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Brand Beyond Borders: Making Your Name

The first step in developing your brand is to think about your own identity and what it is you want to present about yourself, says Janet Salmons, a free-range scholar, writer, coach, and artist through Vision2Lead.

When doing so, it’s also important to consider how that is changing, how you are moving forward and what your aspirations are, she says, as well as where your boundaries are in sharing professional and personal information and what parts of your story you want to make part of your brand.

She shares several questions to ask yourself as you do so:

  • What major life experiences got you to the place that you are now?
  • What were the obstacles that stood in your way? Which of those obstacles were of your own making or within your own control to change?
  • What experiences made a difference in terms of not just your work life, but your personal life and who you are?
  • Which of those experiences or decisions were the right ones that moved you forward, and which took you off into a dead end so that you had to start all over again?
  • How did you manage those obstacles and what did you learn from doing that?
  • Is there a particular position you want to be known for? For example, a tenured faculty member in this field, an author of successful books, an editor who supports people who are contributing their work, the books and journals you work on?
  • What personal qualities do you want to be known for? For example, the fact that you are kind and empathetic, that you treat people fairly, that you’re sincere and honest?

“Giving some thought to the answers to these questions will be helpful as you decide how you are going to present this identity to others,” says Salmons.

As you answer the questions, look for the keywords that help describe you (e.g., creative, kind, caring, compassionate, encouraging) and the anecdotes that would communicate those keywords in a bio or if you were trying to explain them to someone you were introducing yourself to, she says.

The next step, especially since you are working in an academic world, is to provide the evidence that will support that: “I can say I’m creative, but what examples demonstrate my capability in this area? Maybe your evidence is a degree from an institution you attended, or the positions that you’ve held, or the publications that you’ve made.”

It’s also important to consider the different ways and forms you might present yourself and those storylines and characteristics, says Salmon: “It will be different if you’re communicating to people in person versus in writing or in something you are publishing. Are you going to communicate entirely with words? In spoken word or written word? With images or media? How might you use those different ways of communicating to get your story across? How is that message different with people, in your field, your discipline, your culture, your age group or other demographics, or at your own institution?

Lastly, she says, you will want to consider how you will present yourself in a way that will allow you to feel that you are authentic and truthful and honest in how you’re presenting yourself: “You may want to make some choices about things you would like to remain private or that you feel are just not relevant for others to know about you. There may even be something you hope that others don’t learn about you. Overall, it’s best to focus on the lessons learned and how you overcame those obstacles rather than on sharing every single thing about yourself. It’s your choice what to share. What are those choices for you?”

This article was based on Janet Salmons’ 2021 TAA Virtual Conference presentation, “Brand Beyond Borders: Making Your Name.”