Personal branding: does it count in your favour or does it hold you back?

By Silvia Forés

A few months ago, I was somewhat puzzled when an acquaintance told me that he was extremely surprised to see I had a blog on professional topics. Not so much because he didn’t think I could do it – fortunately that wasn’t what he meant – but rather because he couldn’t understand how the company I was working for when I set it up had let me do it.  

Having a well-thought-out blog and regularly posting content to it can be a crucial tool for building a good personal brand, especially if you can spread your content across networks and reach stakeholders. It allows you to position yourself as an expert on a number of the profession’s issues and I also think that the company stands to gain if the content is in line with the business strategy. This is my view.

Your personal brand has to be consistent with the business strategy

However, my acquaintance insisted that having a similar blog would be frowned upon in his company because it would be taken to mean that the employee is not wholeheartedly devoted to their job. 

This conversation is anecdotal, but it is an example of how something that someone could apparently say would be advantageous, can be turned against an individual.

There has been a lot of talk about personal brands for a long time and especially over recent years. There are experts who can help people build one and get the most out of it.

I think that having a good personal brand is very constructive, both for the employee (it selfishly contributes to improving your employability) and also for companies, as it helps them to position themselves (comments from employees with a strong personal brand can influence the public more than the results of more complex marketing actions).

However, few talk of the risks of having this personal brand when working for a company. Mentioning the word “risk” might sound a bit odd, because sometimes one of the reasons why one candidate and not another has been chosen is precisely because their personal brand has been a positive thing and has been viewed as a plus in the selection process.

Comments from employees with a strong personal brand can influence the public more than the results of more complex marketing actions

So why are we talking about risks? The company ought to be thrilled, right?

You have to bear in mind that companies are made up of people who coexist in structures that somehow end up being like big families: with their views, their egos, their loves and hatreds, their envy and their particular culture.

Relations between company members can be incredibly complex and not everyone is overly enamoured about an employee’s personal brand, whether it’s a newcomer or a colleague who’s been working there for a while and, all of a sudden, starts to stand out with their brand.

Not everyone is overly enamoured about an employee’s personal brand

Three simple tips will help you lessen the risks I’ve been talking about:

  1. Your personal brand has to be consistent with the business strategy; it should be in line with it and, under no circumstances, run counter to it. This will make it easier to demonstrate the advantages it brings to the company.
  2. Tell the marketing and/or communication department. In the beginning, at least set out the rules of the game so that all efforts are coordinated and both sides feel you are moving towards a common goal.
  3. If you are in a selection process, try to find out what the company thinks about hiring an employee who has their own personal brand. If it’s not culturally very welcome and may be interpreted as wasting work time, when in fact it isn’t, decide whether you’re willing to give up your personal brand for the company and join it, or alternatively that it’s not a place for you to work. The important thing is to have clarity and be consistent with your decision and subsequent actions. Admittedly, it’s not an easy thing to grasp in an interview sometimes, but at the very least you need to disclose it to avoid misunderstandings in the future..

Someone might ask about the latter tip: “So what should I do if they don’t like it? Should I forfeit my present employability – the opportunity I have now – for my future employability, which I might get if I continue to work on my personal brand?"

My answer would be: “I’m not you and I can’t decide for you; I just hope that nothing and no one steals your personal brand. If you’re thinking about it, you’ve already taken the first step."

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