“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
So said Omaha’s own oracle, Warren Buffett. While it would be easy to write this off as a platitude, his statement carries a lot of weight for brands publishing any sort of content today. When publishing content, brands and employees must walk the fine line between saying too much and not saying enough.
This issue is especially pertinent in an era of blogging. Posts on your company’s blog must be attributed to someone or something — either your brand itself (as an editor, for example) or individual authors within your company. Out of misunderstanding or perhaps laziness, many new companies wrongly publish everything on their website under one central account, not taking time to distinguish between company insights and personal opinions.
Brand authorship and voice, and employee authorship and voice carry weight for different reasons. Here’s a quick guide on when to use each and why.
Brand Authorship Is for ‘Cut-and-Dry’ Content
A company brand is something to be cherished. So is its voice. You should publish as your brand for:
- Press releases and updates
- Cold hard facts (I’m talking indisputable facts here)
- Opinions unanimously agreed upon by the organization
- Information about the company
In almost all cases when there’s an opinion involved, it’s best left for personal voices of employees within the organization. Save your brand and company voice for only your most important content, and use it infrequently. Unless your entire company agrees upon it, it’s best left for employee attribution.
Personal Authorship Should Get the Lion’s Share
Here’s where you have more leeway. The same concerns that apply to brands don’t always apply to people. Your employees bring you your personality — they take what you say your brand believes and place it into context. Use personal and employee voices for:
- Insights tied to the first person
- Controversial opinions (within reason)
- Contextualized examples
- Unique perspectives
Find something you’d like to write about, but not sure if your company agrees? Publish it under your own name, not the company’s. Want to tell a story? It doesn’t make sense to publish it as your company. Use your employees’ brand to build up your company’s (and to show that you’re a company made up of real, individual people).
In All Cases, You’re a Brand Representative
More often than not, when someone crosses a line, it’s an individual who happens to be associated with a brand, and not a brand overstepping its boundaries. See: Chick-fil-A, Papa John’s, etc. Ultimately, the line between personal brands and company brands is very blurred, and too much controversy will inevitably lead to a line that’s even less clear.
In most cases, then, it’s best to play it safe. Attributing everything on your company’s blog to a central editor account may be the easiest way to do things, but it blurs the line between what’s gospel and what’s simply an opinion. Leveraging your employees and their opinions as authors on the blog clears up uncertainty (does the whole company think X is true, or just this employee?) and also makes it easier to distance your company from controversial opinions if that’s ever necessary.
People have certain expectations about what companies believe, and about what their employees’ believe. Trying to mix the two will lead to awkward posts and confusion about who’s who. Segmenting the two out will allow for greater resonance when you post as one or the other.
Your employees are your best asset. Use them on your blog to show what your company is all about. Leveraging your employees and their own brands is a great way to bring up the brand equity of your entire company.