Personal branding is something that you might have seen more of in recent times as a result of a brand’s increased digital media presence, but it’s an idea that’s been around for a lot longer than that. You might remember Dear Abby, a newspaper advice column from back in the day. In many ways, that was the first instance of personal branding – and it was widely successful. Today, I find many companies are hesitant to embrace personal branding, favoring instead to push the entire company brand. In other cases, where no brand was pushed at all, there was always some sort of hidden “back channel” personal branding that was going on. Typically, this was found in the marketing department through link building, blogging and social media efforts.

The fact is, to do any of these three – link building, blogging, and social media – there is naturally some voice that rises to the surface. If your goal is link building, there is some actual real life person in your company reaching out to other websites and creating connections. So in a lot of ways, there’s already an element of personal branding that’s happening to the benefit of the company.

There other benefits to personal branding, and it starts with recognizing the motivations of a company owner. Not every business owner wants to be the face of the business, but in an environment that demands business transparency, the fact is your customers are going to want to know who you are. Allow for personal branding gives your company a face – or an anchor point – that customers and brand followers can attach to. It’s the ultimate “glass wall” in that you’re not just seeing who’s on the other side; as a customer, you’re able to engage them directly.

The value of being able to cultivate a personal brand is why social media channels have become so powerful, even for the individual who didn’t intend to become a brand but through their voice ended up rising as one. It builds community trust and it gets a following. Following is valuable social currency that elevates a company from just having a brand to being a trusted authority.

Let’s look at the value of a brand from beyond just the customer’s point of view. If your goal is to build partnerships with colleagues or to create a network that can be leveraged, then you need a point person that is visible online. Say you’re trying to form alliances in order to launch a new initiative, and let’s say you’ve reached out to a person in Group A. That person will likely have one or two other people they can connect you with. However, when discussing you to their colleagues, it’s going to be challenging to communicate the company as a whole. It’s a lot easier to reference one point person in a company than the whole company. This allows the person in Group B to grasp onto and engage the individual.

It’s a lot tougher to engage a whole company than it is to engage one person in that company. It also makes it easier for outside influencers to know who to reach, especially if you designate multiple personal brands based on different consumer interests or target areas. So think of it as having regional sales managers – which business owner would agree is a good idea for a national market – but now you have ideation managers based on areas you’re serving as a thought leader in.