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Personal Branding in a Corporate World

By Sima Dahl
President of Parlay Communications

If you've read any of my previous articles in Social Media Marketing Magazine, then you know I'm a big proponent of personal branding. A clear and compelling personal brand can enrich your personal life, increase your professional trajectory, and open doors that you never knew existed. In issue #3, I wrote about the importance of authenticity in personal branding and encouraged you to tell your whole story—all the bits that make you uniquely you.

It's my belief that the more people who think they know you, the "stickier" you become to them. Just like a website rich with content that keeps visitors riveted on the page, your online identity and social behavior becomes a binding agent that holds your personal army of brand champions together like glue.

I've been doing a great deal of public speaking lately, and the more I present this concept to corporate audiences, the more I hear this question: "What's more important, my personal brand or my company brand?" The answer is simple—YES!

The Corporate Brand Position

Let's not pretend that you can prevent your staff from engaging on social networking sites during company hours. If you try to block access to LinkedIn or Facebook, employees are either going to log in from their smartphones or make fun of your antiquated ideas about employee autonomy and productivity once they get online back home. Either way, you're not winning.

Consider the collective "digital footprint" that your employees make. Imagine an army of staff who are proud of where they work, have rich online profiles that paint themselves as experts in all that they do, and whose collective online behavior generates hundreds—maybe even thousands—of inbound links back to your company website.

Envision the meeting with your CFO when you point out that you've lowered the cost of talent acquisition, retention, and training because your employees have a greater sense of autonomy, a pipeline of positive company news to share, and are highly motivated to recruit like-minded peers. And online impressions? Those are through the roof because you have engaged your socially savvy staff as an extension of your marketing team—clearly a winning strategy.

The Personal Brand Position

Switching gears, you're a foot soldier in a large company trying to climb the ladder. At this point, you have to remember the golden rule: people buy from people they know, like, and trust. They refer them, they hire them, and they promote them. If you're hiding behind your desk, quietly slogging away at the task at hand when you could be building a strong network of internal champions, then you're not winning.

On the flip side, what if you called attention to the great work you're doing—shared news with your social network when you wrapped up a particularly hard project on time and under budget, won an award, or were published in your alumni magazine? Would that raise your visibility and help position you as someone to watch? This is another winning approach.

How about if you used your social status to celebrate exciting company news? One of my clients at ADP used her LinkedIn status to announce that Fortune magazine ranked ADP #1 for financial soundness in its industry category. By doing so, she lifted up her employer and herself, too.

Winners know that whatever line of business you're in, you're also in sales and marketing, and the product is you. Looking after your own personal brand is not an assault on your employer; if anything, it helps lift the organization up right alongside you. Winning companies are realizing that, too and are embracing social networks and arming their staffs with relevant, on-brand content.

So when people ask me about social networking for business, my answer is that it's simply about winning—not only for individuals, but for their employers as well.

Sima Dahl

Sima Dahl is a social media strategist and personal branding expert with 20 years experience working for both mature enterprises and early-stage startups. She is well known for her "Sway Factor" approach to social networking and has coached rainmakers, ladder climbers, and job seekers on the art of networking in the digital age. Sima is the President of Parlay Communications, founder and Chief Connector of Marketing Job Wire, serves on the Board of Directors for the Chicago AMA, and blogs about various social media and marketing topics at ExpertBusinessSource.com.