Higher Education

Cutting through the Jargon of Personal Branding for Academics and Librarians


This week, Karen G. Schneider, wrote an article in American Libraries titled “Personal Branding for Librarians.” It created a bit of a stir on forums and Twitter. And, I think what agitates people is the word: branding. Libraries and universities have their own jargon and don’t see themselves as part of the business world, at least not yet. So, as an early career academic or librarian, what’s it mean when someone throws that word we love to hate around?

What People Find When They Google You

When I think of personal branding, I translate it out of business jargon. I translate it out of business jargon and into some meaningful action. Online presence? More jargon, but of the social media ilk. Personal branding is the image someone may have of you after they enter your name in a search engine. They may find your Twitter feed or articles you’ve published. They may find a blog where you write extremely insightful things. Or, they may find the WoW forum where you posted comments about being a level 68 orc girl. Maybe, they’ll find a press release about you being a level 68 orc girl. Personal branding is not sitting down with a Don Draper stand-in and coming up with a media campaign. It’s stuff about you that’s online.

But I Don’t Have Stuff Online

If you don’t have anything online, don’t worry. It’s easier to start from a clean slate, than to direct people away from things you wish were not online. You can create accounts on LinkedIn, Twitter, GooglePlus, About.Me. Creating accounts like these provide hooks for people to find you. If you don’t want to participate in things like Twitter, then don’t. Instead, look for ways you can hang your virtual shingle and direct people to things you want to highlight.

You may not have put stuff online, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t stuff about you online. The key is being proactive.

If You Do Post Things Online, Be Authentic

This is my other de-jargoning of personal branding. The Internet is a public forum. Don’t say anything you wouldn’t normally say in public and of which you’d be embarrassed to claim ownership. If you would never speak a certain way in the halls of your department or in the lobby of your library, then you shouldn’t say it online. Be yourself. Don’t try to project someone else.

Personal Branding for the Late Career Academic

“Piled Higher and Deeper” by Jorge Cham
www.phdcomics.com

Is That It?

Maybe. If I’ve missed something or overly simplified it, please add to the discussion. As an academic or librarian, what does personal branding mean to you?

Timothy A. Lepczyk

Tim is an instructional technologist and former librarian. On the side, he writes fiction and poetry, and publishes the magazine Scintilla. You can follow him on Twitter at @thirdcoast.

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