Marketing your employee brand: risk management rationale

There is no such thing as a permanent job anymore. This, and the increasing mobility of employees and employment, added to the rise of social media, means there is no choice involved in whether to invest effort or not into building our personal employee brand. In addition to achieving excellent outcomes in our full-time job, it’s simply a question of how much time we invest into personal employee branding and how it manifests itself.

Working on personal employee brand

Personal employee brand building is especially necessary for those us who work in fields such as marketing and public relations. Let’s face it, if you can’t do a half-decent job of delivering both an ‘employee product’ and marketing the product then, really, can you be entrusted to effectively fulfil a marketing role at all?

And there is little difference between a permanent role (which has no defined end to the employment arrangement) and a contracted role (which does have a defined end to employment).

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This is because any role can be made redundant at any time and this can be done with much less friction and turmoil than was the case even ten years ago. Unions have less say over these matters than they once did and the increasing commercial focus of government organisations is becoming increasingly prevalent. An outcome of this is a diminishing of the ‘jobs for life’ mindset.

What this means, therefore, is that apart from doing an excellent job in your current role, there is a strong argument to be doing at least some proactive and ongoing, even if relatively low level, marketing of your employee brand. Because the sad truth is, your job could vanish when you least expect it.

I believe this is less likely to happen to those who are perceived as doing an excellent job, but it can still happen. Just look at the resources sector in Australia. Because of its recent downturn, companies have made dramatic changes to their businesses which have resulted in contracts being curtailed and, hence, job losses – including high performers.

Building up the personal employee brand is therefore both a reputation building and risk management exercise.

Which leads us to the question of, as an employee (and not a consultant or business owner who is seeking new clients) just what proactive personal employee brand building activity should we engage in? And how much?

Personal employee brand building activity

Jeff Bullas, as usual, has plenty of valuable advice as to building your personal brand. For what it’s worth, here is what I think everyone should be doing on at least a relatively frequent basis, employees included, and especially those working in a public relations or marketing-related field.

Firstly, make sure your profile has its act together on LinkedIn.

Do I really need to say more? There is plenty of useful information on this topic available. LinkedIn is the number one professional networking platform and if you aren’t taking it seriously then I suggest you aren’t taking your career seriously.

Secondly, undertake activity on LinkedIn. Share some good articles/posts through LinkedIn, adding some useful observations, rather than simply sharing. Participate in some professional group discussions.

Thirdly, if you do not have a blog, write one post (it doesn’t have to be long) expressing an opinion on a topic related to your profession on the LinkedIn blogging platform. You can even analyse some other posts or articles. If you can’t manage one a month, then try for one every two months to start with.

And finally, once you start developing this content, which should based on your expertise and interests, over time you develop your own thought leadership positioning. And after that occurs, you can consider the variety of other means of developing your personal branding such as getting articles in the media and speaking at conferences.

Holy Trinity of public relations applied to personal employee branding

The Holy Trinity of Public Relations is constituted of three elements, which can be applied as much to personal employee branding as any other marketing activity:

  • Strategic alliances
  • 3rd party credibility
  • Thought leadership.

You can create strategic alliances in your job by collaborating effectively with those outside of your work’s business unit. It’s salutary to remember that even in-house employees have clients.

This is partially related to internal organisational politics (tis simply the way the world works…sigh), because you want to position yourself well for internal as well as external opportunities (i.e. making friends and influencing people).

Creating positive perceptions of yourself amongst colleagues who work outside your business unit gives you 3rd party credibility and enhances perceptions of you to your target audiences. If you are posting useful and insightful information on platforms such as LinkedIn, this will also enhance your credibility amongst recruiters and others within your industry, which may include potential future bosses or those who they work with.

Undertaking this activity provides visible evidence to your prospective employer of your thinking, the effort you are investing into taking the time to think and articulate it and your proficiency in social media. By implication, it also illustrates your familiarity with the important notions of inbound and content marketing.

