When I started my company, Server Density, the first thing that went public was a blog post. The majority of the posts were about our technical challenges, with only occasional product/company related articles. I wrote a post almost every single week and after 9 years built the readership to +100,000 monthly uniques and +25,000 email subscribers. All organically and without paid promotion.
Of course, this was my own company so my identity was linked to the business. There’s an argument to say you should put 100% of your effort into building the brand of your business, not your personal brand.
Perhaps this is true for founders, but is it applicable to non-founder team members, too?
Employees have very different incentives from founders. They might be aligned with the success of the venture (if they’re early) but really they are negotiating an exchange of time and expertise for compensation (cash, stock, etc). They can leave at any point and when it’s time to move on, they will need to pitch themselves to a new employer. Their tangible output might be owned by the company but what about lessons learned?
When hiring someone, their past experience is relevant. Skills and capabilities are the usual filters for any hiring process, but what about personal brand?
There are many great examples of high profile “internet people” who have built up a personal brand through writing. Some of those now work for well known organisations. Some run their own companies or consultancies. Some are investors and some even employ some of the others!
Being “internet famous” isn’t even that important, but writing about and sharing experiences is. Note how they all do this through their own website as well their job. It’s their own place on the internet independent of whatever they might be doing now.
There are plenty of high profile CEOs and founders who do not blog or write but there are just as many who do. The same applies to non-founder team members – writing about experiences and sharing stories is valuable, not just for the individual to get experience writing but for everyone to benefit.
It’s not reasonable for a company to expect to control 100% of employee output. Even founders aren’t really expected to do this. Very few run their business for life. Startups fail. They are acquired. Founders move on. You wouldn’t invest all of your money into a single project, so why do the same with your time? A healthy life balance means side projects, multiple investments, hobbies and other interests.
Indeed, there is tangible benefit to the company in actively encouraging team members to write, even on company time. Writing is a skill that needs to be developed. Doing so will have major benefits for communication internally. Not only that, gradually building a brand is valuable not just for the individual but benefits their employer too.
Everyone should have their own website with their own content. Tweeting is one outlet but the benefits compound from writing on a domain you control. Whether you are an employee or a founder, it should be encouraged. It’s not difficult to start.