Control your message

One of the things I enjoyed the most about working campaigns was the message. Should the candidate wear a suit or a blazer? Take the jacket off or leave it on for the speech? Do we wear our red campaign t-shirts while working a Northside High School football game (Hint: BAD idea…Especially when they are playing in-county rivals Warner Robins)? We had message grids, calendars, and background information on everywhere we visited. We wanted the candidate to be presented in the best possible light whatever the situation.

Why dare I venture on down this road with tales of the glory days in the campaign trenches? Well, students are faced with a similar dilemma. While this may not be as much of an issue for undergrad students, grad students and recent graduates have their own personal branding become paramount.

Once you start presenting at conferences, and once you start into your job search, and really, once you start becoming a part of the larger academic community, people are going to start wanting to know more about you. What information about you is out there on the internet? Some things are there forever. Some licensing information is in public databases which make it WAY too easy to find home addresses. The fact that you are licensed in something is not a bad thing, but the personal information that goes with it is far from a best case presentation.  So, what to do? Control your online image.

I’m “lucky” in that my name is fairly common. For that reason, many things, like licenses, are buried between New York Times articles, music review sites, and photography portfolios. On the other hand, if someone is looking for information about me for a legitimate purpose it can be difficult to find.

For that reason, in any professional setting, I use my full name. It’s long, but it makes me unique. And since it is fairly unique, it is easy for me to control the message. I also have other resources set up to drive traffic. I use LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter on a regular basis. I also use Academia.eduMendeley, and LibraryThing. All this information I consider public and censor my posts accordingly. I use Google Analytics to keep track of keywords people use to find my content, how many visitors I’ve had and from where, and other useful data. (Sidenote: To my regular reader from Ohio, please feel free to send me a message and let me know how you found the site. I haven’t been able to figure that one out yet.)

Basically, control your professional online appearance. Justas you would never show up for a job interview in shorts and a t-shirt, you don’t want the first thing people see when they run a search on your name to be pictures from your last spring break trip. (Wait, you’re academics. Why are you leaving your lab for spring break?) Control your online image, control the story, and publish the content you want people to see.

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