You will also find, over time, credible professionals will engage online with you (and even spread word of your insights and competence), providing further 3rd party credibility. If you wish, you will also be welcomed in contributing your own content to fellow professionals’ blogs (more 3PC!).

Thought leadership content illustrates your thoughtfulness and helps differentiate you from your potential competition in a new role. Of course, you should also illustrate this thoughtfulness in your assigned role and the  value you can add outside of your role’s specific requirements. A variation on this is the leadership and mentoring you can provide to others who do not report to you and may or may not work within your specific business unit

Risk and reward in personal employee branding activity

There is a risk that by investing in your personal employee branding your employer, and perhaps future potential employers, are going to think you are either being dazzled by your own reflection or are more focused on the marketing of your employee product than the product itself (i.e. the work you are paid to do in your role).

I think it’s a risk worth taking, but it might be worth having a chat with your boss about this at an appropriate time. Not all employers are comfortable with the digital age and the onus this is placing on all of us to invest some effort into our personal employee brands.

Also, at the end of the day, we exist in a competitive environment. Yes, do a great job of what you are being paid to do in your full time role, but you have competition waiting for you when you go for that next role.

The contest for that role doesn’t start when you identify the opportunity.  By then it may be too late. It has already started. Feeling ready?

What is your view on the risks of undertaking or not undertaking personal employee branding activity outside of specifically doing the job you are paid to do? Do you think it’s more necessary to undertake this sort of activity now than it was, say, five or ten years ago? Is all the advice on undertaking personal employee brand building a bit overwhelming and are you unsure of just what sort of effort, if any, to invest into it?

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By |February 19th, 2015|Careers in public relations, Social media|0 Comments

Personal employee branding fallacy; just do the job, stupid

The welter of chatter on developing a personal brand to advance a career has been missing one salient and elephant in the room point: doing an excellent job, stupid, is the most important branding exercise you can do, not sitting back spruiking yourself.

Personal employee branding

By doing an excellent job, you will be offered more challenging and enriching experiences in your current role which will enhance your skill set as well as add muscle to your résumé.

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Look at it from a marketing point of view. Surely your boss, your potential future boss and recruiters are who constitute your primary target audience:

  • It is your bosses (past and present) who are going to be your preferred referee for opportunities
  • It is your potential future boss who you want to have a favourable perception of you, or else you won’t get offered the role
  • In many cases, it will be a recruiter who undertakes initial role application culling and presents a short list to the potential future boss for consideration.

When it comes to future opportunities, what your past bosses say about you is going to have the greatest impact on your potential future boss’s perception of you.

It therefore makes sense that the quality of what you undertake in your current role is the best possible personal employee brand/career move you can make, not how you market yourself outside of this in a personal branding sense.

Take my favourite example of the chocolate bar. You can do great marketing to entice people to give the new chocolate bar a try, but unless the customer likes what they get, then the chocolate bar will never be bought again – flash and fizzle, sturm und drang, cutting edge social media marketing be damned.

Ipso facto, marketing fail.

You need to make sure, therefore, the ‘employee product’ that constitutes you and the quality of your work is one which makes people want to hire you again and again.

The other upside of this is that by delivering a quality employee product, your word of mouth-driven reputation is going to help you become a product in demand, both in your current role and for potential future roles.

Which takes me to important secondary target audiences for your career progression, that of leaders and emerging leaders within your business who you collaborate with will develop perceptions of the quality of your work.

Their judgements will have a ripple effect on your reputation, both inside and outside of the business. They will also influence your boss’s opinion of you (3rd party credibility).

You can be stone cold guaranteed that some of those you work with who are at lower levels in organisational hierarchy and organisational influence will not remain so, whether it is with your current organisation or at others. They are therefore important long-term stakeholders for you in your career progression.

Your own IP as frameworks

I haven’t encountered this thinking articulated before (though I’m not so vain as to believe it hasn’t occurred!), but you’ll find some bosses and potential employers think highly of you talking about frameworks and/or methodologies you have developed and applied.

