Tuesday, 28 June 2011

CPD 23 - Thing 3 - Personal Brand

Protecting your ‘personal band’ [insert alternative term here]

I suspect I’m not alone in feeling a bit uncomfortable with the term ‘personal brand’. It just sounds like something a contestant on The Apprentice would say. There are a lot of us doing CPD 23. Do you think if we all come up with an alternative name and started using it we would be able to make it stick? Suggestions welcome.

Quibbles about terminology aside I agree that we do need to think carefully about the image that we present to others, particularly in online environments which give that image a much wider audience. Thinking about your audience is the key here. You need to think about the huge variety of people who might stumble across or deliberately uncover something that you put online. Is this comment, blog post, picture, joke, poem etc suitable for everyone who might read it? The classic example is the facebook pictures that your friends would appreciate but your mum or your boss (or worse a potential boss) definitely wouldn’t.

I am actually slightly divided on this. As a librarian I feel I should be on the side of careful use of social media as a point of professional principle and on a personal level I always feel very uncomfortable when I see people using social media in a thoughtless way. Everyone really needs to remember that their comments will hang around indefinitely. I’m sure you all know the kind of comments that I mean.

I also feel that everyone should take the time to write properly online. Please don’t use this as an excuse to point out any mistakes I’ve made though. I’ll be horribly embarrassed and it will completely ruin my day.

On the other hand I think we should avoid promoting paranoia. I am very sceptical about the idea that potential employers are going to hunt down pictures of you online and then trash your application on the grounds that they’ve found a picture of you drinking. Apart from anything else they would be recruiting from a vanishingly small pool.

(If I’ve applied for a job with you please be assured that I only drink in moderation. If you’re my current employer this bit is for the future it doesn’t mean I’m thinking of leaving. Wow, this could get complicated.) Don’t slip into paranoia.

It seems reasonable to think in terms of intended audiences as well as the potentially infinite possible audience. I’ll give you an example. I wouldn’t put a picture of me dressed as a pirate on this blog because this is a professional space but I know that there are pictures of me dressed as a pirate out there on a publicly accessible website. I’m completely calm about that because the picture would make sense to the intended audience. Also it is actually a good look for me.

We all have slightly different identities for different contexts and different audiences. It would be self-defeating to overlook that in the name of managing your ‘personal brand’.

Finding Myself – Google task

Googling ‘Alan Green’ was a humbling experience. You’ll be shocked to hear that I didn’t appear on the first ten pages of search results. I had to give up at that point to protect my fragile self-esteem. Most of the results were about the BBC sports commentator of the same name. I think it’s unlikely that people will confuse us. Although worryingly there were a few hits about him saying something racist and there was a site headlined ‘I hate Alan Green’. I’m really not sure that he is doing my ‘personal brand’ much good. As a librarian writing about my online reputation I can laugh this off but would it be a problem if I was trying to pursue a career in radio?

‘Alan Green Library’ was more successful but only thanks to CPD 23. My twitter account comes up because I recently tweeted about this library blog. It was the second hit when I tried it. That’s progress.

Following that success I had high hopes for ‘Alan Green Librarian’ but I wasn’t on the first page of hits. Page two was another victory for cpd 23. Thank you to Lisa Hutchins who kindly mentioned this blog in her thing 2 post.

The lesson of the googling exercise seems to be that taking part in CPD23 is doing wonders for my online professional presence. That and I shouldn’t try to get a job in radio. Thank you to everyone who helped set this up.

I might post about this again later in the week. Let me know what you think of my 'brand'. Also please suggest alternative terms.


  1. I too am a little uncomfortable with the term 'branding'. I think 'online presence' or even 'digital imprint' would be more appropriate! Whether this profile picture of me (with a massive cake bigger than my head) is professionally appropriate is another issue for another day!

  2. You were first in my list of hits when I googled you (Alan Green Librarian - note the capital L!) on the advice of your mother, who I knew more years ago than I like to remember!
    Great blog Alan, I am a true fan of CPD 23, such a brilliant initiative and it has brought some really insightful thoughts to a much wider readership
    Thank yo for sharing

    Biddy Fisher