Who are you? - Some Tips on Personal Branding in Academia (2)
Updated: Aug 16, 2022
“There is no such thing as Bad Publicity, except your own Obituary”
Brendan Behan, (1923-1954)
Irish Dramatist and Political Activist
Part 2: Publicity - How to let people know about you
In this second blog on Personal Branding,(you can find the first one here) I will discuss the many options available to you to create your professional image. You have your one-liner, and your conference presentation also went well, and you start to get noticed. But after the conference, how will they find you? How will you let people know about your research? And why would you want them to?
Despite the image of the socially awkward lonely scientist, science is not a one-(wo)man-show but a collaborative operation, or it should be, as we have all come across those who believe it is a competition to get to the top first (Newsflash: It is very lonely once you get there). To find collaborators, you need to be able to find them and vice versa.
Second, especially if you are a PhD student or Post-Doc your time in your current position is limited and at some point, you will need to find a new job. It helps to have some visibility on your academic achievements when finding one, and the aforementioned collaborations won’t hurt in developing a network to find a new position either.
Third, most of us are paid (directly or indirectly) using taxpayers' money. Although a direct form of payback is often not possible, sharing the outcomes of your research with both the scientific and the wider community is in my view part of your civic duty as a researcher.
Fourth, people need role models. Not all researchers look like Einstein. By being out there you can be a role model for aspiring researchers considering a career in research. Or if that does not attract you look at it this way: one day you will need a successor or hire your own PhD students. Who will inspire them if not you?
Fifth, it is a way to show the impact of your work. Why does your work matter and why should more work be done in this area?
How to obtain visibility?
When looking at gaining more visibility, it is important to first look at what goals you are trying to achieve and from there select the appropriate outlet for your visibility. Next, it is also important to see who can help you with this within your institution. Many institutes have (science) communication officers for this purpose or offer courses on how to make your work more visible. From personal experience, I can really recommend treating yourself to courses on science communication, how to use (social) media effectively, and even media training.
From my perspective, there are five main streams open to you to increase your visibility. In no particular order, they are Social Media, Institutional Media, Scientific Media & Platforms, Public Media, and Personal Media & Branding. I will briefly discuss them below and have created a, probably far from complete, overview in a table below as well with where possible some linked examples. Suggestions are always welcome via the comments box.
Social Media, with no specific scientific objective such as Twitter and Facebook, are characterized by the fact that you have control of what you write and broadcast (sometimes even to whom) and whom you interact with. The platforms take care of distribution, but also gather data on their users, may sell data, and advertise, (Basic) Access is generally free, well, except for your data that is. Most platforms do have some oversight in terms of what you can and can’t publish depending on the applicable laws and terms and conditions of the platform. It is a great way to engage with others (in and outside of academia) on your science and has been proven to increase your visibility in research. Many academics have two accounts on certain social media platforms: One for private and family stuff with all appropriate protections in place and one more public related to their work.
Institutional Media These outlets are managed and provided by your institute or funder. This means they control the content, and have editorial rights, and oversight. You will most likely still have authorship or the right to correction of content. Most institutes have a personal page for each of their staff, which staff can edit within given options. Next to that also think of using your institute's social media, website as well as other publications formats such as yearly reports, newsletters, alumni magazines, events to share your work. Also, don’t forget your funder and your project media outlets, often created for collaborative research projects as part of the required knowledge dissemination by the funder.
Scientific Media and Platforms are an excellent way to share your work within the wider scientific community. The first step is to register yourself with an OrcidID which gives you a persistent digital identifier to help distinguish you from every other researcher, especially useful if you have a very common name. You can publish and share your work through the listed platforms (conferences, journals) but it is important to also create overviews of your work published and presented to date and interact with peers, using platforms such as ResearchGate, etc. Generally, you are the author of your work, but your work is likely subject to editorial oversight and peer review. Copyright retention can differ greatly from Open Access to being held by the publisher. You may have to pay a fee to publish or others may have to pay to get access to your work. Platforms that create overviews often also collect and/or make commercial use of your data. Always check on copyright before uploading any publications to these sharing platforms.
Public (independent) Media or old-school media (that also have their own social media these days) are also a great way to attract attention, be it local or international. Typically, the content creator or author is a journalist, and you and your work are the subjects they write about. You have limited say in what they write, as it is their story and their interpretation under the fundamental principle of Freedom of the Press. Although in the Netherlands many journalists do give you the option to comment and/or correct any factual errors. Another option is for you to submit an opinion piece or become a columnist. In all these cases, your authorship is limited or non-existent and subject to editorial control and curtailing. Finally, keep in mind that although independent each medium will have its own leanings and target audience, so do your homework!
Personal Media & Branding Although the last listed stream this is probably where all the hard work begins. For each of the previous options, you do have to have additional content to accompany your scientific work. These are basic things such as a good photo, your one-liner, a short biography, and a CV. But more on that in part 3 of this Blog series: Your Personal Top 5 Branding Must Haves. Next to these basics, you can also go a step further and reduce your dependency on others and do it all yourself: Author, Edit, Broadcast, Host, Distribute and Finance your own platform to publish, starting with a website and a domain name, and slowly adding content and advertise In the final InI its existence. This will cost you time and money and it is up to you to decide if the investment pays off.
Scientific Media & Platforms
Public (independent) media
Personal Media & Branding
Conferences/ Symposia/ Workshops/ Doctoral Consortia
A Good Professional Photo of yourself
5 - line biography
Conference Proceedings/ Scientific Journal Articles/ Book(chapter)s
Short Curriculum Vitae (max 2 pages)
Academic Curriculum Vitae (multi-page)
Blog/ Vlog/ Podcast on own website
Self-publishing of books/ research
Offer yourself as a speaker/ consultant
Before embarking on your journey to create a more public profile of yourself, do remember that nothing is gone forever on the Internet! So before you start first Google yourself to see if some post from way-back-when may need locking down or removing and think carefully before you post or publish or agree to be interviewed. This way it will be a more effective and also enjoyable experience. In part 3, and the last part of this blog series, I will discuss some must-have, always-ready content to aid you in promoting your work.