Managing the conflict between a personal brand and a corporate brand

Everyone has a brand whether they like it or not.  I am not talking about the clothes you wear or the car you drive either; that’s definitely part of it.  The brand I am talking about is your attitude, how you carry yourself and the perception that others have about you; not that you have of yourself. Do you have a mediocre brand or one that is stellar and stands out from the crowd?  Whatever the case, your personal brand is a direct reflection on the company you work for; especially with this new dynamic called the social web.

Some may say that there is no conflict, but I beg to differ. I have worked for some really large brands and over time built up my own personal brand because of it.  There is always a potential conflict but there is also a way to manage it effectively.

The personal brand

So you’ve got a new gig, you report into duty, join or lead a team and then you have to figure out how to deliver value to your customers. Value can mean just about anything these days especially if you work in social media in some capacity. Along the way, you develop your skills; earn some street cred, gain a few thousand Twitter followers and then start speaking at events. And if you’ve got a good head on your shoulders you will figure out how to differentiate yourself from your co-workers. Maybe you start a blog, podcast or do something insanely awesome that gets you quoted in the media.  At the end of the day, you become your new brand and you are lovin’ life.

The corporate brand

The corporate brand is much bigger than you. It’s probably older than you and it definitely has more coin than you.  They are backed by investors, engineers, executives, lawyers, shareholders and other really smart people.  They’ve been around for a very long time; long before you existed and will probably outlive you as well. Yeah, they may go through a few logo changes and maybe even an acquisition or two but they aren’t going anywhere.  Not anytime soon.

They hired you for a reason; to be awesome.  I can only assume that the job description didn’t say something like “have a strong personal brand” under the job requirements. And I am almost certain that the recruiter didn’t tell you “as a result of working for our company; we are going to help you create your own personal brand.” But being the smart cat that you are, you did it anyway or maybe it just happened by accident.

Now when the people in your inner circle think about the brand; an image of you pops in their head. Maybe it was a conversation on Twitter, Facebook or some other online interaction.  The brand is not just you anymore; it’s a hybrid between you and the company you work for which is where the potential conflict can begin.

Mending the two together

Building a strong brand means leaving the ego at the door. Egos complicate everything and most corporate brands don’t do well with them. Having an ego will cause the legal and PR departments to watch you like a hawk and monitor everything you say or do online. Why? Because egos have a way changing the context and meaning of a word.  It also clouds judgment. I think we all have egos, but it’s important to keep them in check.

Blatant self-promotion is an example of what NOT to do when talking about the corporate brand. If all you do is spam your community about you, there is a problem. Instead, try and provide value to the community.  Be relevant. The best piece of advice I can give is to “say what you mean & mean what you say” AND don’t pretend to be something you are not. Liars are always exposed on the social web and it can even get you fired if you are not careful.

Be smart when you communicate and don’t forget that others’ are watching. If you build the corporate brand the smart way (i.e. say what you mean, mean what you say, provide value), your personal brand will grow and grow with credibility. You will become a trusted source of information; maybe even a subject matter expert about the company you work for.

It’s really not hard if you pay attention and think before you speak.

And for those with egos … unless you build an app that solves world hunger, please don’t invite me to “like” you on Facebook. I’d much rather just be your friend.

About Michael Brito

Michael Brito has been making things happen online since 1996 with a legit hustle. He gets mad when the 49ers lose, really mad. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

  • Brie Engelken

    Great post. I hear so often from students and other young professionals that they will just keep their personal social networks separated from their professional social networks. But they don't understand that as an employee of a company we are automatically representatives of that brand. When we go to an event in the community – we might be there solely for ouselves but we can't turn the “I work for xxx co.” off – the two are ALWAYS intertwined so we have to start thinking that way when looking at how others perceive us.

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Robert Vignoli

    Well written and very good points. This is very timely for me as, I have had a personal brand incident that collided with a corporate brand. And you're right when you say, “Building a strong brand means leaving the ego at the door.” Also when you say, “Why? Because egos have a way changing the context and meaning of a word. It also clouds judgment. I think we all have egos, but it’s important to keep them in check.”

    I was reminded of this by a friend, I think when it comes to the social media platform we all get excited by the voice that we now have and the power that comes it. And I personally believe that individuals get “trigger happy” and react on emotion. And thus individuals jump the gun to posting a status update on Facebook or quick to writing a blog post that should wait for you to take a deep breath and gather yourself BEFORE writing that status update on your FB profile or writing that blog post. Remembering this will help with being relevant and open minded to protecting both brands is always the right choice. This should be your first choice and THEN if nothing happens maybe other measures are then necessary.

