When Steve Rubel left CooperKatz and joined Edelman PR, his former agency fell under the blogosphere's radar screen. We just don't hear about them anymore. Meanwhile, Edelman ,with its blogging CEO, and popular blogging executive Phil Gomes had its brand significantly strengthened. They are seen as the largest PR agency that "gets it." As more and more traditional enterprises inevitably realize they have few intelligent options that do not embrace social media, the likelihood that they will turn to Edelman, over say, Ketchum, Porter Novelli or Bursten Marsteller increases significantly.
Edelman has several thousand employees. Chances are that very few new clients will ever see these three blogging PR executives, except perhaps, during new business presentations. But it doesn't matter. The personal brand of three Edelman team members sufficiently strengthens their corporate brand. Clients will trust other Edelman team members to know how to guide their first foray into the blogosphere.
Personal brand is not new. When Babe Ruth was traded from the Red Sox to the Yankees back in 1918, many fans moved their loyalties from Boston to New York along with him. What has changed is that the blogosphere has enormously amplified the number and power of personal brands. Just picture how the perceptions of two companies would shift if --and this is merely theoretical--Robert Scoble, a midlevel employee, moved from Microsoft to Google. Just think what that would to your perception of the two companies.
This is what's new. Scoble, Rubel and a rising number of employees employees have personal brands have personal brands that shape global brands. The impact is noticeable now as blogging starts to penetrate large traditional companies. It will be immense in coming years.
But there is another, perhaps even more powerful aspect of personal brand. Big companies now have to adjust to personally branded customers.
Examine how you feel about Dell Computers today. Is it better or worse than a year ago. Dell's ads (dude) haven't changed. Nor has their logo. Their PR campaign is pretty much from the same redundant cookie cutter. The same official corporate spokespeople serve as their public voice and face. But something has happened that diminishes trust in the Dell brand in the hearts of a great many people.
A small handful of former Dell customers have used blogs to express disappointment and outrage about Dell's quality of product and service. Dell's corporate brand has been damaged and, I would argue, that it cannot be repaired until customers become champions for the company again. They could spend six godzillian dollars in advertising, and it wouldn't much matter.
The brands--they are a changing.