When You Should and Shouldn’t Trust Employees to Represent Your Brand
We’ve been told time and time again that “ Trust cultivates trust” resulting in higher employee performance. Conventional wisdom has it that executives must lead and not manage, inspiring confidence in their teams by truly delegating. You’re meant to give your subordinates opportunities to unlock achievements on their own, merely ensuring that their path aligns with your departmental goals while advocating for them elsewhere in the organization.
But there’s a big difference between trusting someone to produce good work on their own and trusting someone to be a type of public face for your brand. Whether it’s posting industry-relevant updates from their personal LinkedIn profiles, attending a professional meetup, going to the supermarket wearing a shirt with the company logo, pitching investors, or answering customer support questions, these situations come up more than we think.
Surely there are plenty of legitimate instances when business leaders should at least think twice about allowing team members to represent the brand.
Attending a Conference
Most of your team members would relish the opportunity to represent the company at a conference. One may argue that too much is at stake when delegating this task, as you cannot prepare for unforeseen situations. There’s a chance your team member will snore loudly through a presentation, have one too many cocktails at the evening networking event, or act like a know-it-all at the expo booth we’ve all seen these things happening.
However, you probably already trust these people with public-facing business development, sales, and relationship maintenance tasks while on phone conversations, at client-facing meetings, and via direct email communication, so consider a conference as a similar context, just on a larger scale.
By entrusting them with representing your brand at a conference, you’ve created a happier employee who is better informed in the industry. True, the networking opportunities for a higher-level staff member may be more strategic. However, giving your team opportunities to cavort among new audiences has the potential to infuse them with new energy, and their resulting fiery sense of purpose can help boost innovation.
Managers who have confidence in their employees ought to delegate in this case. To determine the right person to send, think of the ideal attendee’s behavior. Which member of your team would most anticipate attending, invest the most effort in pre-conference preparation and meet your expectations throughout the conference, then return to the office giddy at the idea of sharing new ideas and following up with new contacts? That’s your person.
On Social Media
Times have changed considerably since the early days of social media when many office networks blocked access to social platforms because corporate leaders saw them as distractions. Today it’s another place where we get stuff done. Social media is here to stay, and in an age of declining trust in authority, using employees to represent brands on social media is a tactic many companies are seeing success with.
But can social media be used as a platform for business growth without compromising brand integrity and safety?
Social media is utilized by most companies for intra-organizational communication using platforms such as Slack’s private communities and Facebook Groups. LinkedIn, AngelList, Glassdoor, and other platforms have also become go-to’s for human resources departments to tell the company’s story and promote its culture to the outside world to attract the best applicants.
The web is full of employee advocacy guides to “Transform Employees Into Brand Ambassadors,” but what about the risks involved? Remember that there’s a big difference between letting team members operate a branded social presence and letting them do business using their personal profiles. Both are important, but the latter is critical in the age of employer branding and social selling.
In the case of social media, the rewards clearly outweigh the risks. Business leaders should certainly be trusting employees to represent their brand on social media, but also must implement a brand-focused social media policy and training.
Asking for funding is a sensitive topic, and your ability to fully control the flow of information can often make or break investment deals. VC firms or other sources of funding will expect the CEO and/or founder to make the pitch. Investors will be looking at the leader’s integrity, passion, experience, and knowledge. leadership, realism, vision, and commitment.
In this scenario, trusting an employee to represent your brand is ill-advised, as there’s too much at stake. The CEO/founder’s personal connection must convey each of the above factors and is critical to the success of the meeting. You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
In a funding scenario where you’re trying to tap a foundation for resources, on the other hand, resource development personnel ought to be trusted to make a good impression on behalf of the company. Their skills and expertise make them the best candidates to present the cause and woo others to invest.
In Times of Crisis
A solid crisis management plan is founded on transparency, authenticity, and accountability. Depending on the crisis at hand, there are instances where the CEO herself ought to respond.
These include situations where your brand is receiving excessive negative media coverage, disruptions that can result in loss of confidence among shareholders or customers, any scenario where many employees are impacted, or in a case where government scrutiny requires disclosure in regulatory filings.
Especially where media is concerned, you’ll need the CEO to remain visible, caring, and engaged. For other crises of lesser magnitude, trust your corporate communications staff to handle things professionally and make a good impression on behalf of the company. Their role is to instill confidence in the brand while showcasing the company’s core values.
As in the case of social media, every company must have a plan in place so management can respond to a crisis quickly and effectively, and so internal “citizen advocates” know to freeze activity for a while.
Business leaders must consider the risk of not developing their staff by challenging them with new tasks. As such, delegation is critical to empowering your team.
In the contexts examined above, there’s almost always no right or wrong answer it all comes down to the specifics of your organization and the situation it’s in. Would you handle these scenarios differently?