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Crafting a Personal Brand for Academic Professionals

This talk features introductory information to building a personal brand in academia, why it's important, and a generous overview of online tools to shape your brand the way you want. Ample links to articles and apps provide context & greater detail.

Abraham Hmiel

on 25 February 2014

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Transcript of Crafting a Personal Brand for Academic Professionals

Directing "Hits" with SEO*
You can easily direct traffic to specific places on the internet where you have control of the content, putting forth a favorable view of your work and your person.
What is the "long tail?"
In statistics, a long tail of some distributions of numbers is the portion of the distribution having a large number of occurrences far from the "head" or central part of the distribution.
Generally an inverse power-law distribution.
Why is the long tail important?
The long tail for your brand is the ~3rd+ page of google results for your name

People might come into contact with you online in ways that you don't expect, e.g: strange search terms that end up at your blog, someone clicking on a news story and seeing "XXXXXXX and 233 others shared this" and then arriving at your facebook page or blog

Every new blog post or tweet you create, picture you upload to your website, etc., can end up in the long tail of your personal brand's search distribution, especially if tags, keywords, or hashtags are utilized

It's possible that items in the long tail of your personal brand
never go away
Undesirable items in the long tail
It's unlikely that you'll ever be able to remove things from the 'head' of the popularity-rank distribution unless you are in control of that content(see: Streisand Effect)

It's often a good idea to use anonymized user names for personal things that have little value to your career or your brand (e.g: forums, shopping, reddit, gaming)

Even if you delete items that you create, beware the screenshot

Tools exist to reduce your digital fingerprint: (below)
* SEO = Search Engine Optimization
The "Long Tail"
Pair Activity
Form groups of two or three. Each group should have a smartphone or a laptop handy.
Each person writes their full name on a scrap of paper (legibly).

Then, each person takes turns googling the other's full name using that piece of paper only.
In a few sentences, how would a recruiter describe this person based on the first-impression results of this quick search?
Is there anything that they would be concerned about?
Crafting a Personal Brand for Academic Professionals
Presented by: Abraham Hmiel
Spring FFLC Event
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Being Googled
Questions to consider:
It is not vain to do this once in a while!
Was a person unable to be found due to multiple hits for people with the same name?
Which social media websites ranked highest in the search?
Did the individual's personally-maintained website or blog appear high in the results?
Did the individual's published papers or other scholarly work appear high in the results?
Was there anything embarrassing, privacy-invading, or otherwise unsavory that appeared high in the results?
Introductory Activity
is a name with the power to influence"

Branding is an individualized process
Take a personal inventory:

Who am I?
What do I want people to believe I can do?
How can I get evidence out there?
How can I learn how to do the things I need to know how to do?
How can I make myself stand out in a crowded field?
Your brand in person
How do you conduct yourself in a professional setting?
What does your image say about you and do you own it?
What are you known for in the workplace?
How do you demonstrate your skills?
Can you talk about your work in half-logarithmic timescales?
(Elevator pitch to interview questionnaire to entire course)
Your brand on paper
Your brand online
Branding in academia
What's a brand and how do I use it?
Who you are in person, on paper, and online are the same entity

Be consistent, strategic, and genuine

Your brand is about creating
, NOT 'selling yourself'

Your work, name and image thereof will influence students, colleagues, future collaborators, grant reviewers, people from industry, and most of all, the public!
How do your personal characteristics, major accomplishments, passions and goals shine through on your resume or CV?
Are you comfortable writing cover letters that explain your story?
Do you have business cards for quick exchange in a networking situation?
Are you making worthwhile use of your website or blog?
Do you have a complete, professional profile on
What do your social media accounts say about you?

Are people able to find you online?
To what degree are you able to control content about you online?
It's usually easier to start from a clean slate than to direct people away from things you wish weren't there or dead-ends
What if you have a common name or you
share your name with someone famous?
Use your middle name or initial, a shortened or lengthened version of your name, a first initial and your middle name, or all three names
Use a pen name for writing and blogging
Change your name, but see:
Get your own space on the web and choose a proper domain name
Use tools to increase your chances of being seen relative to others
Privacy settings exist for a reason!
Acquaint yourself with the privacy settings of common social networking platforms

Trust that not everyone wants
shared with them

Again, own your image
Personal branding DON'Ts
Grossly outdated, misaligned, or incomplete information
Long load times or errors on your personal website
No boundaries between personal and official contexts
Ugly stuff out in the open

Don't take yourself too seriously
Don't overdo it
Picture by Hay Kranken
Making the most of Google
Google has the largest market share of any search engine, about 67.5%

Google plus profiles are highly indexed, are now cross-indexed to YouTube profiles and comments and google play store (android) reviews

