Mike Demler, former senior staff product manager, Synopsys
Three years ago Mike Demler was a senior staff product marketing manager at Synopsys, a $1.3 billion maker of tools used to produce integrated circuits. When the company asked if anyone wanted to blog, Demler enthusiastically volunteered. The now 55-year-old had earned his MBA a year earlier, and decided that for his career and the company’s strategy “it was critical for me to become a recognized expert.”
After taking a company-offered class, in September 2007 he launched Analog Insights, a blog that analyzed topics related to a type of chip design. Demler built traffic by making contacts at conferences and universities, and by tagging key words for search engines to index. “The value wasn’t just in the content, it was in who was writing it,” says Demler, who says he attracted 1,000 page views a month. “I knew my audience because I worked at it.”
Yet even before his first year was up, Demler says he started hearing that executives were divided on blogging’s ultimate value. His direct manager told him that a VP said he “was wasting time blogging.” Still, he carried on—often in his off-hours—partly because he had seen so many reorganizations in the past three years that he expected priorities to shift. But in October 2008, Demler was let go. “There was no question that my association with the blog contributed to my being laid off,” he says.
While Synopys confirmed that Demler was laid off, Karen Bartleson, senior director of community marketing, points out that the company now has about a dozen bloggers. “Companies want to exploit social media,” says Demler, “but they face a paradox with employees who put their identities out there: Is that relationship symbiotic or parasitic? I’m an individual who made myself into a kind of brand. When I go, I ought to be able to take me with me.”
That seems to be what Scott Monty has managed to do. He has blogged and tweeted his way through three different employers—and so far, anyway, he hasn’t drawn their ire. He’s never used his brand simply to get attention; he’s focused on sharing what he knows. His last two jobs have, to different degrees, come about because of his branding efforts. “People know my name; they point to my content,” he says. That’s how he’ll get his next gig too, he assumes.
What Monty represents is the endgame; if and when he does leave Ford, he says, he’ll simply take his well-populated Twitter account—and his personal brand—with him, just as salesmen once packed up their Rolodexes. He can do that because he has learned how to balance his own identity and that of the company, and because he offers expertise that corporations desperately need. In a world of walking, talking brands, finding that middle ground is the true lesson.
By Josh Hyatt, contributor
Building your brand (and keeping your job)
Case study No. 1: Don’t be overeager
Case study No. 2: The brand rehabber
Case study No. 3: Branding, not bragging
Case study No. 4: Edit thyself
Case study No. 5: Be sensitive to changing priorities
The promised brand: How to get there