Thing 3: Building a brand (or representing a personality)

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.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Thing 3: Building a brand (or representing a personality)

  1. “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 think this really sums up my feelings about branding. I am not looking to be a “brand” (although I have probably created one in one way or another by having an online presence for a few years) but want to feel that who I am online matches who I am offline. Nice post!

  2. “However, even personalities must be consistent.”
    I’m not so sure I agree with that. I don’t think people who know me online in my non-professional guise would recognize my professional self, and I’m certain the reverse is true. My neighbors would recognize me in neither guise. (Aside from the snarkiness. That always seems to creep through.) But I do think a crafted online personalities need to be consistent or people won;t recognize them as being part of a whole. We’re each more complex than our personality, but what we present to others needs to be comprehensible.

  3. Pingback: Wrapped in the mist of obscurity « Headstrong Ways

  4. Hi Jenni

    As the person who wrote Thing 3, I can confirm that expressing your personality consistently is basically what I meant by “building a brand”. One of my interests is marketing, so I use that terminology, but I am very aware that it doesn’t sit comfortably with many librarians (my dissertation actually investigated some of this!). However, the concept, as you have explained, is very relevant to libraries and librarians – and yes, I would argue that it is important to maintain this throughout your career whether or not you are currently in a job. If you’re happier referring to it as personality rather than a personal brand then that’s fine 🙂

    I enjoyed reading your post and it seems you have taken lots of steps I recommended – one thing I would suggest to help with the Google issue though, particularly as you comment that you have a common name, is that I would mention your name on the About page of your blog if you wish for it to be found by people looking for information about you (apologies if I missed it but I couldn’t find your real name). If people didn’t know you as “bibliojenni” they may not find the blog.

    Looking forward to reading your other posts 🙂

  5. BooksnYarn, I’m glad you enjoyed the post; I’ve been enjoying yours as well!

    “We’re each more complex than our personality, but what we present to others needs to be comprehensible.” Well said, Ahava.

    Jo, you’re right about the Bibliojenni thing. That’s something I overlooked! I guess I am still being pretty half-hearted about linking my online and offline personalities. I initially wanted to keep some level of anonymity, but I am starting to think I should just tell all, especially considering the post following this one. 🙂

    I think I will do a follow-up to this later. I’m sure you can tell it was written in a hurry anyway.

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