Laura Pevehouse Thomas

New Fodder for the Personal Branding Debate


Cattle BrandAccording to Wikipedia, the term “personal branding” has been around since 1980, but it seems to have really taken off in recent years as social media has seeped into our everyday lives and made it that much easier.

Dan Schawbel rode the wave with the launch of his Personal Branding Blog and Personal Branding Magazine, and has leveraged it all to write a book and become a Businessweek columnist – just four years after graduating from college!

But, Geoff Livingston has long argued against personal brands  and was recently again blogging about it referring to it as a “pop ethos” that organizations need to be wary of “harpooning their social media efforts.”

Two recent high-profile career changes make for good real-life examples of what happens when someone with a personal brand leaves an organization. One I’ve had the privilege to meet in person, the other I only know by his online reputation.

Shiv Shingh, author of “Social Media Marketing For Dummies,” left digital agency Razorfish to join PepsiCo Inc. (Say “hi” to Lynn Tyson for me Shiv!) As someone who used to work for a division of that company (while hiding my lifelong Coca-Cola addiction) I know he’s now part of another excellent organization. Both will benefit from this new venture.

Frank Eliason is best known as the voice of Comcast on Twitter. While his work in customer service for the company was primarly conducted under the @ComcastCares name, it  has brought him much personal attention in print and online media circles. Frank recently announced that he is leaving the company for a position he has only described as in the financial services industry (sounds on Twitter like he’s still transitioning away from the old job and to the new).

Both Razorfish and Comcast existed before Shiv and Frank came to them, and both will continue without them. Whether their departures hurt either organization remains to be seen at this point, but I suspect new stars will rise to continue their work and possibly take it to new levels.

That’s not meant as a disrepect to either of them, just as an observation that new people bring new enthusiasum to the roles – just in the same way Shiv and Frank take new enthusiasum into their new roles.

I love the way Shiv’s old boss David Deal positioned it on his blog:

“Employees are not indentured servants. The days when employees sustained lifetime employment at one company ended a long time ago. Rather than fear the inevitability of losing talent at some point, employers should embrace the reality of the employee as free agent. Employers should maximize the  value of an employee’s brand while the opportunity exists. With an active social voice, a strong thought leaders can generate business leads and goodwill for your company brand. If you fail to empower a thought leader, you’re just going to leave brand-building opportunities on the table.”

In that respect, I’d say that the two camps for and against personal branding are not that far apart. Geoff’s latest post encourages organizations to build teams of voices, and David’s post says rather than fret over the loss of superstars, employers should build a network of them.

All of this is from the point of view of a large organization, though. Personal branding at small businesses where you don’t have a team of voices presents a different set of challenges. For a good thought starter on that, check out Copyblogger’s “Are You in Personal Branding Prison?

Image Credit: glimpsekeeper/Grant Lau via Creative Commons

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4 comments on “New Fodder for the Personal Branding Debate

  1. Good post, Laura. It’s hard to find networks of superstars, they aren’t that common, but building teams of voices and not overemphasizing one team players role is just good business sense, whether publicly visible or not. Hope you are doing well!

  2. I could not agree more with your assessment and the thoughts of Geoff and David regarding teams of superstars. I will miss Comcast, but I built a strong team that will be able to take things to the next level. I think it will be better for them not to be in my shadow. They are a credit to the success, not me. I am looking forward to watching them grow.


  3. Pingback: Twitter Trackbacks for LPT » Blog Archive » New Fodder for the Personal Branding Debate [iabc.com] on Topsy.com

  4. I feel the positives of a good personal brand outweigh the negatives for a company. Frank brought a human face and tone to Comcast and you can’t buy that kind of connection with your customers. Hopefully that team will continue to reach out in a personal way to subscribers.

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