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How and Why You Should Humanize Your Brand

By Meghan SullivanMar 28, 2014

Humanize Your BrandWhen we work with businesses to develop inbound marketing strategies, there is one thing we always recommend: humanize the brand. There are so many reasons to give your brand a face by getting employees involved and publishing content under their names. It doesn’t matter how compelling the argument is, though. Many brands still have hesitations.

Here are some of the concerns we frequently hear:

  • Our customers know our brand, not our employee.
  • The person won’t be able to dedicate enough time.
  • Our leadership team members are busy and can’t add this to their plates.
  • We’re concerned about fielding complaints.
  • We don’t know who should be the face of our brand...it’s not really one person.
  • What if that person leaves?
  • If someone ghostwrites for me, people that know me will know I didn’t actually write what was published.

These are all perfectly valid. Trusting someone to represent your brand can be a little scary, even if they’re one of the most dedicated and knowledgeable people on your team. You’ll certainly want to have contingency plans in place for handling different situations and ensure your participating employees have adequate training and support to be successful.

But consider this—for every reason not to do it, there’s a good reason to do it:

  • Human beings are more relatable and easier to talk to than logos. Logos don’t have feelings or opinions, and can’t become a thought leader. People do that.
  • Having a conversation with a logo can be a bit awkward and less satisfying. It doesn’t feel like a real conversation.
  • There will be greater perceived authority when you position an individual as a subject matter expert and give them a platform to share their thoughts and experiences. A blog post written by an actual person with clear credentials will resonate with readers more than a post published under a brand. It’s taken more seriously.
  • Readers will be more likely to engage with content authored by a person rather than a brand. They want to discuss, share and maybe even argue—all good things that draw attention to your content and help extend reach.
  • Authority in the eyes of Google is on an individual level, more so than a brand level. The advent of Google AuthorRank placed a big emphasis on individual authors, rewarding those that could be recognized as a producer of unique, original content.
  • Your employees can be your biggest advocates. Again, if they’re empowered, who has more enthusiasm and knowledge about your products and services than your employees? Let them speak for you and interact directly with members of your target audience.
  • Your people can become influencers if they’re not already. The professional relationships an individual builds over time can make an entire business. Leverage that person’s clear ability to influence others and give them a bigger platform to reach more people.

If I haven’t convinced you to let your employees run rampant on the Internet (kidding!), here are some ways to bring some of that human touch into your brand’s online presence. It can be done in ways big and small.

  • Identify one person—usually someone with influencer status or potential—to maintain a public-facing profile that represents your brand. There are many examples to check out, but one of my favorites is Scott Monty from Ford.
  • Assemble a team of people to keep your blog interesting and full of different names, faces and opinions. At Kuno, most of us contribute to the blog on a frequent basis, and I think we get more engagement because people want to talk to us directly about the thoughts we express in our posts. We encourage our clients to do the same, to demonstrate the widespread expertise at their companies.
  • If your social media accounts are set up under your brand name, try having your social team sign or initial the posts they make. Sometimes, just knowing they’re replying to Stacy or Kevin will make the conversation less awkward if followers choose to communicate with your brand on a social platform.
  • Recruit guest bloggers with an established reputation and expertise to make regular appearances on your blog. You could even consider turning over your Twitter account to that person for one day. Partnering with a third party influencer can be mutually beneficial, as you share each other’s following and market position.
  • Encourage your employees to pursue ideas for blog posts, articles and eBooks. Content development should be the responsibility of anyone who wants to participate, not just the marketing department or content team. If an employee writes a strong piece, be sure it’s published under their name, and link to their LinkedIn, Google+ or Twitter account.
  • Send marketing emails from a person, not from a brand—or worse—the dreaded “noreply.” Emails should be friendly and conversational, and you’ll better achieve that tone when your email is coming from a person. Let your prospects feel as though they have a person at your company they could contact if needed.

These shifts in how consumers prefer to communicate aren’t going away anytime soon, and if brands think they can start to hang out online where their buyer personas hang out, then they need to leverage the strong voice and relationship-building abilities of their employees rather than trying to engage while hiding behind a logo. Consumers are smarter than that and demand more.

I’d love to hear other ideas on this topic, especially from those who had to overcome the fears I mentioned at the beginning of this post. What companies do you think are doing a good job of humanizing and letting employees be the brand voice? Leave a comment!

photo credit: alexbrn 

 

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