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3 Mar 2011 / Julie

understanding and creating your personal brand

This evening i spoke to UM students about personal branding. They asked good questions and I wanted to share my thoughts with everyone in hopes that it might benefit. This is something i think we all struggle with in some capacity. This is also something that they should be teaching in schools now since everyone is growing up or living online.

The concept of personal branding isn’t new- being able to market yourself and project a good image has been around since the dawn of civilization. What is new are the ways you can do it and the benefits and negatives that come with those different ways. Regardless of what technology you choose in your quest to learn, brand, and grow; remember that your personal brand is the reputation that proceeds you. For the purposes of this post, i’ll be focusing on the online stuff and leaving the work of being a good person/worker to you. :-)

Google yourself.

Searching is how people get a first (or second) impression about you these days. Knowing that fact of life, be aware of what comes up when you’re searched. Set up an RSS feed for yourself to keep track of mentions of your name, your email addresses, screen names, etc. I’ve got multiple google alerts set up for myself with varying forms of my name, handles, and keywords people might use to search me.

If you’re not online or have the awesome google fu that keeps you from being found, the absence of a presence isn’t detrimental. Unless, of course, you’re trying to get a job as an emerging technologies librarian or a community manager.

If you’re online, you want to know what comes up. Anything you wouldn’t want potential employers seeing? Facebook i think is the biggest offender in this capacity. Did a high school friend of yours suddenly start scanning and posting old photos of you? My apologies.

Update your facebook privacy settings and lock that mess down. I utilize a combination of friends lists and different privacy settings for each group to control what people see. My best friend can see, tag and post all. My coworkers can’t see photos i don’t post myself and won’t see wall posts i only post for friends. There’s nothing incriminating, but it’s part of my attempt to still keep two separate lives – my professional life and my personal life. In the old days (listen to me, haha) the only way a coworker would see pictures of me at a wedding would be if i brought the prints in to work. I like keeping those lines. Here’s the “10 Settings every Facebook user needs to know” from Mashable.

In the group tonight at UM, a student asked what happens if someone does post something bad about you. Good question. If it’s something like an old picture or post, ask them to take it down. If it’s someone disagreeing with your message, consider the source and/or speak to them about it; it might be an opportunity for an open conversation or rebuttal.

Know your goals.

It’s hard to figure out what to say and how to say it when you don’t know what you want your message to do for you. A successful personal brand is just one piece of the puzzle in the pursuit of one’s interests, contributions and networking. To start, you have to figure out who you are and who you want to be. This is the hardest part. What is your message? What are your goals? Where do you want to end up? You need to figure all these out before you can figure out what will get you there.

Don’t freak out, you don’t have to have your entire life figured out (which i believe is an impossible task, and don’t believe anyone who tells you otherwise). You just have to know what your current goal is. Do you want to be an academic librarian? Do you have a passion for transliteracy? What’s your goal? Whatever it is, it is from there that your message will come.

Create your toolkit.

How will you spread your message? Will you have a business card? Is Twitter your thing? Will you have a website to guide people to your tumblr, flickr, etc?

Whatever you do, make sure it fits what your goals are. Don’t use the technology for the sake of using the technology- make sure it is serving a purpose for you, helping you achieve your goals.

Whatever tools you choose, make sure your message and information are consistent. Have one avatar that you use- use the same screen name if you can (i use stnglibrarian and strangelibrarian for my professional things depending on how long the sn can be). Make sure your information is up to date; don’t be crossing out phone numbers on a business card- just get a different business card.

If you want to keep the different parts of your online life separate, use different sns or emails addresses. Right now i’m trying to figure out how to brand the artist part of me while still keeping it under the umbrella of “julie strange, awesome girl who does lots.”

Get out there.

There’s no point in creating a message and building your toolkit if you’re going to expect people to come to you. The technology is a tool to help you, it won’t do the work for you. Get out there and do the legwork. Go to meetings, conferences and groups. Introduce yourself and get your name out there. Who you should be talking to and networking with depends on where you want to end up.

Do the work.

Don’t forget to do the work. You build your personal brand every time you do a good job at work, help a coworker, solve a puzzle, etc. Your brand isn’t strictly what you say you are, it’s who you are. Building your brand online is your first or second impression. Being good at what you do is the lasting impression. But that’s a whole other post.

Those are the main points to get you started, but here are some other things i wanted to mention:

Ignore LinkedIn

When it tells you your “profile is only 80% complete! upload your resume,” just say no. I think it’s important to NOT post your entire resume online. Each resume should be tweaked and crafted to reflect the job you’re applying for. Having a standard, uncustomized resume out there for all to see isn’t putting your best foot forward. There’s nothing wrong with having your list of presentations, papers, classes, or even previous employers listed, but a full resume should be kept only for those to whom you are directing it.

Frequency matters, or not.

The frequency conversation can be a heated one. I say frequency doesn’t necessarily matter but it does depend on what your goals are. If you want to be known as an expert blogger on TopicA or its your goal to be paid for writing about TopicB, then frequent posts (of quality) are probably a good idea.

Make your own rules.

At the end of the day, you have to be comfortable with who you are, where you’re going and how you did it. Mix and match and find what works for you. Just remember to be consistent, keep things up to date as you change and morph your goals and use the tech to your advantage when you can. Oh, and have fun!

What ideas do you have about personal branding?

Additional Reading:

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