Frameworks, models or matrices (and their underpinning methodologies) can be applied to a range of communication situations. It might be a framework you apply to the following situations:

  • Consulting with stakeholders
  • Identifying stakeholder needs, wants and issues which will impact on organisational reputation
  • Determining the sorts of corporate social responsibility tactics that will best serve and organisation and its stakeholders
  • Blending methodologies from different professional disciplines and/or management approaches into a unique approach which reflects your own personal view
  • Issues and/or crisis management.

Frameworks or matrices have a sexy branding vibe associated with them. They sound sharp and are enhanced by their visual dimension (the power of visuals has an impact on personal employee branding, too!).

There are a plethora of frameworks out there. And many are taken by professionals from one role to the next, with some no doubt claiming them as their own when their own stamp on the framework is possibly quite small. If they work, however, then arguably that is the main point.

Having the frameworks and being able to talk about them provides evidence of your thoughtfulness, though there is always a risk of being perceived as being a boffin rather than a pragmatic ‘doer’. Examples of the frameworks in action, therefore, will help stymie this potential perception.

PR roles where personal branding helps

If you are running your own business or are a consultant, always on the hunt for new business, then personal branding takes on serious importance. This is because your potential client will be seeking security that what you can offer is pure quality. The profile (positive, of course) and endorsements that exist of your work all offer social proof of your credentials (i.e. 3rd party credibility).

For those working in-house, the business we are promoting is ourselves and our career. A place where actions speak louder than cute sturm und drang personal brand marketing efforts.

Only you can make the best call on what constitutes the appropriate approach, pillars of content (e.g. thought leadership) and effort to expend in building a rewarding long term career as an in-house employee.

How much effort, as an in-house employee, have you expended on building your personal employee brand? Is it on the to-do list? What are you prioritising, or would you like to prioritise, in efforts to build your brand to help with future employment opportunities?

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By |February 5th, 2015|Careers in public relations|0 Comments

Which of the six types of public relations professional are you?

The six types of PR professionals are: leaders, inspirers, creatives, synthesisers, galvanisers and project managers. Which one are you!?

Of course, you may be more than one simultaneously (or think you are…). And to some degree, the typology above will be reflective of your career journey. Equally, however, I’ve known practitioners straight out of university in their early 20s to, indubitably, be leaders and inspirers. And on different days of the week and, indeed, different times in a single day we may need to wear different hat ‘types’.

At our core, however, I’m interested to hear what you think about the types I have identified, what characterises these types and what I have missed out on, got wrong and, hopefully in some cases at least, got right! Please comment at the end of the post!

Leaders in PR – showing us the way

Clearly, leaders lead through their behaviour, not what they say or how they say they’ll act (e.g. walking the talk). Otherwise, in my books, they aren’t really a leader.

A grandiose title and being in charge of lots of employees doesn’t bestow leadership upon a person, at least not in the ideal (which sounds unrealistic but I’m actually being absolutely pragmatic, as walking the talk is about the most pragmatic thing to achieve results a leader can undertake) and useful sense I am concerned with.

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One of the most powerful characteristics of a leader is that they can be trusted. They follow through on what they say they will follow through with and they treat people with respect and, where appropriate, confidentiality. This trust will be founded, hopefully, on the fact they actually care about those around them – about them as people as well as the nature and quality of their work.

Leaders will always give public credit to those who they collaborate with and not claim undue, or unbalanced, credit for themselves. Sharing this credit and recognising others empowers people. And it reflects well on the person who shares this credit.

Conversely, the leader will protect those who report to them, standing up for them as appropriate in difficult situations.

Inspirers: the wings of an eagle

Leadership, obviously, will inspire people. As will those who are creative and produce stellar business outcomes. As will those who are effective collaborators.

Perhaps inspiring others is an inherent quality of truly effective leadership. But I think it’s worth calling out as being a particular type, too, as so often our activities outside of work and the way we deal with these challenges can inspire those who know us, whether they are colleagues or not.

