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.
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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