By Elizabeth Wroten
Redux: Personal Branding
On 30, Nov 2012 | In Redux | By Elizabeth Wroten
The topic of branding has been something I’ve heard a lot about over the last couple years as my husband is very interested in marketing. He’s a huge proponent of branding a business, a lengthy and involved process. I’ve caught some of his enthusiasm and certainly see the benefits of developing a personal brand. Needless to say when an article from American Libraries on personal branding for librarians showed up on Twitter, I clicked over and read it.
Unfortunately, I felt the article was too harsh on branding and how it can best be employed by librarians. I don’t want to convince anyone that branding is something they must do, but I like branding and I see its applicability in looking for a new job and in demonstrating your value as a professional. I even believe that most people engage in some branding on a regular basis without even knowing it.
Part of branding is definitely maintaining an image. It’s foolish to think you have control over everything out there about you, online and off, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work on ensuring that the majority of available information about you is accurate and positive. By keeping track of what is out there, you’ll have some idea what a potential employer (or your current one) is seeing and we all know they will Google you. I think a lot of people already think twice about what they put online and there are options for essentially search engine optimizing yourself. But I would imagine that most people don’t need to do this. People are beginning to self reflect before they self reveal and that, right there, is part of branding.
I have yet to meet someone who isn’t completely self absorbed that likes to talk about how wonderful they are. But when you go out for a interview or even ask for more funding or support from your administration, you have to talk about how wonderful you are. Usually you can couch it in terms of how wonderful the programs or ideas you’ve had are, but even then most people I know (myself included) feel like a total narcissist afterward. And yet, your ideas and and your accomplishments are one of the best parts of your personal brand. Not only do they show off your abilities and talents they also herald what you are capable of in the future. It’s okay to be humble, but librarians do a lot of great things for their institutions, for their students, for their patrons, for their fellow librarians, and for themselves. Why not spend some time thinking about how great you are and find creative and positive ways to share that with people? The better we are at this as professionals, the easier it will be for us to demonstrate our relevancy and value to administrators and to the community.
I think the ultimate goal of personal branding is to make some one come across as polished, poised, focused, and thoughtful and also to encourage reflection on what you are looking for professionally. I did agree with the American Libraries article that personal branding needs to be authentic. Call a spade a spade. Being inauthentic is lying. Misrepresenting yourself is terrible for a brand, personal or otherwise. Your personal brand must be you and spending time developing it is only going to help you understand what you are looking for either in a job or from your job. It might even help you land a job. That would certainly be a perk.
Personal branding is difficult and must be done right to be effective. It’s also not for everyone. I was glad to hear that librarians are starting to pay attention to this trend, but I disagree with the conclusion that personal branding is half hucksterism. If done correctly and for the right reasons, it isn’t. It’s half crucial life skills and half self understanding.