Studying the impact of innovation on business and society

Q&A: Personal vs. Professional Branding in Social Media

Dan Schwabel is not only a personal branding expert, he’s someone I’ve come to know and respect over the years…and definitely someone I consider a friend.  We recently sat down to discuss Engage and the resulting interaction culminated in a wonderful discussion that explored the state of professional and personal branding in the era of new media.

How do you define “Engage” and do you believe that people and business that fail to engage will cease to exist in the next decade?

Engage was inspired by the original Social Media Manifesto published in June 2007. At the time, the manifesto served as a rallying cry for businesses to embrace the new world of participatory media in order to earn attention and ultimately relevance in democratized and highly influential online societies. As people were and are becoming increasingly selective about where they discover and share information, consumers are also expanding their social networks (or social graphs) and changing how they form and maintain alliances online.

In the middle of the essay, I summarized the transformation of business landscapes and the ability to connect with customers and influencers as undeniable, wrapped around three simple, but resonating words that were intended to serve as marching orders, “Engage or die.” If we do not participate and eventually lead online interaction related to our business, then we are walking a path toward oblivion. Consumers, regardless of industry, have choices and if we’re not top of mind where and when they’re seeking information and direction, then we are absent and forgettable.

“Engage or die” became the prevailing mantra of not only the essay, but also the social business movement and honestly, it is truer today than it was three years ago. To this day, it continues to inspire champions and it was also the inspiration for this book. As you can imagine, those words might not attract potential readers in a positive light. The message, and the book overall, is incredibly helpful and motivating and as such, the essence of the title was representative in one word and one word only, “engage!”

Over the next decade, everything changes and while the realization that transformation is inevitable, it will only gather unstoppable momentum. The true value of this book is that it minimizes public experimentation and guesswork and helps businesses, of all shapes, sizes, and industries, to answer their own questions as well as the questions they didn’t know to ask. It’s designed to expedite meaningful and effective engagement strategies and escalate the brand within all communities of influence online and offline.

What does Engage mean to you as a personal brand?

What’s in play right now is something so profound that we are only on the verge of realizing its true impact and potential. The path that many of us are on today however, places us on a collision course between our personal and professional brands as well as the brands we ultimately represent. Social media requires us to engage transparently and as such, the networks and corresponding social graphs that we’re forming blur the lines between who we are to friends and family, peers and professional contacts, and also those we hope to reach on behalf of our business. Our attention is finite and it’s increasingly thinning to a point of diminishing returns.

We, along with those who follow our online updates, will become selective in those we follow tomorrow, focusing our streams into curated and discerning channels of material contacts and information. Think about it this way, if you’re the admin for a Facebook Fan Page on behalf of your brand, you usually interact with a captive audience, and as an admin, people see and hear the “voice” and avatar personifying the brand. But in order to grow the community, we have to attract attention where it’s focused, which means engaging in outside communities as well. When you do so however, you lose the “brand” facade and are now participating as the brand “you.” Now your streams start to cross as those who follow you may or may not be interested in the promotional updates that hit their news feed.

Engage tackles this subject as it teaches us how to effectively embrace “multiple personality order” to maintain strategic presences for our personal and professional brands and the relationships that are important to each.

You recently rebranded your blog from “PR 2.0” to “Brian Solis.” Can you go over the repositioning? Do you feel that after carving out your niche, you can go for the “more general audience”?  How does this decision impact your core audience of PR practitioners?

This is a topic that is heartfelt and one that continues to unfold daily. PR 2.0 was an overnight success over a decade in the making and that’s not something everyone realizes as it is just now starting to get traction. As such, new PR is gaining awareness among the decision makers who can lead the communications industry toward significance and prosperity. However, the true story is the shift from PR to public relations and this crusade was captured in my last book with Deirdre Breakenridge, Putting the Public Back in Public Relations – a book that is a must read for anyone in PR or marketing communications.

Everything is changing. PR is also undergoing a renaissance much like service, marketing, advertising and all disciplines affected by conversational and participatory media. PR is also a topic that is debated in minefields. I believe that in order to truly transform businesses from a position of introspection to one of an outward view, and in turn, bring about change from the outside in, PR, for the most part, does not travel freely on paths to executive offices, the boardroom, nor marketplaces. While internal groundswells are triggering responses across middle management, my goal is to bring both ends to the middle, evoking a reaction among leaders to accelerate change from the top down.

If it’s one thing we’re learning is that everything contributes to public relations and this is why social media and strategic and meaningful engagement becomes paramount to the future of any business. Everyone on the front lines within social networks as well as those responsible for the creation and dissemination of social objects are now part of the public relations team. As a result, this becomes so much bigger than PR 2.0. This is now about the personification of a brand and its culture and the ability to connect it to those who can benefit from the interaction and alliance. My work is dedicated to every aspect of business to contribute to the socialization of the brand and every touch point that connects companies, audiences, influencers, and consumers. This is now the minimum ante for businesses to compete for market and mind share today and in the future.

