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August 24, 2009


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Tony Fannin

I really like the question you bring up. I think personal brand is easier to achieve if you are already associated with a corporate brand. It's the corporate brand that gives you (an unknown) the credibility that you should be taken seriously.

It's a longer haul to becoming a personal brand all on your own. I also think it's different for each industry. The entertainment industry it's mostly a personal brand, but in the financial industry, having a great reputation as Goldman Sachs analyst gives you a measure of creditability.

To answer what happens when the stars leave. I think what's important is how the firm handles the departure. For example, you can establish yourself as a place where superstars are made. This will enable you to still attract great talent. A firm can also be seen as supportive of their ex-superstars. This helps keep the abilities of the superstars connected with the firm and the company is seen as a "good guy".

Maggie McGary

Great and interesting post. I actually think with social media the brand behind the star matters less. Take Chris Brogan--or you, for that matter--your star status is all about the personal brands you and he have built for yourselves and not about being "fomerly of..."

I think that these days, having a million followers or blog readers or whatever speaks louder than "I used to work at X company."

Dan Schawbel

Nice topic here David. I believe in the idea of "branding by association." When you aren't well-known, you have to leverage other brands (Forrester) in order to become more well-known and trusted/respected/credible. If you look at Jeremiah's background though, he's been attached to other big brands like HDS, so Forrester only added a brand endorsement/association onto his brand, to help build it. Forrester, in this case, helped Jeremiah more than just give him the brand association. They gave him the data points he needed, as part of his job, in order to write a lot of his big blog posts.

Jeremiah was going to be a superstar anyways though because of who he is and his work ethic, but Forrester helped him get there 10x faster.

Mary Ann Halford

Answer to the Quick Quiz:

Don Dodge on the Next Big Thing - http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing/ Cool blog. Learned about this blog when Don Dodge was on This Week in Startups - Jason Calacanis's great new podcast.

Patti DeNucci

Great discussion here. Since I've been independent for 20+ years and was never really part of a larger brand, my philosophy about my own brand has been pretty simple: be the best person / professional I can be each day, have purpose and vision, do the right thing consistently, associate with other good people, work hard and "dig in" every day, and get out there and make / build relationships. I think brands are not made, but earned.

Adam Kmiec

Perhaps this path to success (leveraging a company to build a personal brand, only to leave that company) is the reason so many people who at companies like Forrester rarely provide critique or negative commentary. Most come off as fan boys who showcase the positive and are afraid of providing the negative. When you think about it, why would you provide critical commentary...if you do, you just might shoot yourself in the foot and kill the potential to work with that company later on. For example, in the social media space, have you ever seen a report, blog post, etc. from Jeremiah or another analyst that focuses on the Top 10 Companies Selling Snake Oil? The answer is no. You will rarely, if it all, find critical commentary.

David Meerman Scott

Great discussion here. Many thanks to you all for your comments.

Adam - interesting take. I have noticed this too. What do you think that does to the analyst firms credibility? How about the credibility of the individual?

You might like the post I wrote that slammed Gartner.


Amy Yee

Very interesting discussion. I think that you reach a point when you mainly want to be your own voice. Especially if you've had a blog and/or have had a lot of personal interaction that puts your personal brand on the line, perhaps more so than the company's brand. This is definitely accelerated by social media. In my experience - after a certain amount of growth, it's hard to find a place at a company that lets you be entirely yourself online, unless it's your own company - and even then, maybe not. It's not that companies are forcing people to be inauthentic - but they're businesses with a agenda that does need to be addressed when you're attached to them, whether they're being critiqued or not. I think that these companies are an important part of building personal identity, and I don't think any of these superstars are claiming otherwise, but whether people "continue to love them" depends entirely on their own moves - which is pretty cool.

Tom Foremski

I left the Financial Times five years ago and managed to improve my profile. I've been writing about my 5 year lessons here on http://www.siliconvalleywatcher.com/.

Tamsen (@tamadear)

I think there are two different types of examples at play here: those that established themselves while at a company with a strong brand all its own, and those whose prominence arose separate from a company.

When you work for a company and *then* become an independent, you have to work triply hard to establish yourself as a solid presence outside the halo of the original company brand. There is a real danger that without a legitimate source of continuous experience and learning (which endless keynotes may not provide), you start to lose touch with the expertise that established you in the first place.

When you establish your identity separate from a "halo effect" company, that element of post-departure-"proving" never arises.

Jamie Favreau

When you have a corporate brand whether it be big or small you have something which being independent does not offer. This offers you more credibility then just a person who is doing this and trying to achieve success.

I am very YOUNG into my career. I have attended a conference as a volunteer and try to volunteer at conferences because I am NOT working in the field.

If I were working in the field. I would have more resources available and able to have more people come to my meetings on #journchat just because of accessibility.

I think after you establish yourself then it is easier. IF you are just starting out no one seems to want to meet with you because you don't have any experience behind you. You aren't as sought after because you are just trying to get your brand in gear.

This just seems to be my take. People want to work with established people more so then teach young professionals.