The way we behave, therefore, just like with leadership, is the ‘platform’ on/through which we inspire people.

In a professional context, one formidable way of inspiring people is by seeking to achieve, and actually achieving excellence. These are two separate things. In many cases, the seeking is vastly more important than the destination. This restless, relentless striving to achieve the best we can be is where we exhibit what sort of person we are.

The only fail is failing to try, I tell the boys I coach at football – and it is equally applicable in the professional world of public relations and business.

Creatives – at the heart of PR

Well, where would we be in public relations without the creative types! Sure, all of us are capable enough to come up with the odd good idea, but there are those who are absolutely characterised by this quality. And they definitely do not always seek to lead or be the big boss.

I’ve seen this quality manifest itself time and again in the PR agency environment. It is an absolute winner as a characteristic to have in this context as new business pitches are won and lost on the creative dimension. (I see this as a far more critical element in winning business than agency reputation or rigour.)

And if you’re in an agency which doesn’t win new business, in turn the agency will fail and you’ll be out of a job.

It’s a quality I particularly value in in-house practitioners, too, but it doesn’t materialise in this context as often, at least in my extensive experience. In-house practitioners can be mechanics, doers, project managers etc and do this admirably and successfully, without necessarily needing to be particularly creative.

It would be expected, however, that even the most plebeian meat and potatoes type (another type?!) of PR pros will add some creative value to, at least, the process of undertaking the work, if not the nature of the actual project/task itself. It may not be as glamourous as the ‘big idea’, but innovation in how to actually get the job done can add much value, including saving time = saving money.

Which leads us neatly to….

Synthesisers – the hidden geniuses of PR

Maybe I should call this type the ‘creative synthesiser’, as that’s what I mean. Synthesisers take creativity from whatever sources input ideas into a project/topic/etc and value-add through two means:

  • Coalesce the divergent ideas into a seamless, integrated whole which takes the best out of each contributory shard to produce an holistic masterpiece
  • Value-add through building on the creativity which has been offered, adding new ideas and coming up with further, compounding (‘viral’, if you like) notions which, once again, help devise an holistic masterpiece.

This is an underestimated type of genius, in my view, and is in many cases founded on an ability to collaborate effectively and understand the genesis of many of the ideas which have been suggested. That way, going to the roots of the various creative ‘shards’, our synthesiser protagonist has access to the mother lode of inspiration at the core of the ideas.

Of course, as we can be a superficial lot, sometimes understanding the genesis is entirely unnecessary. It could be the creativity is resulting in a fabulous launch party and its the glitz, fizz and absolute fabulousness of it all which prompted the compelling value-adding and its integration into an holistic masterpiece.

But enough about me.

Galvanisers

When putting together this dichotomy, I pondered the entrepreneur as a distinct type. But then I decided it is perhaps this is similar enough to the galvaniser to group them together.

I think every PR practitioner needs to be entrepreneurial to some extent, not only those who work in mid to higher levels of PR agencies or in in-house leadership roles (though I recognise you could cogently argue the case for inspirers being in the same boat).

And I think there are different enough qualities between the galvaniser and the project manager to make it worthwhile flagging both as unique types.

The galvaniser recognises the creativity, sees the opportunity, then takes a stand to pull all the potentially wayward strands together. It’s an important role. And it is one which good managers (aka leaders in another guise) are experts at.

Project managers

Project managers make sure the job gets done. It takes rigour, intelligence, people skills and discipline. Creativity is not necessary, but without these PM types we’d be lost. We all need to be a project manager at times, but to tell the truth I wouldn’t particularly fancy to be categorised as one myself.

I’m afraid my ambitions are greater than this. So accuse me of being hubristic, then, as in this case I may well be guilty as charged.

What specific ‘types’ of PR practitioners have I missed or inappropriately called out as a specific type? Do you have examples of how the types noted have manifested themselves in your career?

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