What to consider when harnessing the personalilities within an organisation

Recently I read  a blog post by Chris Brogan which reasserted the truism that when it comes to social media “if you don’t like people very much, it won’t work very well”. This mantra got me thinking about what this meant for organisations and their workforces.

Previously a combination of carefully constructed brand identities and the fear of being made to look foolish by an employee’s lapse of judgement means that many organisations were concerned at the risks of giving employees a voice online. Be it manning the company Twitter feed, writing for the corporate blog or being the named curator/facilitator of the brand’s Facebook page. However, recently we’ve seen leading brands embracing the fact that individual personalities are at the heart of good social media, with big names such as Nike, Levi’s and Starbucks increasingly unleashing the personalities within their organisation online.

This is a positive trend which RMM believes is only going to gather pace and so we’ve put together a quick three step guide for any organisation wishing to strategically and safely harness personalities within the organisation as part of its social media strategy.

One: Have a Strategy

This requires that you analyse your organisation’s business objectives and how they can be met whilst at the same time supporting your audience behaviours and needs. This means clearly defining exactly what business objectives (and social objectives) your social media strategy needs to work towards, as well as understanding the social media behaviours of your audience, and the needs they have. Having done this, it will be easier to identify where your employees should enter the conversation as well as what they can bring to the conversation to meets audience needs whilst at the same time benefits the business.

Two: Identify appropriate personalities

Once you’ve established a strategy it’s time to add the most crucial ingredient: the individual personalities themselves.

Approaches for this will vary widely on the social activities you need your recruits to perform and the business objectives they need to support. They could be a select team taken directly from shop floors to help provide general advice and customer service (as done by Home Depot) or a head office expert sharing their wisdom through a specialist blog (like Tom Stites at Nike).

Typically you will choose employees who have the enthusiasm, eloquence and, of course, the personality to speak for your brand online. There are a number of ways to recruit employees; from carefully profiling and selecting employees use existing HR processes, to inviting employees to nominate themselves or fellow colleagues, and some organisations might even treat recruitment as a form of reward or recognition for employees. Whatever approach you use, candidates must understand the benefits, responsibilities and expectations that come with being a public-facing member of the organisation. They must also enter in to it willingly – coersion is not an option!

Three: Provide support

Having identified suitable candidates it is necessary to prepare them with a comprehensive training program that details their role, responsibilities and the benefits to them in being a public-facing member of the organisation. As part of this, there should be a clearly defined structure for rewarding the important role they are being asked to fill (this needn’t – indeed probably shouldn’t – involve financial reward). As part of this training program, employees need to understand the process and workflows invovled to ensure safe and secure governance of social media activities, as well as when and to whom to escalate issues.

Additionally, if your personalities are being expected to create original content (such as blog posts) then they must be given the fuel to do so. For example, maintaining a good corporate blog is no small task and usually requires a team of individuals to share their knowledge, source good ideas and write regular high quality posts (For more on this see this post Matt wrote recently for the IAB)


Ultimately, many brands worry about handing over responsibility to their employees in public spaces, believing that somehow their overall brand personality will be damaged or diluted by these extra voices. In fact, giving your organisation’s most interesting, engaging and enthusiastic employees the chance to share their knowledge, skills or experiences through social media gives your brand a depth of integrity and expertise which can lead much stronger long-term relationships with customers. The above steps are a rough guide to beginning the process of capitalizing on the untapped reserves of knowledge, character and brand-value that already exist in the personalities within your organisation.

Iain MacMillan

Iain founded RMM in 2006, with the objective of providing good, strategic advice across all areas of digital and social media. Nowadays, the focus is entirely social and involves the provision of more than just advice – insight, inspiration and expertise in social media. Iain leads the strategy development and training teams on most client projects.

He specialises in leading client strategy projects in a number of sectors, including finance and gambling, where RMM has conducted studies into social behaviour in highly regulated environments. He also leads projects for travel sector clients, a sector in which RMM works in partnership with eCRM sector specialist, Spike Marketing. They work together across a number of clients, most recently including Neilson Holidays, Thomas Cook’s ski and active holidays division.

Prior to RMM, Iain spent five years helping to run the web design business, Tonic, winning and managing accounts such as Vodafone, GE, GAP, MTV and Barclaycard. Before that he worked at Tribal DDB London, working on Volkswagen before heading up the Victor Chandler, Sony Europe and Guardian accounts. And before that he had a colourful career in music promotions, running the annual Soho Jazz Festival in 1997.

Iain spends quite a large amount of time trying and failing to explain to his long-suffering wife why he really loves golf, seventies hard rock and eighties pop. She remains none the wiser.

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