Wednesday, April 24, 2013

how to brand yourself

Academic post alert! I'm currently studying "how online social networks have transformed the dynamics of personal interaction, organizational behavior, marketing, branding, social mobilization, and civic action" in a class of mine. Part of the coursework involves blogging about the articles we read and discussions we have. Below, you'll find just that. I encourage you to contribute your thoughts, too.
I feel like a cliché calling myself another "American in Paris," but it's an accurate label nonetheless. No matter the fact that I buy fresh bread from the boulangerie, shop at the marché when I can, and wear more black than ever before, I'm consistently reminded of the fact that I'm not French; if nothing else, then for my inability to completely embrace bad customer service ;). Because of this, too, I'm branded from the very start, whether it be by a Parisian or another expat. (For the record, I tend to clarify that I'm from New York.) It's had me thinking more and more about "my brand" then--both online and off.
In a 2009 New York Times article, Putting Yourself Out There on a Shelf to Buy, Alina Tugend wrote:
"But what if I don’t want to be a brand? What if I don’t want to build a public image and network? What if I like the security and camaraderie of being 'just' a worker in a company? Creating my own brand sounds as if it is potentially liberating. But that’s what we thought about managing our own retirements rather than relying on pensions and choosing a phone company rather than being stuck with Ma Bell. It turned out, though, that that kind of freedom comes with a lot more risks and responsibility."
Today, unfortunately or not, it's pretty irrelevant whether you the feel the same way as she does. The truth is, "to be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You." And that's a direct quote from a 1997 Fast Company article. Stereotyping occurs anyway, now you can brand yours.
A recent Inc. article by Geoffrey James explains just how to Create your Personal Brand in 8 simple steps:
  1. Know yourself and what you're good at.
  2. Create a memorable brand name.
  3. Capture your online turf.
  4. Build a website for your domain name.
  5. Set up automatic updating.
  6. Share useful content on a regular basis.
  7. Get feedback from people you trust.
  8. Be authentic, even a bit risky.
In that case, (1) I think research, design, social media, (2) Does this count? (3-4) Check! (6-8) I promise I try.
It's a lot of pressure though, especially when you're so very aware of your brand as "an American in Paris." How could I possibly brand my multifaceted self--one who does actually "love art, food, wine, yoga, and travel" and wishes "to improve the ways in which the world communicates" in order to  promote global understanding--in just 140 characters? I can hardly wrap my head around this identity of mine myself.
Tonight I went to the "Communications via Social Media" panel thanks to the7eme, an online student publication. "Employers want to know what you can do... so go out and start doing things," advised the professor for this very class. To which Meg added, "don't be afraid to talk about what you've done. It can open a lot of unexpected doors." In the end, "people will search for you online, so it's important to take part in that conversation, and having your own website can be a great way to put your best foot forward." said Matt Cutts in a PBS' MediaShift article. Phew, at least that part's covered. Now for those business cards...

[Photos from Versailles, where my boy resides]


  1. This post hit a nerve for me. I get that "branding" and maintaining some control over one's web presence is important. At the same time, there are parts of my life that I do not want to package for sale. I purposely chose not to blog under my full name because I did not want my recipes and musings about life to be the first things that come up in a prospective client or employer's Google search. One of the major reasons why I took a two year hiatus from blogging is that I felt unsure of how to navigate having a significant online presence that was not related to my professional work.

    I also find it that it inevitably affects online (and offline) interactions when people are looking to sell you something--even if that something is only their personal "brand."

    1. I think that's completely understandable and valid. However, I don't think branding always equates "package for sale". In the case of recent graduates, it can certainly create or at least aid in opportunities when they have a succinct online presence, if nothing else than because it proves they can use the tools at hand. Doing so will surely create "a brand" even unintentionally. And to an extent, I think this can be a good exercise in honing in on unique skills and strengths.

    2. I definitely agree that managing one's online presence is important, both as a practical business skill and as a tool for networking. It's something I try to keep tabs on myself, albeit not through blogging.

      For clarification, I didn't mean "package for sale" in any pejorative way. Cultivating and selling an image is a necessary part of most types of business. In my profession, I definitely have to be very careful about the image I am presenting. There are aspects of my life and interests that I don't talk about in work-related spaces because I know that, rightly or wrongly, those things may influence the way people perceive me. Precisely because I am careful with my professional image, I tend to look for outlets in my life--blogging being one of them--where I can explore those interests without worrying the way they will affect my professional image.

      I don't think--don't want to think--that having an online presence automatically creates a "brand" that needs cultivating. I like to think that there is room for both polished online presences and for those of us who are just here for fun. Just like there is room in the world for professional singers, well-trained amateurs and those who simply want to belt out their favorite song on karaoke night.

    3. Ah, I see. And I'm right there with you! In the end, it depends on what your goals are--online or off.

  2. At a conference I attending last year, it was all about branding, knowing you niche, etc. etc. etc. Which is easy if your brand is clear. Me and my blog, not so much.

    For me and my blog, I wear many hats and celebrate all of them there for the world to see. I have a loyal base of readers and when it comes down to it, my brand is just me.

    1. I don't doubt you are your best brand :) glad to hear you've been able to cultivate a community without having to narrow your identity in any which way.


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