A session I'd like to see at Mesh 07 – Social media, Corporate Brand and Personal Brand: The Employer's Dilemma

Mesh 06 was a seminal event for Canada’s social media community. Happily, Mark, Mathew, Mike, Rob and Stuart, have decided that one good event deserves another. And that means there will be a Mesh 2007.

Mesh ConferenceHere’s one session I hope the organizers include in this year’s program: “Social media, Corporate Brand and Personal Brand: The Employer’s Dilemma.”

In the past year, we have seen several prominent bloggers and podcasters leave their old companies for newer pastures. Some examples: PR uber blogger Steve Rubel left CooperKatz to join Edelman. Podtech made Microsoft’s prize blogger Robert Scoble an offer he didn’t want to refuse. Blogging reporter Mark Evans decamped the National Post for the excitement of new media startup, b5media. And close to (my) home, Fleishman Hillard recruited David Jones from my company, Thornley Fallis.

In each case, these bloggers had been encouraged (or permitted, in Mark’s case) to blog by their original employers. In each case, they built up their own personal brand. And in each case, their personal brand and their employer’s brand were closely linked.

Then they left. And their now former employers were challenged by this departure. What did it say about the company that they had chosen to leave? What did it do to the company’s brand? Did it diminish it? How did each company react?

I think a discussion on this topic could yield some valuable insight into how employers should approach the challenge of encouraging blogging employees while recognizing that their success makes it more likely that they will be more mobile than other employees. What attitude should they take to employee bloggers? Can companies develop enduring brand equity through the activities of these bloggers or will their equity and good will depart with them? Do traditional approaches to Intellectual Property apply or do we need a new set of rules?

I hear these questions from many of the business executives who discuss blogging with me. I think that a good panel of employers and bloggers who have already experienced this social media effect would provide insight that others can apply in future.

What do you think? Would you attend a session like this? How about panelists? Who would you like to hear discussing this topic?

  • Insightful and honest post, Joseph – it would indeed make for a great panel discussion!

  • I second the vote Joe, and good for you for raising this. The subject came up for discussion at last night’s Throng gathering – definitely a hot topic right now.

  • Great idea, Joe.

    I would love to see Mesh raise the visibility of the issue, and provide a starting place to examine and set expectations for organizations and individuals on how to handle blogging and branding issues before, during, and after a separation.

  • I’d say you traded up with the addition of Michael O’Connor Clarke 🙂 I think it would be a great discussion and obviously very timely. There seem to be many PR bloggers who have been either snapped up as students or young practitioners. With a lot of turnover at agencies to begin with, I’m sure these blogging practitioners may be moving around in the next year or two. It’ll be interesting to see what happens then.

    And I have to point out that we obviously parted on good terms and still remain friends. You were even kind enough to host my blog for far too long and you still have my feedburner feed on your account. (Mental note: get that moved…)

  • What an interesting discussion that would be! Kudos to you for being so authentic in this query and for leading the charge in this reflection. I look forward to hearing more! Btw, love the website…..so many blogs, so little time! 🙂

  • Joseph, you have my vote- it would be an interesting discussion. Currently, we look at it as part of the evolution of the company and talent. We try to be the springboard for our brand advocates careers. While we hope they would stay with us forever, some talent is always destined to “outgrow” our ability to satisfy and challenge them. So far it’s worked to our advantage.

  • Joe, nice topic and one in this “echo chamber” type of world we live in that’s designed to get people camping out on both sides of the debate. I’m in.

    I’ll take this one further and elevate it to a company level. With so much sharing of information and employees going on between agencies through social media, how does a company living in this space, keep a competitive advantage? Are PR agencies of the future going to be smaller, celebrity-headed businesses with affiliations to the “arms and legs” of doing the business? Is social media’s competitive advantage in its practice not its ideas (which are shared for all to see) ?

    As well, I enjoyed your comments on Lisa Walker’s H&K site. Look at what it has now all caused…

    http://buzzcanuck.typepad.com/agentwildfire/2006/12/hot_announcemen.html