Jeremiah Owyang

David thanks, I read this post yesterday --still digesting it all. Appreciate the mention

Alex Lim

Somehow you really couldn’t completely separate a personal brand from a corporate brand especially if the person is still under the niche or rather related. We couldn't deny the fact that corporate brand shadows the person which indirectly or directly influences the personal brand of the individual. However, the real superstar is the person behind weather what brand is it. The reputation might change or stay, depending on the action, performance and the quality of the job done even without additional support.ss

Tracy Bramlet

Great discussion. At the end of the day, persistance and hard work will determine the success of both a personal or a corporate brand. Today, many companies have a number of bloggers/twitters but only a handful manage to breakthrough the clutter and capture enough interest to build their personal brand as well. So while it doesn't hurt to build a brand by association, it is no guarantee of success. The individual must bring something unique to the discussion too.

Kelly Rusk

As someone who's invested a lot in my personal brand, but always worked for small startups I definitely see it as easier in a corporate environment with a well-established brand name. Then again, I may just have'grass is greener' point of view as I'm sure there's a whole other set of challenges that way.

Promotional Products

Very interesting topic. It seems like the people that you highlighted have made a personal brand after gaining influence as part of a corporate brand. So it seems that these to kind of go hand in hand and are somewhat dependent on each other to become superstars.

Walt Kania

Context and halo are a HUGE part of the success of Scoble and plenty of others like him. Not to say they're not smart or insightful.

But I wonder what would happen if you took the last six month of Scoble's content, or Paul Graham's, or maybe even Seth Godin's, and put it out on the web under the banner of Harold Flemke of Des Moines, Iowa.

If Scoble says it, it's interesting. If Harold Flemke says it, well, it's just so much blather. Same content, different context.

I wonder.

Jackie Ann Patterson

An offhand answer to your quick quiz: Annik Stahl, the Crabby Office Lady, is the Microsoft blogger that jumps to my mind. See http://blogs.msdn.com/crabbyofficelady/

Colin Warwick

It's great that we're airing these issues and helping figure this stuff out. I think we can draw on analogs outside the social media arena. For example, every time one of our sales people moves on they take their personal contacts and relationships with them. The trade-off here is similar in some sense.

Omar Halabieh

As many have mentioned already I think that corporate branding does give us credibility and help boost our personal brand. That being said, corporate branding will only take us so far, and thus we have to have authentic skills and potential to continue on our own. This is similar/complementary approach to building your personal brand via other means such as social networking/blogging etc. As our economy becomes more of a "free-agent" marketplace, personal branding is playing a bigger and bigger role. The challenge is for the companies to balance the need to personalize their image, but at the same time be able to go beyond the specific people to deliver the same level of experience/service regardless of the specific people underpinning it.


Paul Maurice Martin

Maggie's, "When you aren't well-known, you have to leverage other brands in order to become more well-known" makes sense to me. From there, it's up to the individual and how active and compelling the person is.


Both need it each.
Although some brands need potential superstars more than others.
A brand such as Ford need a potential superstar more than say a media brand (it's, surely, a lot easier communicating with audiences if you work for say the BBC or the New York Times, say). Don't know that much about Scott Monty (i.e what he did before Ford) but he is one of the main superstars I think of. I imagine Ford have really benefitted from him.
But in other cases, no doubt, the brand has provided a useful leg-up to the potential superstar. Then the superstar outgrows the role and they want to move on to bigger and brighter things.

Laurinda Shaver

At the end of the day, its the value of the work that matters. In your role under the umbrella of a corporation OR in pursuit of your own objectives... are you offering value to alot of people?

If you are. You get noticed and your circle of influence grows.

Mind you, having the resources of a corporation/brand behind you likely accelerates the process.

David Meerman Scott

Ed - I've known Scott Monty for several years (before Ford). He was known within marketing circles in the Boston area, but was not a "superstar" (in my opinion).

Scott is an excellent example of mutual benefit. He became more famous by moving over to Ford (which was a risky move at the time). And Ford benefits from a superstar.



I'm thinking of those Kung-Fu movies with the teacher and the student. At the begging of his studies, the student is completely dependent on the teacher, but as time goes on, he/she begins to come to terms with their own talents until they need to go off on their own.

The corporate brands serve a very important function, in that they breed talent. This talent then can go on create their own brands which in turn can foster new talent, and the cycle repeats itself.


Personal brand is something that fascinates me and I think will become more important as a consideration for companies in the future. (See my post on personal brand here - http://www.jonathancrossfield.com/blog/2009/04/managing-the-personal-brand.html)

I also agree with the comment above that someone can create a personal brand separate from the business they work for - making the boss a lucky piggyback on their success - if only they recognise that.

It's not only about being able to go it alone when you leave a company. It can make you far more valuable when looking for another job. A savvy business will want to hire the person who comes with a level of online authority and a ready audience over the person with similar skills but no reach.

I think businesses will soon start headhunting personal brands to be able to add their brand to the rockstar blogger's back - as it were.

Adi @ The Management Blog

It reminds me of this Intel advert from a few months ago.


They're obviously trying to promote their 'rock stars from within' but whilst they promote Ajay Bhatt in the clip he doesn't seem to get much of a push from the Intel site itself, with just this biog area devoted to the man - http://www.intel.com/pressroom/kits/bios/abhatt.htm

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