I took this week’s thing with a heavy dose of salt. Unlike with Thing 2, I also wrote this without reading other people’s posts. That will be my reading over the weekend! The topic of branding and marketing myself is one I still have a lot to learn about, but I feel that CPD23 is meant to be about my own thoughts. I suppose this means what I say in this post may not reflect my thoughts forever. Unfortunately for my readers, it also means this is a contemplative post that includes rhetorical questions (or ones that could be discussed in a comment thread). However, I don’t see that as a problem-I think it’s important to form opinions, learn, and modify opinions according to experience.
The idea of building a brand for myself is one I don’t find particularly appealing. ‘Brand’ immediately makes me think of commodification and consumerism. I am happy enough to accept brands for products, but I struggle with the idea of branding individuals. Some celebrities (Lady Gaga springs to mind) have clearly worked hard to maintain a certain image or brand. I suspect they dislike being pigeonholed like the rest of us do, but in their case the larger purpose of the branding is to sell merchandise. Again, the emphasis of a brand is on selling.
So how does this relate to me and other librarians? If we create a brand, are we selling ourselves or our skill set? If we already have a job, is it still important to advertise our skill set? Why is it important to have an online brand at all?
This week, I have found it helpful to disregard the idea of building a brand. Instead, I have chosen to think of this as finding a way to represent my personality consistently. I hope this doesn’t mean I have strayed too far beyond the CPD23 brief. I am also aware that this is a tiny distinction that probably only exists in my mind. But, hey, it puts my conscience at ease. I am much happier with the idea of allowing colleagues and potential employers an insight into who I am than with the idea of marketing myself. I have already done several things to improve consistency in my (tiny) online presence. When I started to use Twitter, it was a classroom task. I chose a username I used on another website. I didn’t realize how difficult this name must have been for others until months later. When I started this blog, I took the opportunity to link my address with my new Twitter name @bibliojenni. It’s still a unique name, and by associating both Twitter and my blog with it I felt confident people would be able to find me. This is especially important as I have a very common name. Googling my name returns mainly results about a therapist and a former Washington Post book editor. Adding ‘library’ makes no difference, though adding my university does.
However, even personalities must be consistent. I have thought a lot about how much of my personality I should represent online, especially in professional settings. For me, this means Twitter and my blog. I use other media for keeping in touch with friends and am reasonably uninhibited in those settings. The visual side of my online identity provides readers with some information about me-my grandmother’s vintage photo album at the top of this page represents my whimsy and my love of old things. I think my Twitter photo represents these same things in a different way and will continue to do so even if I choose another image. These traits are further enhanced by my choice of blog title. I hope my writing balances out the whimsy and reflects my professional thoughts. I have a lot of interests that I may occasionally tweet with friends about, but my feed is mostly filled with tweets that relate to my work in some ways. This blog is even more work-focused. But, most importantly, I think all those who know me would say my online personality is just a distilled version of my real life personality. As far as I’m concerned, that is just what a brand or online presence should do.