Professional Social Media photo from ShutterstockMy favorite day of the week is Wednesday.

That’s the day we #brandchat. That’s when I learn more from the BRANDidos (a term of endearment for those who participate in brandchat) that I do any other resource.

During one of our chats we discussed brandjacking. It can happen to a business brand and have a devastating effect on the conglomeration of personal brands that support that business.

First, what is a brandjacking? During the chat, we defined it in three ways:

  • Every time someone unofficial represents themselves as speaking for a company or,
  • To hijack a brand to deceive or divert attention; often used in abusive or fraudulent activities devised for gain at the expense of the goodwill, brand equity and customer trust of actual brand owners or,
  • A brandjacking by a consumer refers to how the consumer perceives or uses your product or service. A smart company will learn rather than fight this positive reaction.

What went wrong?

Here’s some excerpts from the chat recap:

shotgunconcepts: Brands MUST plan for an online crisis response in the same way they’d plan for a traditional crisis. Q1 #brandchat

karenswim: Q1: This underscores why it’s so important to have clear internal communication policy before going public #brandchat

techguerilla: @brandchat Without moderation risk can never be eliminated. Everyone, whether individual or big corp. is vulnerable to it #brandchat

What can your personal brand learn from this?

John Antonios said it best, “when personal branding goes wrong – they let “personal” get in the way of professional.”

Having a human voice in your online interactions does not mean that it’s not a professional human voice. Exuding your personal brand doesn’t mean to “just let it all hang out”. It does mean be authentic, be real and true to your brand attributes and be as professional and engaging as you would be if we were standing across from each other in conversation at a networking event.

While some want to point to social media being the problem, it isn’t. The core of the problem is having ill equipped communication practices and neither the company culture nor system provided to effectively train the person(s) manning the keyboard.

Although not every company sees this. I still see companies who will shut down a social site or turn off commenting in hopes of silencing the issue, concerns or opinions.

You cannot shut down the voices and comments of a community. You can address it. Engage it. Be human about it as if they were connecting with you face-to-face. And, to listen, discuss and value their community’s voice will provide a strong foundation to create an engaged and loyal community.

To bury your head in the sand and pretend you can “just have a do over” is not real. To evolve your brand is real.

For personal brands in the employ of companies, if you’re in the front line of public relations:

  1. Have an escalation policy
  2. Know how to handle a crisis and be well trained or offer suggestions on what possible scenarios can be. An airplane never hopes for a crash landing, yet their personnel is prepared for one (one board and on the ground).
  3. Prepare way in advance by putting all the tools and resources in place.
  4. Pay attention to customer needs.
  5. Respond to customer needs –personally AND professionally.

Communication is faster and we have to be smarter.

And, personal brands, if you don’t have these things in place then ask for them. It will not only protect your company’s brand – it will protect your brand. Your reputation is still, in many respects, built by association.

If you’re a personal brand doing it alone in the social space, be sure to:

  1. Have a plan as to what you hope to do, experience or gain from being involved with any social network.
  2. Be able to make a focused commitment to that network (if you’re not going to be involved with the community or effectively use a communication tool then don’t use it at all).
  3. Have a definite “friend”ing, following or fanning policy. Put direction in your connection. For example, if your personal profile is your personal profile on Facebook – then keep it that way. Know that you won’t be connecting with anyone that you meet at a conference or some random people who happen to be in your same geographic area. Know what you will say when people ask to connect with you socially. Will you send them to LinkedIn? Twitter? Or, have a Facebook business page profile set up yourself as an individual professional? Know before you go.