Many an HR manager is worried that an employee with a first-rate personal brand sells himself more than the company. But Mike Ambassador Bruny, with his long experience of helping individuals build their personal brands, believes on the contrary. An employee with a good personal brand generates significant ROIs to the company where he works too.
On AdvocacyCAST, our podcast series featuring the social media experts, Rodger Johnson talked to Mike Ambassador Bruny on the importance of personal branding to a corporate, how you can find employees with good personal brands, and finally, how you can make them talk about your brand to their networks.
More about the guest
Mike Ambassador Bruny has considerable experience in helping working professionals build their own brand, so that, they can have more impact, connections and opportunities. While working for Intel, Mike helped create the community strategy for their employee brand ambassador program. Also a certified life coach and a professional speaker, Mike teaches conference participants how to transfer online contacts to powerful offline relationships.
Excerpts from the conversation
Rodger: Hey, can you tell me a little bit about your background, how you got into social media and personal branding?
Mike: Oh Boy! Well, personal branding for me really came from my work as an advocate, an employee advocate. I was working at Intel as Operations manager and then I was tapped to be one of their first brand ambassadors, as part of their employee advocacy program. I later on went and worked on the other side, the management side, of this whole thing to build community strategy. And that is kind of how this whole personal branding thing came about, because the only reason I got the opportunity was because I already had a personal brand built out. I go by Mike Ambassador Bruny, My handle on Twitter is Ambassador Bruny. That was already established at that time. I probably already had over a thousand Twitter followers, and they noticed that. So when they saw Ambassador Bruny, some people thought I created it for Intel, but this was before Intel. That’s why I am pretty passionate about that in helping professionals build their brand. As I like to say, build a brand inside a brand.
Rodger: Why it is important in today’s workforce to create this personal brand?
Mike: Well, it’s a great question and it depends on whom you ask. It is what perspective you take. If you’re talking to an employee, it is important because the world of work has changed. Being with a company for 20 or 30 years – it’s getting more and more rare. If you look at statistics, it is like almost every five years, you are expected to change roles, and maybe a job, and maybe even a company. For that, you need to establish who you are, how you are connected, how people know you, so that it is easier for you to make those transitions. That’s how I think about it for an employee.
Rodger: Hmm… Okay. And so that would play into advocacy, how?
Mike: When it comes to advocacy, when it comes to advocating for your company, the thought is that ‘Hey! We want you to be a mouthpiece for us.’ But if you are not talking to anyone, then it is worth nothing. If you have zero followers, then it is not worth much. So that is how it is – you have to actually build up a person, so that they are a brand.
Well, you have to build the person up, you have to help them build their following and help them build their leadership. So then it comes back around for you. So it has an ROI for you as a company.
Rodger: That is interesting that you mention the ROI for the company. Suppose a person has 10,000 followers, does that necessarily make them a good advocate?
Mike: Not necessarily, because there is a lot of things that can happen. One – it could be that they buy followers.
Two – how engaged all their followers are. When they are at something out there, do they actually respond to it? There are those type of things.
But I’ll tell you this. The numbers do count.
Rodger: So let’s play this the whole scenario real quick. So Company X comes to you and say, “Hey Mike, what should we be watching for among our colleagues, what characteristics make up remarkable brand advocates in our company? We know we have people tweeting, we know we have people on Facebook and LinkedIn, and we know people are blogging. We even know people are talking about our brand outside the company. What are those characteristics we should be looking for to have the best advocates as brand ambassadors?
Mike: One – Look for what are they saying about the company.
Two – Are they connected to the type of people that you like to eventually have as customers?
The other way is just to put out a casting call. “Hey! Who is interested?” See who raises their hands?
Rodger: You mentioned the casting call. That’s an interesting concept because there are people inside organizations who are really passionate about the work that they’re doing, and then there are people who are inside of an organization and they are working, but not necessarily as passionate as others. So would you say that people that are most passionate are the ones going to be raising their hands and say, “Hey, let’s do it!”
Well, what about those people who have lost passion? How do we get those people on board as well?
Mike: We have to be aware that it takes a little bit with the casting call. So we don’t know if the people who are passionate are the ones who raise their hands.
Those who are less passionate, there’s a couple of things going on.
Because there is a piece of this that you know – Not everyone is going to be an advocate. Let’s not have the misconception that we are going to get all of our employees to be advocates. All of your employees are not advocates right now. There are some angry people in your company. So understand that.
If you want to get people who are lukewarm about your company to become advocates, love them first. Don’t expect them to love you until you love them first. And for me, that starts with helping them to build their brand. It is understanding what is important to them. It is very easy to look and see what’s important to your company. This is our direction and our mission. But ok cool. Talk to people who work for you. What are they interested in?
Rodger: Love the hot advocates first, I like what you said. One of the interesting things I ran into in organizations is that once you have all these people, especially hot advocates that are passionate about advocating your brand, you have to organize teams. So how do you go about organizing these employee advocacy teams? How do you bring those people together without actually taking them away from their departments?
Mike: We need to find some online ways for them to get together because they are going through a shared experience. Not a marketing experience, not a sales experience, but a shared experience of spreading the word about your company.
You can do that by weekly online chats, or once a quarter, you get together. But you have to build that in because it is important. You should also commit to quarterly or twice a year of trying to get people some face time.
Finally, they got to feel love, they got to feel they’re not alone on this journey. Yes. A lot of this advocacy is online, but you add on this human connection and it changes everything.
Rodger: Is there anything that I missed in my questioning and in our discussion that you might add to bring value to organizations that are seeking great advocate networks inside?
Mike: People are going to have resistance, and hard to change. You have to be aware that they need to know that all movements are small. You have this huge group of people doing stuff. No.. It’s going to be a few people who are doing the work, and the ripple of what they are going to do is big. But remember that people that consistently show up are going to be small. So be aware of that and appreciate that. Accept that in the beginning and then learn how you can recognize those people.
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