How to Turn High-Profile Employees Into Brand Ambassadors

If They've Got Strong Personal Brands, Use Them to Call Attention to Your Company

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Kaplan Mobray
Kaplan Mobray

To stand out in an environment where it seems that everyone is talking but no one is listening, forward-thinking Fortune 500 companies are trying a new tack: They're tapping into the personal brands of their most inspiring, effusive and public executives. In fact, rather than being viewed as renegade moonlighters, motivational speakers at companies such as Deloitte, Nike and Pitney Bowes have become their company's most coveted brand ambassadors.

Personal brands can bring to life an organization's culture as no print or digital image can, especially for a professional-services firm. Deloitte, an organization known for having several authors and renowned speakers, touts employees Brian Dzingai, a 2008 Beijing Olympics 200-meter finalist, and Tiffaney Florentine, a former participant on the hit TV show "American Gladiators."

Keith Wyche, president of operations at Pitney Bowes U.S. and author of "Good Is Not Enough," travels the country inspiring minority professionals. Through his work outside of Pitney, he is able to make meaningful connections with potential customers, businesses and retail consumers that translate into bottom-line value for Pitney Bowes.

Consumers increasingly base their feelings about a company on what they know about its people, rather than what an ad agency's creative team can portray. As companies begin to understand the interdependent relationship between employees and profits, a new model for hiring and sourcing talent emerges. Social media will pave the way for applicants to build strong relationships with recruiters well before a face-to-face interview. Now, instead of taking traditional applications, jobs will find recruits after they have built powerful personal brands online or through other forms of recognition.

Hiring employees who have established personal brands will help companies immediately inherit value and relevance in a crowded market and may lead to quicker results in meeting growth objectives. Similar to following a popular icon on Twitter as a way to access a wider network of buyers, companies today will look for prospective employees who bring skill as well as recognition.

Kaplan Mobray is an acclaimed author, career coach and motivational speaker on topics ranging from personal branding, leadership and networking to public speaking and success. For more than 15 years he has led corporate marketing, advertising and brand-development initiatives for Fortune 500 companies. Mr. Mobray speaks to a variety of audiences, including professional organizations, colleges and universities, sales forces, and corporations.

Bottom line: There's a new and largely untapped resource within corporate walls that can help companies build brand equity, and it's your employees -- specifically those employees with individual personal brands. It's those employees and their speaking engagements and other ways of reaching out that can help make corporate brands real, trusted and relevant in the minds of prospective recruits and customers.

Want to tap into the personal brands on your staff? Here are five tips.

Leverage the PR department. PR departments can play a critical role in helping companies establish directories where their personal brands can be put on display.

Promote from the inside out. The company e-mail newsletter or intranet is an effective way to find interesting facts about the people who sit right next to you. Use these vehicles to promote employees' outside interests and accolades, creating tons of internal buzz that will have your company's brand soaring and your people proud to wear your logo.

Tweet your people right. Social-networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook are powerful tools through which companies can discover and promote their personal brands. As the lines between professional and personal continue to blur, companies that create more access for employees to tweet and add friends will bolster the bottom line.

Advertise online. Use the internet and search-optimization strategies to enhance the brands of your employees, not just your service or corporate brand.

Measure the impact. No personal-branding effort should go without measurement. Successful companies promote personal brands to help achieve a specific set of results. Have a measurement plan that includes a focus on awareness, recruitment, retention, innovation and culture. Measurement will reinforce the value of the people you promote.

An earlier version of this column erroneously claimed that Kevin Carroll worked for Nike. He has not worked for Nike since 2004. While he considers himself a brand advocate for Nike, he is not employed and/or contracted to espouse the Nike brand ethos in any way in his current work. He has worked as a personal brand and creative catalyst since 2004 and shares experiences and insights from many aspects of his life and business in his global speaking and writing efforts.

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