Personal brand

What is academic personal branding?

Academic personal branding is a planned action to create an identity and reputation distinguishable from the rest in academia. For Mutom (cited in Cabrera and Lloret 2016) “personal branding is not just for celebrities or those working in the private sector; as a researcher, adopting the techniques and practices developed in business schools to create your personal brand can be a powerful personal marketing tool; many researchers are uncomfortable with the idea of promoting themselves or their work; the general opinion seems to be “let your work speak for itself”; however, no one will know about your work if you don’t tell them about it; if you are a researcher at the beginning of your career, it is absolutely essential that you promote yourself.”

How to build a personal brand in academia

There are four fundamental elements to brand building:

  • Differentiation: stand out from others in something that is attractive or necessary to our target audience, so that they prefer us.
  • Relevance: connecting with the needs and aspirations of the target audience.
  • Coherence: to acquire credibility by being coherent between what is said and what is done.
  • Esteem: when the previous three are fulfilled, the brand is valued and gains reputation.

For Tregoning (2016) “we have two things to sell: our ideas and ourselves; of the two (…) the main product we sell is ourselves. This product is defined by our CV: where we have worked, in what and with whom. All these elements must be assembled into a single, memorable ‘personal brand’: the T lung cell expert, the insect neurobiologist, the DNA crystallographer. This brand comes into play when making contact with potential collaborators, conference organizers and funding sources. (…) Define your brand by developing a concise one-line pitch that summarizes what you do (…) so that when other academics need someone with certain skills, they will think of you”. For Thompson (2014) “your personal brand conveys who you are as a thought leader and how you stand out from other colleagues in your field. (…) A well-designed academic brand includes a series of interrelated activities that highlight your strengths, differentiate you, and create an emotional connection with your followers. While this includes social media, your brand is not just the sum of your social media profiles. Academic branding can change the way you write your CV, your articles, books, presentations and online profiles to convey your message consistently across them all.”

Cited sources:

CABRERA, M. & LLORET, N. (2016). Digital Tools for Academic Branding and Self-PromotionIGI Global. ISBN 978-1-5225-0918-9.

TREGONING, J. (2016). Build your academic brand, because being brilliant doesn’t cut it any more.  Times Higher Education (THE). Available at: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/build-your-academic-brand-because-being-brilliant-doesnt-cut-it-any-more

FJ Calzada-Prado

Associate Professor, Carlos III University of Madrid, Library & Information Sciences Department

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