewpoint in a respectful way- aware that I don’t have a monopoly on good ideas or brilliant insights. Above all, I want my readership to find my output *valuable* in some way and hope that that value translates into a more generalized view that I am not unique in CSC, and overall, CSC can bring similar value to their organization through our services.

    My private social media persona is Facebook – where I can converse with my family and close personal friends. Much of the chatter is irrelevant to a professional IT audience – but all the people there know me and so I can address occasional topics that are incompatible with my professional persona.

    This was a provocative and timely article. I enjoyed the way it crystallized some of my thoughts around social media outreach.

  • Hi, thank you for a great article and like others have mentioned, timely as well. From my perspective I am on line most of the time. Much of that is due to personal circumstances but began several years ago when I decided I did not have the energy nor the where-with-all to maneuver the maze of people at the malls (aka mahls) during holiday time, I decided to shop only on-line that year. Their presence does to a degree influence me. Customer service is paramount to the survival of many companies. Things as simple as how user friendly the website is, never mind returning something! Fast forward to social media…the presence people have on-line can make or break the employer. I come from the school of thought that if you are in the public and I refer not just to the local pub but also on-line, you are wearing your company hat. Like it or not, you are. My =first= encounter with social media was with a report of an employee who had an very inappropriate myspace account! I didn’t even know what myspace was for goodness sakes! I couldn’t access it at work because the firewall wouldn’t allow it! So I came home and found it on my home computer. WOW was I in for a treat! As HR Director this had profound impact on so much I felt torn between not going in the next day and heading back to the office knowing I wouldn’t go home again for 24 hours. There was much to do with regards to that. So long story short; a resounding yes to your question from a professional stand point as well as a personal one. An employer’s image is at stake and my satisfaction as a consumer needs to be good for me to return/continue with what I am looking for.
    Again thanx for the thought provoking article. Just like Randy and Shennee before me I, too, enjoyed how it crystallized some of the fragments in my head regarding this entire topic and am a believer of perceptions making or breaking you.

  • Trish, this is an interesting observation. In fact, a query to brands, worldwide?

    In an era, where brands are even opening up support channels via twitter, facebook or forums, your observation may make sense – “The importance of an individuals brand goes beyond just who they are. It can be a strong connection to the employer brand. Each employee who creates a brand online is like a unique fingerprint of the hand of the corporation”

    I think genuine people never keep two identities – one real self and another for public appearance

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About Trish

A former HR executive and HCM product leader with over 20 years of experience.

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