Your employees are the core of your brand, but you wouldn’t know it looking at most companies’ websites and social media profiles. Instead, many companies only feature high-level leadership, keeping the majority of their team behind the scenes. Newsletters are often formal “notes from the CEO.”
But that’s not what customers want, what your employees want — or what’s best for your business. Customers want relationships, stories and authenticity, and your employees are the best people in your company to deliver that.
To start using your team better within your business’s brand, help them build their own: Invest in your employees’ career development and personal branding so that you can feature them prominently. Here’s why.
They’ll Do Their Jobs Better — and Longer
Encouraging your employees to build their personal brands and share their expertise with the general public can improve your relationships with them in multiple ways. It’s worthwhile to support employees and provide mentorship in this area for everyone’s benefit.
Building a personal brand requires public speaking, networking and writing. These are skills that are transferable to employees’ work. Public-speaking skills, for example, can make a manager better at communicating with groups in meetings. But even the simple act of talking and writing about their direct duties more regularly can help people practice and improve their core competencies.
“I believe speaking and writing for credible, relevant publications are two of the best ways to increase visibility and foster meaningful connections,” says Barry Feldman, co-author of the personal-branding handbook “The Road to Recognition.” “Above all, these types of opportunities to create and present content should be thought of as exercises in building authority and trust.”
Helping team members develop new skills and explore personal branding gives them more control over their careers, which can be motivating.
But if you build up these individuals’ personal brands, doesn’t that just increase the likelihood that they’ll get poached right out from under you?
Roope Heinilä, the CEO of employee advocacy platform Smarp, explained why he believes this fear is ludicrous. “The easiest comparison to a company embracing its employees as the key drivers of success is a professional sports team,” he said. “Most players end up playing for multiple teams during their careers, but there is no question whether they should be coached and helped to improve their skills while they play for the current team – even if they later use the skills they acquire to play for a different team in the future.”
It Strengthens Your Company’s Overall Brand
Another great reason to support your employees’ personal brands is that it strengthens your company’s overall brand and reputation. If you tell your team members that they need to maintain low profiles, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
“Employers should put their fears aside, recognize how things work today and fully support employees aiming to build personal brands,” Feldman insists. “A forward-thinking employer recognizes that a win-win-win happens when an employee earns greater recognition in the niche. I suppose an employer can reject this advice and suppress the employee who wants bigger things, but how’s that going to work out?”
When your team members brand themselves, their frame as employees of your organization is crucial. Any boosts in reputation and positioning will then extend to your company, as well.
In addition to those direct effects, existing customers seeing your employees featured and sharing their expertise prominently can help build loyalty in your company and your people.
It Shows Customers Who They’ll Work With
The best case for nurturing your employees’ online presence is that it introduces the true, day-to-day face of your business to your customers. Most companies highlight only their most senior team members, but that’s not who a customer will actually talk to when they interact with your business.
Cultivating public personalities for customer-facing team members can advance your relationships with prospective and existing customers. That way, when they’re reading a newsletter from your company or contacting customer service, they feel a connection to the person on the other end.
In practice, this might look like what Buffer does. They highlight individuals instead of just executives or the collective group, and a lot of Buffer team members have their own personal brands, side projects, and existing relationships with their customers. All customer service is personalized to take advantage of existing relationships and give a personal touch.
Ultimately, “personal branding is for leaders,” says Feldman. “This doesn’t mean you have to be a CEO or policymaker. It means an important part of your job is to lead people. Professionals in customer-facing roles become more effective when they establish authority and master some of the tenets of personal branding.”