Digital Marketing

[caption id="attachment_13545" align="alignright" width="300"]personal brand Your employee's strong personal brand can be a huge boon to your company .[/caption]

Don't be afraid to help when it comes to your employees personal brand. Here are some benefits and ways to help them build a stronger reputation both off- and online.

Just a few years ago, the concept of branding was limited mostly to businesses, and how companies cultivated their image. The concept has expanded to encompass individuals. Now it’s not a question of whether you have a brand at all. It's what your personal brand says about you. For most companies, the concept of personal branding is one that has been left primarily to employees themselves. The prevailing notion has been that it’s an individual’s responsibility to find ways to differentiate themselves from others and cultivate a particular perception. Never mind that employers consider a personal brand when making hiring decisions and may actively encourage candidates to demonstrate their personal brand when applying for a job to set them apart from others. Most companies still want to focus solely on the company brand. The tide is shifting and many organizations are beginning to see the value in supporting employee efforts at personal branding. Strong personal brands help grow the business. Supporting personal development and growth among employees can lead to a happier, more productive workforce. [pullquote]Helping your employees establish and strengthen their own personal brand should be an extension of your business marketing strategy.[/pullquote] The Benefits of Personal Branding You may be asking yourself, “How can supporting an employee’s efforts to become a marketing thought leader actually help my business? It’s really only going to benefit them - and eventually spur them to leave.” [Tweet "When your employee has a strong personal brand it reflects positively on your company."] Consider these specific benefits of helping your employee build their personal brand:
  • Supporting branding efforts can increase exposure for your business. When employees are allowed to represent your company at events, engage in learning opportunities, or attend conferences and networking meetings they are developing skills that can support their own personal growth. They are also getting your business’s name out there and giving you more exposure.
The Bangor Region Leadership Institute (BRLI) in Bangor, Maine is a great example of how this works. Sponsored by the local chamber of commerce, this year-long course brings together individuals from 25 to 30 different companies in the region. Participants develop their leadership skills in monthly, day-long seminars led by executive and other leaders in the area. Not only do the attendees gain new perspectives and skills they also have the opportunity to network with others in the community. This also helps provide exposure to their employers, both during the program and after graduation. Touted as one of the best programs of its kind, completing the BRLI program helps support personal brands.
  • Supporting a personal brand contributes to employee satisfaction. When employees feel supported by their employers, they tend to be happier. Happy h employees are productive employees, making them less likely to leave. According to one study of about 1,200 managers about 95 percent of the employees considered “high achievers” leave their jobs every 28 months. These folks are constantly on the lookout for new opportunities. The majority of these employees noted that a lack of support for personal development was the key driver of their dissatisfaction and desire to move on.
  • Supporting personal branding can improve customer outreach. When your employees are respected thought leaders, visible in the community, or simply viewed as knowledgeable and trustworthy experts in your industry, that positive perception can extend to your company. It can bring in new business and help keep existing business loyal. Not only that, when your employees have a strong online presence that you support and encourage, with social media profiles, blogs, and other content associated with your business it extends your marketing reach.
  • Supporting personal branding strengthens your team. Giving your employees the opportunity to grow not only helps support their brand. it also expands their knowledge and skillsets. Obviously this can only benefit you as a company.
How to Build Personal Brands

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Influencer marketing works well in terms of celebrity social media partnerships. In fact the Federal Trade Commission is wary of these posts fitting in a little too seamlessly. There are enormous benefits to influencer marketing as we all know.  But like blogs there is some  regulatory framework to wade through. Several companies and dozens of influencers have come under fire in the past few months for deceptive influencer advertising. Learn what you should and shouldn't do to keep your own brand out of hot water.

A Guide to FTC influencer marketing rules and regulations

Read these 6 points to make sure  your next influencer marketing campaign doesn't catch the attention of the wrong people.
  1. Not all product reviews require disclosure. And that’s because not all product reviews are endorsements. If your campaign doesn’t involve a transfer of funds or something of value from the company to the influencer or their audience it is not a paid advertisement. From the company’s side this is the ideal scenario. But accomplishing it in reality is tough especially with anyone above the level of micro-influencer.  One case where a disclosure is often unnecessary is if it is broadly understood that someone is a spokesperson for a brand.  Stephen Curry has a shoe deal with Under Armour. If he posts about the company his followers can be reasonably expected to know about his relationship to UA. It's likely no disclosure is necessary. Now, here's a random Stephen Curry video to make this post more interesting.  Okay, now back to important but boring stuff. Keep in mind however there's no objective threshold for the definition of broad awareness so it’s smart to err on the safe side.
  2. Anything you get or give away for free qualifies as a sponsored partnership. Free has a different definition here. Anything influencers are paid to use, items that they are given for free or giveaways that influencers are paid to distribute need disclosure. It doesn’t have to be the influencer who ultimately benefits either. If anyone ends up taking home some free merchandise via sweepstakes or giveaway the influencer has to disclose the sponsor of the contest.
  3. Sponsored posts have to be easily recognizable: A large part of the FTC’s crackdown on Instagram influencer marketing boiled down to something they called deceptive marketing. All that was required of an influencer before this change to demonstrate sponsored content was to post a #ad, #sp, or a similar hashtag anywhere within the post. The meaning of a vague two-letter hashtag buried in a post - possibly among a string of other hashtags - is not entire obvious. The FTC decided to crack down on ads that deliberately muddy the paid nature of the post by trying to hide the sponsorship.  To avoid fines or worse, bad PR,  try the following:
    • Acknowledge the sponsor at the beginning of a video
    • Include a #Ad at the beginning of the post
    • Use Instagram’s custom sponsor subheading to acknowledge the sponsorship in an understated way.
    • Just note that “Brand X gave me product Y to try" as part of the text.
  4. You’re responsible for what your influencers post. Pleading ignorance won’t get you anywhere with the FTC. It’s your burden as a business to make sure that your influencers comply with FTC influencer marketing rules and regulations, because a failure to do so will land you in as much trouble as the influencer. Your influencers may not be particularly experienced with the practice of posting sponsored content. You should present them with a clear guide of what they’re supposed to convey in a post. Educate your influencers on what they have to do so that they aren’t dragged into legal trouble which could mean a crisis for your brand. And check in periodically to make sure every post is following FTC influencer marketing rules. Keep in mind that microinfluencers in particular may be new to the game and need a some education.
  5. Influencers have to actually try a product before endorsing it. [pullquote]Don't pay someone to spout a canned - or even false - statement about the usefulness of a product. [/pullquote]If an influencer hasn’t actually experienced a product, they are not allowed to make any public statement regarding it. Likewise, if an influencer ends up disliking your product you cannot continue with the partnership as if they enjoyed the product. This kind of deceitful behavior intentionally misleads consumers and is decisively illegal.
  6. There's still a long way to go until everyone follows the rules. The FTC has a lot on its plate. Noncompliance is still rampant. A recent Consumer Media study reported over 90% of sponsored posts of celebrities are not disclosed. That means there is some big money to be made on fines. The FTC will get involved when they notice a pattern of misleading content or a particularly egregious case of a concealed sponsorship.
But it doesn't matter how hard or easy it is to get caught. An FTC infraction is bad for your brand. Put in your best effort to stay within FTC influencer marketing rules and regulations. It could keep you out of big trouble.