Written by: Katy Pultz
Let’s get one thing straight: your personal branding efforts aren’t a threat to your firm. In fact, your employer should be thrilled by your initiative.
But won’t our competitors try to poach the firm’s “best people”? It’s the age-old question our friends in Human Resources can’t help but ask.
Based on the latest data from the second edition of our Employer Brand Study, I’ll be exploring the reasons why employers and HR managers shouldn’t be afraid of personal brand building and how encouraging the development of their employees’ individual brands actually increases the overall visibility of a professional services brand, while simultaneously building the firm’s brand as an employer.
Generally speaking, brand building is a crucial component of any firm’s marketing and business development process. In fact, “brand awareness” is a key metric used by high growth firms to measure the efficiency of their marketing efforts. We can also look at a firm’s brand in different capacities: overall as a firm, as an employer and at the individual level—the personal brand.
What is a personal brand? Simply put, a personal brand is an individual’s reputation in their field. So it’s understandable that some organizations might be leery of their employees building personal brands and touting their individual expertise. But this activity doesn’t mean they’re looking for another job. And it doesn’t mean other firms are going to steal your most valuable people.
Instead, raising the visibility of your employees’ expertise and deliberately promoting their personal brands can significantly drive your firm’s visibility, growth and ultimately, reputation as an employer. It can also make your team’s experts happier, more satisfied employees—the kind that stick around for a long time.
Let’s look at some of the benefits that can arise from supporting your employees’ personal branding efforts:
1. A stronger employer brand. Hinge’s Employer Branding Study found that after cultural fit and compensation, the opportunity for career growth was a top selection criteria among job seekers. By promoting the personal brands of your employees, you are more attractive to prospective candidates who are looking to advance their careers.
2. Better reputation x higher visibility = Better brand strength. As your employees build their personal brands and position themselves as Visible Experts, your target audiences will seek them out for their knowledge and experience. Their knowledge is a vital resource that can lead to a better reputation, increased visibility and as a result, a stronger brand—for themselves and their firm (see Halo Effect below). At the end of the day, professional services firms are essentially teams of experts that meet client needs by delivering the very thing some firms are scared to promote, their expertise.
3. The Halo Effect.When your key employees have a strong personal brand, people are more likely to have a positive perception of your firm as well. This is called “the halo effect,” and it goes both ways—a strong firm brand reflects well on the individuals it employs, as well. Firms would be wise to make sure their employees have the tools, skills and support they need to be their firms’ brand ambassadors and leading experts.
4. Greater employee engagement. This year’s Employer Brand Study found that the many job seekers in professional services want to contribute to their firms’ success and to be recognized for their efforts. Employees who focus on developing their own personal brands are by definition more highly engaged. More-engaged employees are happier employees, which leads to higher retention rates overall.
5. Fuel your content marketing program. Cultivate a team of subject matter experts, writers and speakers to impart their knowledge. This fosters a work environment that values teaching, which is key to implementing a thought leadership program and building visibility in the marketplace.
6. Expertise-based referrals. A whopping 81.5% of professional services firms have received referrals from people who have never worked with their firm at all. Often, these referral sources are basing their recommendation on their experience with an individual expert whom they follow online, heard speak at a conference or read on a regular basis (think blog posts, articles and books).
7. Easy succession planning. By developing a core team of visible experts, you are in effect, creating your firm’s core group of future leaders. By supporting your key experts’ personal branding efforts, you are helping boost their confidence and grooming them to take over the business.
In summary, a firm should not be afraid to support its employees’ personal branding efforts. Building a stable of high-profile industry experts is a natural way to develop leadership—both inside your firm and among your industry peers.