In the second of this short series on Business and Branding, Finding What Works, I mentioned that my core brand these days is effectively my own name, as in the name of my other main blog, Des Walsh dot Com.   Another way I could put that is to say that I am practicing “personal branding”. The decision to use my own name as my brand, or as the focus of my brand, was influenced by several factors, including:

  • flexibility in being able to make the brand refer to what I’m working on now, rather than what I was focused on previously
  • ability to build on the presence I have established online, especially through the past 4.5 years of blogging and related social media/social networking activities
  • it doesn’t hurt that there are not, so far as I’ve noticed, namesakes in the business spaces in which I am interested

The Brand YOU concept

As I mentioned in that previous post in the series, I actually started using my own name as a business brand way back in the late 1980s, when I started in business and – like most of the people I knew who established their own consultancies – just took my own name and added “& Associates”. In between then and now, actually just before I started blogging, I became aware of the branding implications, via the “brand you” concept as I learned it from Dave Buck, now CEO of a coaching organisation I belong to, Coachville, who in turn acknowledged the use and promotion of the term by Tom Peters. In the onsite explanation of his program on the Brand YOU topic, Dave says:

Your brand is your trust mark – it distinguishes you from the field. Not like competition, but like uniqueness. As Tom Peters aptly predicts “It’s Brand YOU or canned you; become distinct or extinct”. It makes you a (very well) known entity. It’s how you connect with the people you intend to serve.  Speaking of service, that’s the real essence of Brand YOU – making your talents, gifts, experience, knowledge and value adding products so well known, that the people who want and need them can easily find you.

This is not about an ego trip – although I suppose it could be for some people – so much as about using your own name as a business brand. And social media, which by definition is more about people than about companies or other organizations, lends itself to processes of “Brand YOU” marketing.

Nor does that have to be restricted to promoting only the businesses of solopreneurs and other one-person operators.

Personal branding and company promotion

Paul Chaney explains how personal branding can also be used to promote a company brand. He cites some outstanding examples in the social media space, people who have become, in that world, “household names”. He outlines how, by becoming well known and respected, these individuals have helped raise the profile and reputation of the companies employing them.

The question that immediately arises for me, with my coach hat on, is this: assuming a client buys the idea that the CEO or some other person in the firm could be allowed, encouraged even, to build their reputation online as  a thought leader in their field via a personally branded blog, with the accompanying/supporting idea that this can only enhance the firm’s reputation as well as the blogger’s, what happens when that person gets a better offer and leaves to work with another firm?

Surely the obverse of the company’s fortunes rising with the blogger’s comes into play, with that blogger’s subscribers and other readers now seeing the blogger’s new firm as the one to consider buying from, hiring, etc.

Could companies being asked to support executives and others blogging require them to sign a “non-compete” document, effectively stopping them blogging for a period once they left the company? Taking “gardening leave” from blogging?* And if so, would that requirement constitute, in some jurisdictions, an unacceptable restraint of trade?

Blogger contracts? Attorneys at twenty paces?

For those of us who are home-based, solopreneurs this is not likely to be a problem. But many of us are also in the business of coaching or consulting to companies, which can be expected to have an interest in the topic. If we encourage them, say, to help one of their key people to build their personal brand as a thought leader, in the expectation or hope that the firm will have an “aura” benefit, what do we say to them about what happens when that person gets a better offer and leaves to go and work for – and perhaps blog for – a rival company? Or at least keep blogging but with people knowing he or she is with the new firm?

*Interestingly, in checking for a link to explain the UK/Australian term “garden leave” or “gardening leave”, I found a link to a recent legal decision in the Supreme Court of Victoria (Australia),  in which one of the protagonists was Bearing Point, who from what I’ve read fought their case down to the wire: so who does Paul Dunay, one of the stars in Paul Chaney’s post, work for? Yes, BearingPoint. Small world. And in fairness it should be noted that Paul Dunay has an ‘opinions are my own’ type disclaimer on his personally branded blog, as well as stating his connection with BearingPoint.

What’s your take on the personal branding via social media possibilities? Any drawbacks? And do you buy the argument that personal branding via social media can help the brand of the company which the practitioner – blogger, podcaster, tweeter – works for?

See also:

Business and Branding #1: Built to Last or Built for Now

Business and Branding #2: Finding What Works

Business and Branding #4: Online Reputation Management

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