It's that time of the year when companies are generally in one of two speeds: (1) use it or lose it, the budget; (2) slow down, the year is done. With the economy slowing everything down, in fact some things to almost a grinding halt, we are left with number 1. And if you are a marketing (or a communications) professional you know what or rather who is number 1 - it's not you.
Social media and your networks can help
This is an opportunity to regroup and take stock. I promise this one is a very good investment. The title is a little imprecise - everything anyone does when in business is marketing. Heavens, courting someone is marketing.
Marketing gets a bad rap, people think it's about the little brochures and sell sheets, then there is a larger conversation around demand creation, which culminates with the most expansive view of all - your business is marketing.
Yesterday at Web Strategy by Jeremiah we were talking about the difficulty companies are having with influencial and popular people in their midst - what we call personal brands. We've talked about it before, personal brand equity is for rent, only.
Opportunities for companies in this environment
Jeremiah outlined some perceived risks: (1) the personal brand is a cost to the company; (2) the now popular employee is likely to get poached; (3) employee exits leaving a chasm to fill. I see them more as opportunities.
Opportunity 1: employees who have good karma and reputation in the marketplace are in fact making the company look smart for hiring them. They have connections, networks and processes to share and a pulse of what is going on outside. We all know you need more of those in your ranks.
Opportunity 2: the truth about competitors poaching someone is a bit more complex. I've worked in extremely specialized industries - insurance/financial services and chemical manufacturing - and I know that even in those industries, people need to be highly motivated to switch - and it's not about the pay. But it becomes about the pay if you handcuff doers to their desk or micro manage them. So don't.
Opportunity 3: I've heard this from more than one manager so I'll consider it a mini focus group - they think anyone can do your job, you are replaceable. Of course, everyone probably knows it's not true, but it's true enough in the way they deal with you. This is bad karma for your interactions. Intention shows and comes true. The reality is that we are creatures of habit, people move (almost) only when they have to.
We are portable, wherever we go there we are. Why wrap your head before it's broken? I say when we stay flexible and adapt - on both sides - we win.
- Think bigger - the whole business is marketing. Today's content-intensive micro interactions can benefit from a good scrub of all those practices that detract from what customers want and need. Your whole employee base is a community with voices, why do you insist in trying to control them? Why not educate and help them (those who want to, of course) shine? This is the face of the company. It sounds a lot like groundswell, doesn't it?
- Embrace your stars and if you have too few of them, shame on you. Where is your succession planning? Where are your mentors? There are people out there in social media taking one on the chin for you, when was the last time you thanked them?
- Let your customers be heard. This is the point Jeremiah makes that fascinates me the most. We've been talking about customer evangelists for several years and then we added the concept of citizen marketers - thank you Ben and Jackie.
All of these points are related to one simple concept - let it go. It's easier to carry the torch if there's a team helping out, and it's ok if they interpret how they carry it along the way. We all have many friends and they often are very different, allowing you to cast a very wide net, wider than the best of lists. This is organic, word of mouth and viral all rolled into one. I thought I'd throw in a few choice keywords to get your attention.
Is there life after marketing? Instead of worrying about your personal brand as an end in and of itself, build your skills, remain curious and engaged, help your community and colleagues grow and learn, be responsive to those in need, and stay hungry. Leading brands lead. I know it's not that simple, have faith in yourself and you will find it's true. I believe in you.
Here are a few choice quotes from colleagues' comments to Jeremiah's post:
Adam Singer: Smart people are not necessarily motivated by ‘more money’ - perhaps by more freedom. You would probably have lost that person regardless if you try and tell them what they can and can’t do.
Matt Dickman: I’ve built a personal brand from zero through blogging and used it to move into a better position with better opportunities. I think trying to lock somebody down will either frustrate them to leave or cause them to go rogue. Why not empower them, set clear guidelines to protect yourself, but use them as the marketing asset they are.
Beth Kanter: Most nonprofits react by keeping the marketing faceless and “institutional voice” which can be stodgy, formal, boring, and cold. If they move past that, they typically have the recipient of their services be the brand or face - or the person’s stories … stories of the impact of the nonprofit services on one person or one puppy are more powerful and can inspire donations. So, why change that?
Robert Swanwick: The glass is definitely half-full. More information and more liquidity creates a much more efficient market. Embrace it. If you don’t want someone to leave then find out if what motivates them is also good for your company. If it is, do it.
Geoff Livingston: A person does not have a brand, they have a reputation. Intelligent management avoids the Scoble personality dominating a social media situation. At the same time companies should allow people to be brilliant.
BL Ochman: Scoble did more good for Microsoft than any of their advertising or marketing before or since. And he built his personal brand in the process. I think that was a win/win.
Christen Dybenko: Tools like Get Satisfaction make it easy for a “lone ranger” in a big company to step up and start listening regardless of whether or not the company is on board.
Alex, aka SocialButterfly: Someone in this thread brought up, “what if a company provides a brand that people WANT to use as their personal brand?” I think Dentsu does a great job of this, and it is re-enforced by their entrepreneurial type of business model. However, the whole branding of the company is interesting. Employees can choose their own “color,” almost like a personality, so that the company becomes them and they become the company, yet Dentsu itself still maintains the umbrella brand.
Fayza: My boss recognizes the risks you mention above. Sure, some succumb to them. He has hired smart people, and intelligent people are always looking to grow and develop themselves professionally. He even acknowledges that sooner or later, this grouping of intelligent people will probably fly out of his nest. So he invests in us as people, and tries to make us the best we can be, as individuals.
What do you think? Are you regrouping and preparing for the next phase in your career? Is your company actively involved in helping you grow and learn? Are you involved in social media on behalf of your company? Do you weigh the risks of joining a company that has a bad brand in the marketplace? Is your personal involvement in social media allowing you to shift your focus from one career to another?
[many thanks to Matt Clark at Image Designs for my new Twitter splash page]