A New Chapter In Personal Brands

by Jason Falls |

This is Frank Eliason‘s last week at Comcast. The poster boy for leveraging social media for customer service and, in the process, turning around a struggling company’s image, will no longer be @ComcastCares on Twitter. Eliason is moving on to Citi where he will head up their social media efforts.

On the surface, it’s a neat, new plum job for a great guy who is a leader and pioneer in corporate social media. But there’s a lot more to the story because it writes another chapter in the personal vs. company brand playbook.

Frank Eliason - Voluntweetup

Yeah, Charlene Li and Jeremiah Owyang left Forrester and are now reunited at the Altimeter Group. But those two were analysts at a tech-oriented company who branched out to be analysts at their own tech-oriented company. (Yes, they serve non-tech clients, but they’re tech/social analysts.) Robert Scoble? Same thing … tech to tech. Different deal.

Eliason leaves a cable company to go to a financial services company. It’s a bit different when it is out of the tech bubble. Eliason is also, intentional or not, the face and voice of Comcast customer service, not just a shining star on a team of content providers.

Frank Eliason is many people’s personal connection to Comcast. Losing him will be a blow to the cable company, and one more impactful than other personal brands moving on have been. You would think that Comcast would realize that and make every effort to keep Eliason in that position. Not so says a friend in the know at the company.

I’ll also be watching Eliason’s move to Citi because the position there, as I understand it, reports to marketing and isn’t a delineated customer service initiative. Eliason is a customer care and quality assurance guy, so he’ll stir the pot at the financial services company, I’d bet.

More importantly, though, I’m interested to see how @FrankEliason evolves as a face and voice on Twitter. Will Citi position Eliason as an employee handling social media or a personal brand speaking for the company?

Ford’s Scott Monty oversees many social media efforts, but is perhaps most effective for the company on Twitter as himself. Yet, in many ways he has leased his name to Ford. (Not a criticism. Ford is his job. And it’s not my opinion. Look at his Tweet cloud.)

What happens if Monty were to leave Ford? Yes, their social media efforts would go on, and perhaps largely unaffected. Monty has wisely built a robust social presence for the Ford brands there and the company isn’t as dependent upon him as Comcast is on Eliason. But what about the Scott Monty brand? If he moves to, say, Sony, and suddenly becomes Sony fan boy number one, I worry that his personal brand may become the Rent-This-Space of the social world.

What happens to Frank Eliason’s personal vs. company activity is going to be interesting to watch. What could happen if Monty ever leaves Ford might be more interesting, but we may not see that any time soon. My guess is that Ford won’t let him go easily the way Comcast allegedly has Eliason.

But this new chapter in personal vs. company brand is being written now. How will the chapter end? What challenges do you see Comcast facing in the coming weeks? What challenges does Eliason have before him at Citi in terms of him vs. the company? The comments are yours.

NOTE: Frank Eliason and Scott Monty are both friends but also semi-public figures in this space. I did not contact either of them about this issue before writing it. I only offer the questions and scenarios here as what-ifs for us to consider about personal brands and company presences in the social media space. I wish Frank the best at Citi and know he’ll be as terrific for them as he was for Comcast. I love Scott Monty like a brother and, though I’m perhaps more critical of him as a result, think the world of what he has done at Ford and before. I also consider him perhaps the best corporate social media lead on the planet.

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About the Author

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).