Monday, 14 May 2012

Thing 3: Consider your personal brand

Don't worry - branding doesn't need to be painful!

Thing 3 is about your personal brand. We'll consider how people see your online brand, what brand you would like to convey, and how to match the two.

I have a couple of confessions:
  1. When I participated in CPD23 last year it took over three weeks for me to decide on a blog domain for my 23 Things for Professional Development blog.
  2. It took me an hour to brand my blog the way I wanted to before I registered it with the 23 Things for Professional Development programme.
I know what some of you might be thinking; what a waste of time! Or is it? It might *only* be a blog, but it's part of my online presence, and even more crucially, it's part of my professional online presence. I want that online presence to be an accurate reflection of who I am, whether someone comes across my blog, my Twitter account, my LinkedIn account, or any of my other online professional networks. I also want to maintain consistency across different platforms.

During last year's CPD23, many people felt uncomfortable with the term 'personal branding' as it made them feel like cheesy salesmen. However, whether you're comfortable with terms like branding and marketing or not, the fact remains that you already have a personal brand. Your personal brand is what people think about when they think of you - the perception they have about you from first appearances (virtual or physical), the way you present yourself, the way you behave, the things you say, the things you're passionate about, the activities you get involved in... these all contribute to your personal brand.

So what can you do to maintain a consistent image and ensure you are portraying an accurate reflection of who you are? Consider your core values and how you can convey those messages to those who meet you in person and those who find you online. Things to consider include:
  • Name used - do you have a nickname that you use in a professional or personal capacity? What do you want people to refer to you as? Try to be consistent across different platforms, and if you want people to know it's you remember to include your real name somewhere on each. If you're not using your real name, I'd recommend using something which is easy to pronounce - initials may make sense to you when you register on a web service, but won't make it easy to say when you meet people.
  • Photograph - do you want people you network with online to recognise you when you meet face to face? The chances are that you do, in which case consider using a recent photograph of yourself as an identifier, rather than a cartoon or other image.
  • Professional/personal identity - do you want to merge the two or do you prefer to keep them separate? Personally, I tend to take a "profersonal" approach to demonstrate both sides of my personality, but others prefer to keep different sides of their life compartmentalised.
  • Visual brand - one of the easiest ways to distinguish a brand for yourself is with a clear visual identity. This could be the colours you use, or a certain style of imagery - anything to help your presence stand out as something unique and individual to you, and again remember to be consistent. I have the same purple flowers background for my blog and Twitter page, and also use this (and my penguin from my blog header) on my business cards:


Time for a bit of a vanity check. Search for your name in Google and check out the first page or so of results (try to do this in a different browser or an incognito window whilst logged out of Google to get a truly objective view - if you have a very common name you may wish to use another keyword word such as library or your country of origin alongside your name).

Do any of the search results on the first page refer to you personally? Are they the things you would want someone to find if they were looking to find out information about you? Which of your profiles come first? Is there anything about you on the results page that you wouldn't want a potential colleague/employer finding out about you?

Reflect on what you discovered and think about some of the ways you could improve your personal brand. Record your thoughts on your blog, and if there are some simple things you can change, go for it!

Optional extra activity

If you are feeling particularly brave, try asking someone else (such as one of the other programme participants) what they think your blog says about your personal brand. Are the words they suggest ones that you feel describe you? If not, consider why that might be and how you could change that perception.

Recommended reading

The Practical Librarian - Manage your brand as a librarian

Georgina Hardy - Judging a blog by its cover

Branding iron image from vapour trail on Flickr.


  1. Just to say that I have found Thing 3 very thought provoking in terms of considering my personal brand.

    I've updated my blog and wanted to offer the following tip from Thing 3.

    I decided to create a gmail account for use with my blog. I did this with branding in mind as I think that a common approach is best (colour schemes, name format etc) so that it is recognisable across multiple platforms (although I’ve only this site at the moment). With this in mind, when creating my gmail account, I have used my profile (and real) name and my blog name. So is also part of the brand.

    It might be something that others wish to do as a means of reinforcing their identity.

  2. It seems to me that you end up putting yourself in a box. I do not like to be on the spot light, and even less to be fixed on anything. To be recognized from far gives me the shivers. I like to change just about every day both professionally and personally. Life is too short to be wasted in informatials. Who really has the time to construct a facade ego for public consumption? As a yoga practitioner I have been working very hard to go in the oppoosite direction.

  3. I agree with others that feel self-conscious or uneasy about packaging an identity. My approach is to accept that it comes with the territory of my job and professional development. Therefore the way that I present myself is quite formal and very much focussed to job, chartership and vocational learning. I am sure that my on-line professional presence will increase in the future through the support services and educational work I will undertake as a librarian working in HE.

    On a personal level I have experimented with Facebook and other ‘toys’ but I have never felt comfortable deluging on-line ‘friends’ with pontification or trivia. When I can see a use for on-line sites as tools for working and delivering services I am willing to adopt them and be accessible to others.


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