Nick Carr has a blog post entitled Have Face Will Travel where he writes
So Microsoft's self-styled human face is now some other company's
human face. This must be the first corporate human face transplant ever
attempted. Will it take? Or will the new body reject the used puss? And
what does it say about this whole human face business when a person
proclaims himself to be a company's human face and then, when a better
offer comes along, tears himself
from the old noggin and stitches himself to the new one? That seems a
little untoward to me. If I were in a punny mood, I just might call it
A company should probably be a little nervous about letting some
blogger set up shop as its human face. The earnings the blogger pulls
in through the attention economy may accrue more to his own bottom line
than the firm's.
I've been thinking about this a little over the past few days. The problem with having visible employees is that when they inevitably leave there is a potential negative PR hit. I started thinking about this when I read Gretchen Ledgard's post entitled closure about the emotional and career impact of having a highly visible corporate blog. I remember thinking that Microsoft's recruiting department had lost some of its shine when Gretchen and Zoe left. Seeing Robert Scoble combating the negative spin on his leaving Microsoft in his post Correcting the Record about Microsoft made similar thoughts come to mind.
What Nick Carr points out is a valid point, however I question the claim that the credit a company accrues due to visible employees accrues more to the employees than the company. It's definitely true that the employees get something out of it. Robert's clout as the 'human face' of Microsoft has gotten him as the cover story of magazines like The Economist and eventually has made him so famous it's been surprising (at least to me) that he'd want to stay at Microsoft as a mere evangelist when he could be off trading his brand for a better gig. On the other hand, there are thousands of people who've changed their impression of the company based on bloggers like Gretchen and Robert. This has directly impacted the hiring situation for the company [given the number of resumes that came in via Gretchen & Zoe's JobsBlog alone] as well as improved customer satisfaction for a lot of product groups.
At the end of the day, who wants to work at the kind of company that is worried that it's employees will become too popular and may get stolen away? Microsoft isn't that kind of company and that's one of the reasons it is a great place to work. If a company is so worried about employees becoming too visible then it probably has deeper personnel problems than just worrying about losing a few bloggers.