Connect with Brian Solis on Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Google Buzz, Facebook

Please consider reading my brand new book, Engage!

Image Credit: Shutterstock (edited)

114 COMMENTS ON THIS POST To “Q&A: Personal vs. Professional Branding in Social Media”

  1. carikaplan says:

    “Engage or die” reminds me of what we have told our children as they have grown up – “Choose Life.” So much of what you write, Brian, spans from business into Life itself. Which is why I am a faithful follower – you are my first read any given day. There is so much dark, sad, hopeless 'content' to life in general and the spark of good will and hope that permeates your writing is inspiring and refreshing.

    I read your posts every day – every day I say Thank You! ……just wanted to expand it a bit this morning.

    Good day to you!

  2. emjaydoespr says:

    I'm wondering if businesses will be more interested in buying up 'personal brands' rather than hiring a qualified employee? And if the personal brand is strong enough, would it be considered a 'merger.'

  3. ajleon says:

    Brian, I *love* your identification of the personal brand of the individuals as being wrapped within the context of the organizational brand. Very few people identify and delineate between the two. It's important for brands to hear this because it gives seriousness to it, illuminating just how dumb it is when companies just let the intern run the twitter account/blog/fanpage. Great post and congrats on the success of the book, hope its going well!

  4. jonnylucas says:

    Brian I liked the way you bring personal brands to this context and how the secrets of engaging influence that growth. Thanks again for your valuable insights!

    BTW, talking about Q&As, I love Q&A business network

  5. It's interesting how most personal brands are independent or the company owners themselves. I think it was Gary Vaynerchuk who said he believes large corporations will start producing content the way individuals do.

    I think it would be really interesting to see large companies allowing personal brands develop within. I think most avoid it out of fear the personal brand outgrow the company and step away. Giving employees freedom to grow to their potential is scary. As a business owner I want my employees (or members of my team as I like to call them) to grow and really hit their full potential. The reality is keeping them all the way through is a very difficult task. Most people want to go out and do it on their own if for no other reason to prove they can.

  6. I am really interested in this phrase: “the manifesto served as a rallying cry for businesses to embrace the new world of participatory media in order to earn attention and ultimately relevance in democratized and highly influential online societies”.

    Opening your business in the social network has a very powerful effect. It can go positive and negative. Recently Nestle has been getting negative feedback on their exploitation of palm oil in Indonesia (…). Social Media users bombards nestle facebook fan page with protest and hard remarks about their industrial practices. On the other hand Qualcomm has recently publish a viral marketing campaign over you tube promoting their latest screen technology (

    An important lesson that we can learn here is that, if we want to open up ourself to the social network, we need to be able to give good respond back to the user. We need to commit ourself in building a good team to manage our presence in social media.

  7. mckra1g says:

    I very much enjoyed your webinar earlier today via Radian6. There was so much useful information that I can use today – in fact, I have. It's challenging and helpful to be around pacesetters such as yourself.

    Maybe it's just me, but I find it very difficult to describe how I “see” the multidimensionality of social media. It's like a triple helix model in 3D. Fascinating and expansive.

    Great stuff. Thanks for the post & thanks for sharing your perspective. Best, M.

  8. Brian, I love the way you speak. It's beautiful.. Don't you think sometimes the relationship between personal, professional affinity on social media networks is blurred.. or seamless?

  9. Steve says:

    Have to agree with Zainul's comments. Social media is a double-edged sword. Every business, large or small must embrace, but the process must be actively planned and managed.

  10. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing such a nice discussion. This type of discussion give to chance to learn anything very easily.

  11. social media says:

    Your so right, most of these presentations are accompanied by a slideshow of simple text, pictures and video clips. These are tools of the trade for an online marketer who knows the value of video production.

  12. Really interested in this phrase: “the manifesto served as a
    rallying cry for businesses to embrace the new world of participatory
    media in order to earn attention and ultimately relevance in
    democratized and highly influential online societies”.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I love your voice and this post is really nice post . Each and the every business  must embrace whether it is small or big business .
    seo company

  14. Anonymous says:

    Social media requires us to engage transparently and as such, the
    networks and corresponding social graphs that we’re forming blur the
    lines between who we are to friends and family, peers and professional
    contacts, and also those we hope to reach on behalf of our business.
    seo company

  15. Anonymous says:

    Join or die “mantra became dominant not only testing but also the social enterprise movement and honestly. I think this is the best and the great  blogs and  I share this with my family and the friends.

      mobile signal booster

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join Our Mailing List

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Stay Connected