    Fortunately for my circumstance everything worked out beautifully with both brands knowing that good things could come out of it.

    Thank you for sharing this Michael =)

  • Mike Demler

    Michael, good advice for individuals, but any advice for the corps? Symbiosis? How should corp develop & nurture personal brands?

  • chrisheiss

    I wish Steve Jobs could learn this… my have saved him some potential business backlash in the coming months.

  • sue_anne

    Michael – You should definitely talk with Brian Solis about this. He gave an excellent presentation at the New Marketing Experience and has been writing / speaking a lot about the ebb and flow between having a personal brand and also being the face of a larger brand.

    Companies need to figure out how to balance having people be the face of their brand and what happens when those people leave and are the face of a new brand.

  • nirvanacanada

    Whenever we think about someone an image pops in mind about the person's attitude and social relationship. This may be assumed as brand of that person. Person is made up of personal and social, including corporate as well, attribute. Idea sound appealing.
    internet marketing Vancouver

  • ?°•.?.•°????•¯`•°•.?

    This post really spoke about me and my story and yes I had saved the conflict much ahead of time. But your point of ego hassles is very crucial for those who develop their personal brand online and are communicating on behalf of their corporate brand too…Ego doesn't serve anybody. I now am a online business coach and have learnt my lessons well to guide others not to make those mistakes..

  • lgfisher

    Amen, brother!

    Great post and something that we need to be reminded of often. Everything we do, say, tweet, blog, etc, adds to that brand of who we are and, in turn, we who work with.

  • Michael Brito

    thank you everyone for your wonderful comments. This seems to be a hot topic right now and I am glad that I can provide a little value to the conversation.

    @mike – personally, i think brands should embrace personal brands of their employees. It will help develop a more trustworthy relationship and the employee is more likely to stay with the company. I also think brands should actively seek/hire people who are active in this space and have some level of influence.

  • Allen – Personalbrander

    I think you can only feel this as a conflict if you are engaged to work to a Corporate brand as its employer! So, I think this something very personal only to those people! What say?

  • Lindsay Lebresco

    Good reminder Michael. As a former corporate social media head, I had days, weeks, years feeling good about the work I was doing for my company whilst building my personal brand but the personal brand was simply a result of the work I did for my company.
    My company always came first- not vice versa and when it's the opposite, the social media and brand community, can tell the difference. And oh by the way, you're not always going to work at the same place, as you and I both know, so when the brand does swimmingly even after you're gone, it's good to remember the fact that your community loved your brand first and will love your brand even when you're gone so get over yourself and get on with your job. :)

  • Michael Brito

    Thank you Lindsay.

    thanks for your insight. I hope you are enjoying your new gig as much as I am enjoying mine! : )


  • Michael Brito

    Thank you Lindsay.

    thanks for your insight. I hope you are enjoying your new gig as much as I am enjoying mine! : )


  • Janet MeinersThaeler

    Yes, there is definitely a conflict between a personal brand and the brand you work for. I had a slightly different version of your story. My company is smaller. When I started it was about 50 people. I was passionate about working there and actively talked about the company on social media sites. Since I was the only person talking people started to think I literally owned the company. This made me very aware of their reputation and how it affected mine.

    Here's an example: I wanted to do some lead generation on LinkedIn but to do it I have to associate the brand with my own name and go through my personal network. I also want to do it for my own products. Obviously the two brands can easily get confused in people's minds. Even when I speak in public I have to remind myself who I'm speaking for.

    The company understands and most of the time we're both helped. However, as you point out it can get sticky sometimes.


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  • greecetour

    Very good post keep it up.

  • Corporate Branding

    This is nice post. Thanks for differentiating personal brand and corporate brand. It is little bit confusion between personal and corporate brand. You have done great job.
    Thanks for sharing this nice post.

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  • Windi Tapawan Barth

    So true! I find it very tacky when someone invites me to “Like” his own personal page.

  • Michael Brito

    yeah, that bugs me … a lot! : )

  • Social Networking Software

    Be relevant. Probably the two most important words to take away from this article. Great post.

  • Enterprise Social Software

    I completely agree.

  • Business Social Software

    That is a huge annoyance.

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