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Friday, April 4, 2014

Don't Ignore Your Best Co-Branding Opportunity - Your Employees 04-05

Don't Ignore Your Best Co-Branding Opportunity - Your Employees

We all know employees can be both brand ambassadors and brand detractors. But what we haven’t wrapped our heads around is that they are also our most important co-branding opportunity. 
Corporate co-branding is a marketing staple: Companies co-brand with one another for-profits co-brand with non-profits (Nestle + The Girl Scouts; Pampers + UNICEF; American Express, Apple, Converse, etc. + The Global Fund – RED); and all of the above co-brand with movies, music, and sports (Aston Martin + James Bond; PINK + NFL; Apple + U2).
But in this ever-evolving world of social media – where almost everyone is thinking about how to “brand” himself or herself personally over social media – organizations can leverage the trend as their biggest co-branding opportunity of all. In other words, since there is no stopping the personal branding efforts of employees on social media, if you can’t beat them, you might as well join them.
DAVOS/SWITZERLAND, 28JAN11 - Sheryl Sandberg, ...Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...
Sheryl Sandberg’s co-brand with Facebook
Take, for example, Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In.  How does the personal brand she used the book to create interact with Facebook’s not-always-so-woman-friendly corporate brand? After all, Sheryl is not only a best-selling author and founder of what amounts to a social movement for young women, she is also the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, as well as the only female member of its board.
Strange bedfellows, if you think about it.
Yet, it is brilliant co-branding. Since we now know that women make up about 58% of Facebook members, Lean In not only serves as a way to draw more women in, but also to make Facebook’s brand more woman-friendly. In fact, the book’s activism may well have provided a much-needed counterpoint to Mark Zuckerberg’s “Social Network” reputation of starting Facebook as a way to rate the girls he saw in the Harvard dining hall.
Not always so successful
Of course corporate brands and their employees’ personal social media activities do not always dovetail so smoothly. Postings made by individual employees have already profoundly embarrassed their organizations, and have sometimes led to dismissal – as in the case of an ill-advised twitter exchange at a Tech conference, a reporter demonstrating stunning insensitivity on Twitter, and Donald Trump’s objectionable tweets on sexual assault in the military.
Every employee’s personal brand is also a corporate brand
This causes organizations to question where their employees’ “brands” end, and their corporate brands begin, since every employee’s tweet, blog, LinkedIn and Facebook entry, and Instagram and Pinterest photo, potentially impacts the company’s reputation.
But it also may cause companies to adopt an unduly restrictive, punitive, or short-sighted policy toward employee social media presence, instead of seeing the possibilities.
Every organization we know of is struggling with these issues: How much control should they wield? How much license should they grant their employees on social media, since it is almost impossible to prohibit participation?
Some organizations still demand to vet every employee communication (you can imagine how well that works). Others have long, involved guidelines for every social media interaction. And yet others try to homogenize their employees’ social media presence by suggesting a “template” for their various profiles. Some simply ask employees to exercise good judgment. Standard practice spans the gamut from authoritarian and restrictive to laissez-faire.

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