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Personal Branding = Principles Not Ego

Josh Hyatt wrote an article about personal branding and working at a large company on The piece has caused a lot of controversy because Scott Monty, the social media guy at Ford, was featured in the article. To some, the article appears to paint Scott Monty as an egotist, and because they have so much respect for Scott many people have criticized Josh's article.

In fact in reading through 5 pages of comments on the article, not one, except a piece of link bait is positive about the article or the writer, rather, overwhelmingly people are positive about Scott.

I must admit when I first read the article I had to read it twice to understand the nuance of what Josh was getting at. I was also slightly put off by a picture of a name badge stating, "Hello my name is Mr. Awesome."

I reckon the first paragraph about Scott Monty soured the audience to Josh Hyatt the writer. Here's is the first paragraph.

"Scott Monty's personal brand doesn't take a back seat to anyone else's -- not even that of Ford Motor Co., his employer. "I'm not somebody who can be accused of using Ford's brand to benefit my own," says Monty, the car giant's first global digital and multimedia communications manager. "If anything, the opposite is true.""

Let's dissect this paragraph step by step:

"Scott Monty's personal brand doesn't take a back seat to anyone else's -- not even that of Ford Motor Co., his employer."

This could mean that Scott cares so much for his ego, that he thinks he is more important than Ford.

Or, it could mean that Scott understands that he works best when he sticks to his guns when it comes to representing any company. He doesn't deviate from a sound honorable approach in working for a company and its customers. He is passionate and makes sure he represents every customer well.

Now here Josh may have intended the second meaning, but it just did not come across because Josh uses the phrase “personal brand,” and suggests Scott’s brand comes second to no one, even ford. Or perhaps Josh misunderstood his conversation with Scott, but I don’t think he did.

When Scott was quoted as saying, "If anything, the opposite is true." it implies that Scott thinks he brought more to the relationship with Ford, than Ford brought to him. To some that might seem again that Scott has a big ego, and it would seem that way, but I think we have to understand the context here.

Once I read this quote for the second time I immediately knew what Scott was describing. You have to put the statement in context. When Scott joined Ford, the company's reputation in social media was really very bad; the company had launched a failed effort with Bold Ford Moves. I documented the effort in a series of blog posts about the Ford Bold Moves website and , Ford had hired a number of freelance writers to write about Ford on a blog, and in many of the posts, the writers did not engage people who wrote comments. The entire project was something of a disaster, and when Scott Monty joined the company the site quietly disappeared.

I think Scott was not talking about Ford's overall reputation but the company's reputation as it relates to social media, which was bad when he joined the company. While Scotty Monty's reputation was very, very good, lots of people trusted him in the industry because Scott is an honorable person who sticks to sound principles in handling communications for a company.

Scott’s reputation brought a listening ear from the social media community for Ford when he joined the company, and enabled Scott on more than one occasion to ask people to wait while he got back to people when communication crisis’s at Ford arose. People knew Scott in social media, and trusted him; he was able to bring that trust into the world of social media to Ford.

Look at the rest of the article it does not return to the theme of ego, but rather how people balance and manage their reputation at a large company and how a personal brand if built on trust and a solid reputation can support and grow both a company’s and employee’s brand.

Yes, Josh does go onto to question why how Scott Monty can compare his reputation to Ford, but to me this is a bit of clever writing that maybe wasn't plain spoken enough.

He states, "That there's perceived value in being Scott Monty -- as calculated not only by Monty himself but also by his employer -- is a tribute to his mastery of personal branding techniques. It also speaks to a revolution in the way people approach their careers today."

There you have it, Josh states that both Scott and his employer Ford see the value in Scott having a personal brand, one that's squeaky clean and drip dry. Josh isn't bashing Scott but explaining why it’s important for a social media director at a large company to have a personal brand, and to have enough confidence in themselves to stick to their guns in following the right approach in helping to manage a company’s brand, trust comes to the company because people trust the person in charge to do right by them, their personal brand translates into company brand. Just as I and many people believe that Scott Monty has helped Ford navigate from a poor social media reputation to a good one.

Lastly, I think everyone hates the image. Personally, I'd really like to know if Josh even picked it, I know editors can tack on images writers don't always want or approve of, so it would be interesting to ask.

No, overall I enjoyed the article, but I think only because I totally understood the context of the piece, where Ford was in its social media reputation before they hired Scott. Reading the article in that context I don't think it puts Scott in a bad light but really gets at the heart of why he and Ford are successful, Scott’s personal brand is not ethereal, but built on solid foundations, Scott knows what the right course of action is in any social media communications crisis, he brings those principles to his job as head of social media at Ford and as result people trust him, and they trust Ford to do the right thing.

And I also enjoyed the design of the post; Josh included several case studies at the end of the article that I enjoyed reading, and I think are actually a good model for others to copy.

Still this is my opinion, and I'd love to hear more from Josh about what he intended, and also Scott Monty’s take.