What is personal branding?
Personal branding is an ongoing process where individuals market themselves and their careers. The goal is to showcase their strength, experience and abilities in order to access more professional opportunities. The result is a dramatic increase in the individual’s network and circle of influence.
With a strong personal brand, they are more likely to be invited to speak at prestigious events, have newspaper columns, be interviewed by television networks, and publish bestselling books.
When your staff brands themselves as experts outside of the close-knit academic world, both they and your institution benefit. In short, they become a walking advertisement for your institutions.
What are the benefits to your institution?
Done well, personal branding is a free way to leverage your staff’s network and reputation. For instance, academics who have popular Twitter accounts, who are well published or who are on the news whenever a breaking development happens give credibility to your institution.
Since people are more trusted than brands, staff that have a strong personal brand can also dramatically amplify your marketing campaigns. According to the latest figures, having your staff involved in social media should be the priority of your marketing department (from Entrepreneur.com).
- When brand messages are shared by employees on social media, they get 561 percent more reach than the same messages shared by the brand’s social media channels.
- Brand messages are re-shared 24 times more frequently when posted by an employee versus the brand’s social media channels.
- On average, employees have 10 times more followers than their company’s social media accounts.
- Content shared by employees receives 8 times more engagement than content shared by brand channels.
How to tap into this opportunity?
Institutions should tap into this opportunity by mentoring staff wanting to build their personal brand. Approaches may include running seminars successful strategies, hiring a branding coach, developing resources on promotion, or sharing interesting blog posts.
They can also polish their image by, for instance, hiring a professional photographer for headshots to be used across their social media platforms, film videos of them describing their research through 5minofscience.com, or run workshops on social media.
Downsides of personal branding
One of the downside of personal branding is having staff damage institutions’ reputation through problematic posts. Although this should not be minimized, institutions should not micromanage how staff brand themselves: this will drain resources. Instead, offer media training, as well as set a policy and enforce them to allow your staff to continue to build their brand while protecting yourself.
Another downside that institutions often cite is that after investing in building their staffs’ personal brand, they will leave for something better. Leadership coach Peter Baeklund best explained the fallacy of this problem:
“CFO asks CEO: What happens if we invest in developing our people and they leave us?
CEO replies: What happens if we don’t and they stay?
In fact, research institutes can invest in their staff more than private corporations without worrying about churn because academics are tied to their employers through tenure as well as the specialized talent and equipment essential for their research that are only found in their university, museum or college.