Guest Column on Corporate Personality for Strumpette

Yesterday, Amanda from Strumpette published a guest column I penned for her up and coming PR blog .  You can also read the original at www.strumpette.com

Finding Your Personality in Personal Media
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Tom Cruise had a great publicist.  And then he fired her and hired his sister. Soon after he was jumping on couches, talking publicly about scientology, confusing fans, and exhibiting a personality that most would rather have never known about. Obviously, what his long time publicist had done for him was shield his real personality from the media. In a sentence, that was her job … and she had done it well for 14 years. The problem with the PR industry, is that many practitioners have been focused for years on doing a similar job for corporations. For fear of what lawyers might say or customers might think, many corporations have a PR team dedicated to pushing key messages devoid of personality. Yet some would argue that a good brand is all about personality – having one and sharing it.

With the rising influence of blogs and personal media, all of a sudden previously "faceless corporations" are finding an outlet to build trust and show customers what they really stand for. Boeing has a face with Randy.  Microsoft had a face with Scoble . Many internet startups would not even consider launching without having a company blog. The power of the individual voice within enterprises is finding it’s place. As this role starts to define itself, the filter that a PR team may have applied to enterprise communications is starting to dissolve. As individuals (most outside the PR department) start to develop relationships with customers – it is their voice that has a dialogue. Doing a press release is often not as effective as having a company’s most prolific blogger "announce" something on his/her blog – and then point people to it. People trust others more than they trust institutions. As enterprises start to allow their personalities to creep out via personal media and blogging, they are finding another avenue for trust – and a danger zone where they can get flamed for entering inauthentically or without an honest voice.

The rise of personal blogging is another example of the same phenomenon from the opposite end. People are beginning to share their professional personalities as well as their personal ones through blogs. For several years there have been tools to allow people to create a personal blog to share with friends and family about your daily life. Much of MySpace holds this kind of content – personality profiles online. At the same time, services like Typepad are dedicated to individual professional users. Users like me who have a blog for professional reasons, mostly as an extension of their professional personalities. My blog is my bio, resume, idea archive and networking hub all at once.  It is my personality online.

This is the intersection personal blogging and enterprise blogging: where authentically sharing personalities online is allowing deeper connections between individuals and others, as well as organizations and their customers. It is this fact that is representing a shift in the entire PR industry. It is not about just conducting media relations, it is about starting a dialogue. You can’t have a real dialogue without a personality. Over the next year, I believe we will start to see more organizations (and individuals) struggle with where to fit their personalities into a field of communications that has become over-regulated and overly fearful about revealing too much truth. As smart leaders start to emerge with ways of doing it right, others will follow. In this new media world where individual voices are increasingly influential, a company without this kind of voice is limited. A company without this voice is invisible. And unless your PR goal is to achieve invisibility, I expect we will see much more personality shared through blogs online.

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