When Your Personal Brand Scares the Hell Out of the Corporate Brand

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Your personal brand

 A Brand Conference is the Perfect Place to Talk about My Personal Brand

This morning I’m heading to Jeff Pulver’s 140 Brands Conference where I’ll be speaking.  My session is titled, “When Your Personal Brand Outshines the Corporate Brand.”

I wrote a blog post regarding this topic in 2010.  What I didn’t tell you when I first wrote this blog post, is that this blog post was really about me.So today at the Brands Conference, I’m sharing my story with my peers in the social media marketing and business industry.  This is not the first time I’ve publicly shared my story, but it is the first time I’ve chosen to blog about it.

The “Trouble” with Employee Engagement and Strong Employee Branding

It was February 2009 and I returned to work after a 10 week maternity leave.  I returned to my office with nearly 4,000 unanswered emails, a laundry list of to do’s, and ever-growing questions, concerns, and issue with my social media and after work activities.  You see during my maternity leave, my team steered this ship without me with occasional visits from my new boss who I was assigned to as part of a corporate restructure just two weeks before my maternity leave began.  While I had a relationship with this boss and the company had always been aware of my blogging and activities on social media, growing concerns were building.

Prior to returning to my maternity leave, my team had made me aware of the question about how I was exactly using social media and my blog to increase candidate flow and evaluate my region’s employee turnover.  I was armed with nearly 2 years of data including candidate source and exit interview surveys using a tool like Survey Monkey as well as reports to support my activities in the field of social media and social recruiting.  I was prepared and ready for war.

Separating the Corporate Brand and the Personal Brand

I no longer tweeted, Facebooked, or blogged from my company issued computer at home or at work.  While I had special approved access to social media platforms, I avoided them altogether and opted to use my mobile device, a 3G iPhone to check my personal emails and social networking accounts.  I knew my boss, the Presiden of my Region and legal were watching.  And for about eight months, things seemed to be holding themselves together.

I began working with a special social media committee at OfficeMax helping provide them insights into how employees and candidates are using social media.  I worked to provide them resources as we created our organization’s new social media policy until I realized they weren’t concerned about social media regarding any one else but me.

When Employees are Using Social Media, They Brand Themselves

It was just after I returned from my attending my first ever social media conference in September of 2009, Recruitfest that reality stared me in the face.  The hours I spent revising, drafting and researching policies and information about social media were not for the 20,000 employees at our organization but one single individual alone, me.

The writing was on the wall and in my mind, the company missed a golden opportunity to leverage my knowledge, enthusiasm, and passion which is why I choose to share my story with my peers at the Brands Conference and with countless other HR and recruiting professionals.  I learned I’m not alone.  The more I share my story, the more I learn that employees who are an organization’s most valuable asset are discouraged instead of encouraged to leverage their networks and communities built online to support, enhance, and further their reach.

When Employees are Using Social Media, They Brand Themselves

I find this perplexing considering that community as well as engagement is what makes social media successful.  It’s why I’m pitched 100 times a day as a blogger, influencer, and community manager.  Because one voice is just one voice but a community builds bridges, build trust, and drives business.  And shouldn’t that come from those who know your organization best?  Yes.

Photo Credit eLight Bulb. 

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  1. Ahhhh Jessica,

    This rings true to me, a familiar tale. To the point my previous employer is now starting to look at Social Media, in terms of blogging, a FB page, a well utilised LI site and Twitter account… all things I got in trouble for when there. TO the point, I recently had a meeting with an Exec of said company, asking for my advice on such matters, where he added… “You were before your time here weren’t you mate” I’m not sure my response of “well der!!!” was the most professional sentence I’ve ever said 🙂



    Dan Nuroo |
    • Thanks Dan!

      There are more of us early adopters who were experimenting out there with a similar story just a couple years ago. Send that guy a bill, and I know the old company is still watching. I can see them view my LI profile and open my email newsletter. My goal it to help introduce social media to those folks like my boss that didn’t quite get it.

      Thanks for the comment.


  2. YES! I have had a similar experience with digital storytelling. I’ve used my skill set for my organization as a part of a small component of my larger communications job. When my colleagues (outside of the org) and I decided we were going to use our skills in this area on a volunteer basis for other orgs – and have gotten well known in the community for it – my boss stepped in and said she thought it was a conflict of interest for my job.

    Is a lawyer giving legal advice to her friends a conflict of interest? Is a subject matter expert teaching in an adjunct role usurping his role at the company? Is a doctor writing a column on health in the local paper mean her identity is bigger than the hospital she works for?

    Social media and engagement are valid skill sets, but just because they’re new doesn’t mean their use in professional AND personal situations can’t exist peacefully.

    • Mandy,

      There are many of us out there and as I’ve shared my story more people have come forward. There is definetely still a learning curve when it comes to executives and bosses understanding how social media can be used in your own time and on your own dime. I didn’t represent my company or set up a Twitter account like Frank Eliason did. I was me, but things quickly became something more.

      What we do on our own time should really not seep into our working life and these things normally happen because bossees don’t understand how its being used. Their ignorance and fear has resulted in lost opportunities to leverage the employees at their own organizations instead of hiring outside of the company for a social media expert or provide company insights and build rapport with the other employees in the organization where they work.


  3. Wow. This is almost EXACTLY the place I am in right now. Thank you for sharing that story. It gives me a strange sense of hope …

  4. I am so happy to find this article. I thought I was going stir crazy all this time. This started to happen to me about two years ago and I started to provide advice and build decks but I was not invited to the party. The information was taken back to the stakeholders but they could not articulate it because they didn’t even have a Twitter account or any social media account for that matter. I stopped providing advice and devoted my time to my personal brand and volunteer activities where I could really learn my craft. Fast forward to the present and while I am not invited to the party I am being asked for advice on the side. I advised the best way to understand social media is to be immersed…get an account and talk to people. The look on their face was priceless!

    missbrowneyes |
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