The Value of Personal Brand to a Business

So you just graduated from communications school. You have your business degree in public relations, or you might be a marketing major, etc. You hit the ground running with an offer from several companies looking for “young, eager professionals with a communications degree” to “engage customers with social media tools”.

Let’s cut to the chase. They want to hire a social media evangelist or a social media PR goon.

You start your job and begin to hit all the usual spots. You setup Facebook groups and fan clubs. You get a Twitter account going. You start adding bunches of people to your LinkedIn network. You make sure the company has a blog. You do all the standard things to get going.

Then something surprising happens. Nothing. Yeah, that’s right. Nothing. You end up following 1500 Twitter people and 30 of them follow you in return. This causes other people to look at friend/follower ratios and determine that you’re not “worth it” to follow.

Been there?

Your Facebook groups never get traction and the invitation to join them are ignored by people who get 30 or more invitations to something or other on Facebook and only have enough time to click “Ignore” on all of them.

Starting to sound familiar?

Your LinkedIn profile gets 300 connections – friends of friends, generally. When it comes down to hiring that marketing analyst, no one responds to your questions soliciting leads.

I know I’m talking to someone.

So what am I getting at? Networking and Personal Brand are the most important thing you can bring to a company. It’s more important than that communications degree. It’s more important than your years of experience, if that is the case. It’s more important than the company you work for.

Picture this. You’re at SXSW and you have not taken the time to cultivate your personal brand, it doesn’t matter if you are a CTO, CEO or a marketing intern – no one is coming up to you and talking to you. However, if you’ve taken the time to be a “known entity” – you blog and get a critical mass of readers, you are present and visible in the social media community or otherwise – your position, title, rank, and degree becomes irrelevant. You have a magnetism that attracts people to you. Magically.

Now, you are an asset to your company. You have people wanting to know about what your company is about? What do you do? Why do you do it? Can I get some advice?

On the flip side, companies have to understand this and not feel threatened. I’ve talked about my friend Shashi before and he is a great example of someone who has a tremendous personal brand that benefits his employer, Network Solutions. They had to give him the space to have a brand outside of his company, but the moment he became their Social Media Swami, they began seeing benefits – some more tangible than others.

Relationship in the Internet World

shashibI have a friend. Up until about a month ago, I only knew him as shashib. I didn’t know much about shashib, except what I observed about him on Twitter. As I observed shashib and interacted with him, I realized he was from the DC metropolitan area and that he was in social media. We had something in common right from the start and so more and more, I engaged shashib as not only a colleague but as a friend. We laughed, joked all in 140 characters or less.

Sometime last month, I met shashib for the first time in person. It was at Social Media Club in Falls Church, Virginia where Jim Long, the cameraman from NBC and the White House Press pool turned social-media mogul, was speaking to the SMC.

After the meeting was over, I introduced myself to shashib and discovered what he does. He works at Network Solutions, the 20th century era domain registrar that still charges $35 for a domain for a year. I don’t particularly like NetSol, but the fact that he worked there didn’t affect my opinion of Shashi (his real name is Shashi Bellamkonda) because he was my friend.

I don’t mean “friend” in the sense of what most of social media has turned into where “friend” is a status symbol of yet another person who you have chosen to follow or who has decided to follow you. I mean, friend, in the 20th century or earlier sense of the world – two humans having common interests and sharing a common bond.

I’ve given Shashi plenty of grief about Network Solutions. How the perception to me is that it is an overpriced solution that doesn’t offer much more than what you can get much cheaper elsewhere. I even gave him grief over last weeks kerfuffle about NetSol’s domain “holding” practice. I did, however, complement NetSol on their domain administration interface, something I have not used in years and is much improved and much more fluid than any other competitor’s that I have experience with.

But this is not about Network Solutions. This is about relationships.

Since last month, I have seen Shashi in person a handful of other times and he is as genuine today as he was before I knew what he did. It’s about relationship, and Shashi is my friend.

Marketing and communications in the internet world today has somewhere gotten lost. Somehow, it has become more about deceptive practices than it has about relationship. It’s become about trying to get you to believe something, regardless of whether it is true. Where is the integrity?

In real life, I wouldn’t expect someone who is a friend to try to deceive me. I would not expect lying or backstabbing. Not from a friend. The solution then for communications professionals to step back and determine what the best ROI for marketing. Is it a deceptive sales pitch, or is it “friendship evangelism”?

If Shashi started trying to sell me on NetSol out of the gate, chances are that today, we would not be friends. Instead, he established a friendship with me and has me seriously considering a little known service of NetSol. How’s that for evangelism?

* Photo Credit to Schmoozing