This article is a guest post by Dan Schawbel, the author of Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success (Kaplan, April 09), and owner of the award-winning Personal Branding Blog .
Any intelligent company understands that employees are their greatest asset.
That's particularlly true now. The Bureau of Labor Statistics just announced that the unemployment rate is now 8.5% and that there are 13.2 million unemployed individuals in the US (16% of the population).
Companies are cutting back, and they have to make the resources they do have go further.
So, if you're running a small business or a team of marketers, how do you do that?
One way is to encourage your employees to embrace and develop their personal brands. That means encouraging them to build their own followers and voice on blogs, social networks and content sharing sites.
That may sound like a waste of time to traditionalists, but there are at least five cold, hard business reasons that it makes sense:
1. Free marketing -- With marketing budgets depleting day-by-day, companies are going to have to figure out how to do more with less. As you all know from reading this blog, social media is a time expense, not a monetary one.
Employee brands already have networking accounted for and they are visible online. You can see how many Facebook friends, LinkedIn contacts and Twitter followers an employee has and tap that network to spread your messages for free. This doesn't cost you any more money and you're already paying these employees to work for your company anyways.
Also, if they take pride in your company and truly like your product, they will market it anyways, without you asking them to.
2. Public relations -- Many large companies have spokespeople who handle interviews with journalists. Every single employee at your company has a brand and the chance to make a positive difference for you. Your intern might have a successful podcast series that was in The New York Times and has a title next to his or her name "Intern at [Your Company] company."
Since all employees are associated with your brand, whether they like it or not, they all have to be treated like brand ambassadors and should speak in the best interests of the company. They can extend your public relations department and get you good PR.
3. Sales - Employees who have powerful brands not only get a lot of attention, but also have network bases that can support corporate sales. As long as the employee admits that he is selling products or services for a company he or she works for, then this method does prove to be successful.
By treating every employee as a salesperson, in addition to marketer and PR person, you can generate revenue, without even having to pay your employees more. During these tough times, this might be a good method for meeting your sales numbers.
4. Thought leadership - Many of your employees might have some bright ideas that can make your company appear forward thinking and innovative. This thought leadership can attract great press or top talent that you can recruit.
Of course, your blog should be corporate sponsored before you start speaking on behalf of your company. To get these ideas out there is smart for link building on your corporate site as well.
5. Branding: If you're a startup company, it's going to be very challenging to break through the clutter that is mass media and stand out. Strong personal brands can be leveraged to consistently and repeatedly get your brand name out there, even if you have no budget.
Large companies, who seem to be divesting in marketing, have a great opportunity to use the thousands of employees to spread the word. Personal branding supports corporate branding.
Does your company support personal brands? If so, what do you think the effect is? Let's discuss in the comments below.