Villing & Company

Employees: The New (and Old) Media Platform

What if you were missing out on a publicity opportunity for your brand? No I’m not talking about a PR trick or a flashy new advertising trend. I’m actually referring to a resource that’s in your organization right now. In fact, this resource is sitting right next door to your office.

Your employees.

Recently, Villing & Company president, Thom Villing, wrote in this space about the importance of placing the firm’s brand before the personal brands of individual employees. He used the analogy of a sports team, and I think he was spot on.

I’ll also draw a comparison to the sports world – but it isn’t a positive one. You may have heard about the recent firing of Curt Schilling by ESPN. Schilling, a former All-Star pitcher, was a highly-visible commentator for the network on its baseball programming. He was also known for posting controversial content to his social media channels. A recent post of Schilling’s regarding legislation in North Carolina was too much for ESPN, and they terminated his contract.

Why do I bring this up? One word: platform. It’s well-documented that the media landscape is drastically different today that it was even a decade ago. Social media is a major driver of that. It permeates nearly every aspect of our lives, and the employer/employee relationship has not gone untouched.

Each one of your employees has a platform. They can be a media outlet of sorts for your brand. Not every employee will have a following like Curt Schilling’s, but they have a platform nonetheless. That is an important realization for brands in today’s media landscape.

The Schilling situation was obviously a negative for the ESPN brand. On the flip side, though, your employees can be positive media outlets. A simple action like sharing company posts on social media can go a long way in building the brand of your organization. This is called being a “brand ambassador.” You want to make sure you’re engaging your brand ambassadors, because that positive word of mouth can have a big impact on your business.

Just like you seek to foster positive relationships with members of the media, you need to invest in your relationship to your employees. This starts with internal PR, a subject Villing & Company executive vice president, Jeannine Villing, is much more qualified to discuss. Thankfully, she did.

In reality, this is nothing new. Employee engagement and positive word-of-mouth go hand in hand. What’s new is the wealth of platforms available for individuals to utilize. Anyone can do it. So, for employers, the goal should be creating a cohesive company brand where employees buy into the strategy of the team. From there, employees’ individual brands can be used within the larger company strategy.

It’s easy to spot bad examples like that of ESPN and Curt Schilling. But the positive examples are prevalent as well. Let’s stick with baseball.

My favorite team is the Chicago Cubs. They certainly have their fair share of superstars – Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Anthony Rizzo and Jason Heyward to name a few. Those players have their own brands which they use to help move the team brand forward. In some cases, they are even used to help drive the overarching MLB brand.

However, there are also players like David Ross (backup catcher) and Munenori Kawasaki (minor leaguer) who have become “fan favorites.” Their personal brands aren’t as big as those of the superstars. But “role players” still have an impact for the team brand.

Just because your employees may not have a following quite like Kris Bryant’s, that doesn’t mean they don’t have some type of personal platform. Those platforms can be great connection points between your organization’s brand and your customers. However, as Thom put it, “professional services firms should think in terms of aggregating their collective strengths.”

You aren’t going to market your firm like Major League Baseball. Thom is right when he says that your firm’s marketing should not focus on making “superstars out of individual team members.” Instead, within the confines of your firm’s brand, you should empower your individual team members to leverage their network and platforms for organizational success.

In the end, you must remember that employees are people, not tools to leverage for your brand’s gain. If you treat them like humans and empower them in their roles, however, there is the potential for great gains from the platforms they already have.

It’s a nuanced discussion. We’d love to hear from you on how this plays out for your brand. Reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn to continue the dialogue.

Filed Under: Media, Branding

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