Have you thought lately about your personal brand?
In a connected world, your brand becomes more than your job title and your university affiliation. Everything you post online – and everything that is posted about you – becomes part of your personal brand, and you have to manage this brand carefully as if you were a Fortune 500 company.
Read Your Reviews
If you’re an educator of any kind, expect to have at least one review on MyEdu, StudentsReview or the infamous RateMyProfessors.com. These sites are the Yelps of higher education, and students take to them in droves to post reviews of faculty, staff, graduate teaching assistants and university classes.
Some of these reviews may feel unfair, but the fact of the matter is they exist. You, as an academic professional, have to deal with them. Rate My Professors has a section for professor feedback, in which you can respond to both positive and negative reviews, but be very careful. Your goal is to present yourself in a positive light, so do not argue with students who are disappointed about grades.
Lastly: if you find a single review topic appearing repeatedly, like “confusing assignments,” consider a course correction.
Consider Brand Management
A single student with a vendetta can wreak havoc on a personal brand. An angry student who complains about your course on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and his personal blog can cause damage to your brand image. Your Google search will return negative comments while your academic achievements sink below the fold.
It’s sad, but true: people do attack individuals and try to destroy their credibility. One of the more famous examples is Penelope Trunk’s “I hate David Dellifield. The one from Ada, Ohio.” That blog post is still the top search result for “David Dellifield,” over four years after Trunk’s original post.
If someone is determined to smear your name don’t give up, instead fight back with brand management. According to Brand.com reviews are quite important to search engines in determining whether you have more negative or positive results. Reputation management companies like Brand.com provide brand-building suggestions and services to remove negative reviews and place your credentials at the top of search results where they belong.
Look at All Outgoing Streams
Does every searchable part of your professional and public life reflect your brand? Does your Twitter stream show you to be an accomplished, talented, witty member of the academic community – or a whiny, grumbling complainer? Is your Facebook profile search committee-ready? When did you last update LinkedIn? Part of maintaining your personal brand is managing every outgoing stream of information, including the social ones.
Brand for the Job You Want, not the Job You Have
If you’re on the tenure-track, make sure the aspects of your brand reflect that of a tenured professor. If you’re on the administrative team but want to move into leadership, drop leadership achievements in your internet trail like breadcrumbs. There’s a fine line between sharing your successes and being overly promotional, but most academic workers are so nervous about “shameless self-promotion” that they’re miles from the line to begin with. Career development is just as important as running a department or writing a book, and savvy academics know that part of their job is managing their careers, which includes promoting their personal brands.
Although you may have gone into higher education to pursue a life away from the marketplace, the truth is that brand management is just important in the education field as it is in sales or any other service. If you don’t start managing your brand now, you’ll be behind when it’s time for P&T or performance reviews. Take some time this week to read your reviews, update your social streams and look for areas of improvement. A bit of work now pays off immensely down the line, as your name becomes associated with academic excellence.