Wednesday, September 3

Branding Employees: Chapel vs. Dell

While Tamera Kremer at Wildfire was covering the debate between RichardatDell and the fictional AmandaChapel on the value of making brand ambassadors out of employees, Adweek was covering Zappos has already moved full steam ahead and is one of many companies that already consider employees brand ambassadors online.

In fact, according to the story, the vast majority of trial and repeat business at is driven by word of mouth and employees. Brian Kalma, director of creative services and brand marketing, employs the term "people planning," arguing that each employee needs to be a great point of contact with customers.

Indeed. So where is the debate?

Based on the comments on Wildfire, it seems Chapel was taking the position that “front-line folks that you’ve assigned to the ‘conversation’ on Dell’s behalf, particularly your Twitter social-media team, are making a complete mess of it.”

Richard has defended the Dell position by saying “We believe that social media helps us foster direct relationships, not just transactions with our customers. Think about your own customer relationships and to what extent they rely on the personal and professional interactions that you have.”

Amazingly, the debate seems to have some social media participants questioning the need to distinguish personal and professional brands online, a notion that seems contradictory to any sense of transparency that social media practitioners claim is critical to success. As I noted on Twitter, "trying to separate personal and professional brands is like arguing that you are a different person when you wear jeans or a suit." We can pretend people are somehow different, but it’s really not true.

Still, that is not to say employees acting as brand ambassadors can enjoy a free-for-all online. Common sense suggests if you wouldn’t say something to a customer offline, it’s probably a good idea to avoid saying it online, where it can be archived forever.

Look offline for online behavior guides.

This isn’t rocket science. The best companies already know that employees tend to be the best brand ambassadors, provided the company benefits from a strong internal communication program.

One of the examples I frequently share in explaining the impact of external public relations on internal audiences is how two different utility rate cases turned out. Without sharing the specifics here, one company started with a proactive internal communication program so by the time the rate case hit the papers, employees could explain the reasons behind the rate increase with friends, family, and neighbors. The other did not. The results were dramatically different, with one rate increase succeeding and other quickly turning into a crisis.

My point is simple enough. Front line employees have always been brand ambassadors. It’s not a new concept. So maybe the real question is: do companies realize blogging is front line communication and are they educating their employees well enough for them to deliver a return? Apparently, Zappos does.



Anonymous said...

Thanks for the post, but to clarify my post clearly was not about the debate between Richard & the construct Amanda Chapel as I stated numerous times but was in fact based on the larger issue of where (if at all) lines are to be drawn when employees represent both themselves and their employers in the social space. While some folks in the comments sought to rehash the argument between Richard & AC, it was not central to my post, but merely spurred my thinking as I made clear.

Also, on a semantic note, my company name is Wildfire, not wild fire.


Rich on 9/3/08, 10:03 PM said...

Hey Tamera,

I know what your article is about and I think the readers here who follow the link will as well, which is why I moved it in the same direction you did, discussing not "when" but that employees represent both themselves and their employers in ALL social spaces ... online or off. More specifically though, I didn't want to recap your post as much as I wanted to give them a reason to visit your blog.

As for you company's name, my apologies. Your 'mark' threw me off on how to present it and your 'about page' does not carry its written presentation.

Regardless, it's fixed.

All the best,

Anonymous said...


Much ado about nothing?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification Rich, must have been your headline & opening 'graph that had me confused.


@anonymous Whatever.

Rich on 9/4/08, 4:09 PM said...




Geoff_Livingston on 9/6/08, 10:27 AM said...

Good post, Rich. Employees do make the best brand ambassadors, and online this is even more important. In a world where identity can easily be manufactured, it is so important to present yourself openly and honestly if you are acting as a company rep.

Rich on 9/6/08, 11:48 AM said...

Thanks Geoff,

You're absolutely right, of course. Perhaps one of the greatest things that social media has done is made people more aware about their own behavior.

Eg. When you get bad service from a waiter, it reflects on the brand of the restaurant. When a waiter posts a complaint about the owner or a customer online, the same thing happens. Conversely, it cuts both ways.

There is seldom any difference between being the customer or company rep anymore ... eg. a critical customer who happens to be a waiter from another restaurant might say more about their establishment than the one they critique, which places a greater emphasis on being more factual and less petty in the presentation.

In other words, saying the soup is cold when it's cold is fair. Saying it's cold when it's not, not so.

All the best,


Blog Archive

by Richard R Becker Copyright and Trademark, Copywrite, Ink. © 2021; Theme designed by Bie Blogger Template