Building Your Personal Brand in Academia
Updated: Mar 13, 2021
How to get more from what you are already doing - work smarter.
As a marketer I have rebranded businesses and helped organisations to build brands from scratch. At the heart of each of these marketing exercises has been leveraging the personal brands of individuals within these firms- people buy from people, right? This has led me to wonder how the same principles around personal branding could be directly applied to academia to help emerging researchers and educators, just like me, communicate and leverage their ideas more effectively.
Why should I be thinking about my personal brand?
Whether you are care about it or not we each have one. From the outset, your personal brand is simply the sum of first impressions, perceptions from interactions and exchanges with others - all intertwined with our personal values. Fundamentally, that’s why celebrities have publicists and sign those multi-million dollar sponsorship deals. So while I can't promise a million dollar cheque this post is designed to provide some food for thought. What happens when you take a more proactive approach to leveraging and managing your personal brand? Could it be the thing that takes your academic career from good to great?
Whether you are well-versed in marketing or not here are my top five tips to get started on thinking about yourself as a brand:
1. Create Your Strategy
This doesn’t need to be a big in-depth psychoanalysis just get your thoughts down onto a page and identify what you want to achieve in your career. What does your trajectory look like? What over-arching goals are you aiming for? For example to become an expert in subject x, to become a professor in subject y. This gives you an idea of your end game. Alongside this, consider what values are important to you in how you conduct your work e.g integrity, authenticity - you get the idea.
2. How Do You Want to Communicate?
Now if Twitter isn’t your thing then you don’t need to be on it. But at least give some thought to how you want your personal brand to be visible. For example, is your LinkedIn up to date, is your profile on your institution’s website accurate or would a personal website be helpful for communicating your contribution more independently. Having a space to communicate your contributions is important but you have the choice as to which platforms you use. Likewise, making sure you are consistent with your brand regardless of where people interact with you is huge.
3. Your Audience & Contribution
Your personal constellation of work experiences, research activity, teaching and other endeavours enables you to have a unique perspective and contribution to your field. What are the key topics or messages you want to communicate? Also, define the audience you want to communicate to. Here, you also want to think about who you are not seeking to appeal to.
4. Credibility is Key
Your brand is only as good as the cred that comes with it. Do you have the goods to back up what you are talking about? No one has time for waffle - so cut to the chase. Just be honest and share what you do know and get the knowledge on the areas you don’t -the journal papers, the industry work, the module teaching experience. This can be tricky when you are starting out but everyone has to start somewhere.
5. What Is Worth Your Time?
Make sure you consider what events/research projects/activities are worth your time. You won’t be able to say yes to everything that comes your way and you shouldn’t even try. Of course there will be occasions where you just have to do something, where you want to help or it’s just about doing the right thing. But when opportunities do present themselves and you have the flexibility to choose whether or not to proceed ask yourself the question, “is this important for my brand.”
6. Which channels should you consider managing your brand on?
Your own website (more on that in a second)
Institution or research group website
Conference/Editorial board webpages (if you are lucky to have some space on there - check you out!)
7. Get yourself a website.
It doesn't need to be all 'fancy schmancy' just get a site up and running - one page with key information will do and then you can add pages as you need them. Having your own site is a great way to showcase your academic work thus far and it saves you having to repeat yourself on email. Make sure there is a way people can get in touch with you - a contact form will suffice then you can manage who you engage with.
In terms of platforms, there are lots of website builders out there - keep it simple though. No crazy websites here - keep it easy to read and easy to navigate. If it all goes swimmingly later down the line you can go for something a little more snazzy. In marketing world we often build a businesses website and publish it before it's complete just to see how people are using it and to deal with any bugs.
My golden rule...
Lastly, be kind to those around you as you progress along your career - manners cost you nothing.
Download our free guide to creating and leveraging your personal brand by subscribing to the Dr Sam website.
I hope my lens as a marketer on the world of academia is useful. I have a few more thoughts on the subject of personal branding, so tweet me with your comments @drsamlynch If there is anything else you would like me to cover on the blog just let me know.