Google scholar profiles can help you aggregate your research and track your citations, can be done automatically or manually

Google alerts can trawl the web for search strings, like your full name (both with and without quotes) or current topics in your research and report them to you where they are found on the web

Google anylatics is a powerful suite of tools to help you find statistics about web traffic to your personal site, and assist with marketing
Making the most of LinkedIn
LinkedIn is a social networking site for professional contacts

Generally very high-ranking in all major search engines

Contains fields for personal statements, resume/CV, publications, skills and experience, recommendations & more. Strive for completeness but try to do as much as you can all at once and avoid nitpicking

Groups can connect you to people while engaging in rewarding discussions

Adding new contacts to your professional network is easy and people rarely decline
You still have to do the hard work!
Signed to the LA Galaxy for $250m: why?
Personal branding in academia was a great deal different in Einstein's time
A modern-day example of success in personal academic branding
Other resources, links & articles
Making the most of twitter
More than just a social network, twitter is an extremely powerful real-time information engine that can expand your audience and quickly and cleanly engage with others

Consider: "what do I hope to gain from twitter?" Is is publicizing your lab, engaging with people and other researchers, an educational or ease-of-access tool for your students, a way to find out what's happening in the wold around you, or all of the above?

You can create an unlimited number of profiles, one for your lab, one for your professional life, one for your personal life that's kept private. Keep in mind that your favorites are public if your profile is public and that
can see what you say

Ignore or block trolls; you always have the option to engage
Making the most of your personal website
First of all, if you don't have one,
get one
(I like wordpress)

Choose a domain name or provider carefully, and spend time on your layout & image: it's very important for your site to have it's own visual identity

Use proper naming of files and tagging/keywording to elevate your shared content in search rankings and organize your content

Blog about topics you are interested in, have definite opinions

Link back to your website on your other online profiles, remember that here is the place where you have
Making the most of facebook
Facebook is the largest social network in the world and your work can be exposed to a huge audience this way, however, it is often not the optimal choice for academic professionals to share their work since its purposes are primarily social in nature (and tends to hurt you or be neutral rather than help you get hired)

Public profiles for your lab or your academic brand are possible outlets for your work, not to mention that comments for many sites have a facebook sign-in option so that you can direct traffic back to your facebook page

Think about who you friend on your personal page, where you're commenting, who you're logged in as, and what you're saying
Using the long tail to your advantage
Deliver knowledge in a timely manner and in a place where it can be seen

Help out novices through highly specialized mailing lists, stackoverflow, etc.

Understand that people
come across you completely by accident, and may want to look into who you are and what you do. You
them to be interested, stick around and be involved in your network
(here be dragons)
It's a fact of life that if you research controversial topics, you'll have public detractors and if you teach, you'll have students who seem to delight in your misery

If you find the same comments occurring over and over again, consider a course correction. Meanwhile, relish the good comments as a token of your continued success

Ratemyprofessors has a tool to allow professors to respond with feedback to reviews, so make use of this and try to make those reviews show you in a good light
The (well-dressed) academic homepage
Should be up-to date with your current research interests, publications, courses you teach along with their syllabi, office hours, abbreviated CV, and possibly a teaching statement

Highly compartmentalized for easier navigation (if the format allows)

Feel free to include
pictures of you and your group (
you are human

Don't forget to link back to your personal website

The perils of offering class notes and homework solutions.... it's up to you,
but be warned that lazy students can and will
take advantage
of them
Some Examples
Layout and graphic design advice
If you need a high-quality photograph of yourself, hire a photographer or call a friend who knows what they're doing

You don't have to have the same profile picture or avatar across all social networking sites and your website, but be judicious about the content and context because it's an important impression-maker

It might be to your advantage to have a congruent design theme for your website and business cards

Be yourself and stand out! Spend a worthwhile amount of time on it
A few words about security
Use strong passwords,
vary them across different purposes, and don't store them in your email. If you have to, use hints or write them down in a safe place. Keep abreast of security vulnerabilities

Creative commons licensing for content you create so that you can protect the integrity of your work

Not all new web apps / profiles / social networking sites are worthwhile- think about before signing up for one: is this useful to me? What kind of an impact will it have and what's the time commitment? Can you trust them with your personal information?
Executive summary
Your brand adds value to the person you are and should be unique as such

Your brand should be consistent in person, on paper, and online

It is possible, with practice, patience, ingenuity, and inventing new internet profiles, to engineer favorable search results for your name

Get a personal website and make it look nice. Weigh the costs and benefits of social networks.

Your behavior online will follow you; embrace (and beware) the long tail

Look to established academics for general guidance, not to copy (sometimes the opposite!)
D. I. Y.
(Do it yourself)
Full transcript