You entered the educational field for many reasons. Maybe you are passionate about working with children. Perhaps a great teacher inspired you. Maybe you want to influence the next generation of leaders. Whatever your motivation, you focus on your craft, your skill and your profession. You don’t likely focus on your reputation.
Your reputation is what others think of you. As you interact with fellow educators, students, parents, administrators, your community and other colleagues, they form perceptions of you (your reputation) that impact the value they assign you. That reputation can have a significant correlation to whether or not others want to engage you in the kinds of opportunities and activities you are looking to be involved in.
Perception is reality in the minds of your parents, students, prospects, colleagues, and other stakeholders. Managing and directing that perception and building your legacy could be the most critical tool in your professional tool bag.
What is personal branding?
In my book, “Reputation 360: Creating power through personal branding” I offer this definition:
A brand needs to represent a set of values, promises and expectations and meet those expectations at nearly every step. Branding gives experience to something intangible; it gives names to the qualities I feel when I work or interact with you.
Everyone has a personal brand. It is your reputation and what others use to assign value and relevance to you. A brand is an emotional connection you have with others, and it sets the expectation of an experience of working with you.
Personal branding starts with you
Personal branding begins by understanding what you are passionate about, what you value and how you live an authentic life – what sets you apart?
As you begin to define and build your personal brand, look inside first. Ask yourself:
- Do people around me feel I am someone who can be trusted with confidential information?
- Do my students feel heard and respected?
- Do my actions match my words?
- What makes me different than other educators?
- Am I surrounding myself with colleagues who hold the same values I do?
- Am I living in concert with my beliefs?
Understand the needs of your audience
It is critical that you understand to whom you are positioning your personal brand: your target audience. Your audience holds the opportunities you desire, such as a career promotion or the opportunity to teach at desired institutions. Targeting those audiences and stakeholders who will find you relevant is critical, cuts down on your branding efforts, and makes your “self-promotion” feel more focused.
Create a powerful reputation
It may feel awkward to approach your interactions (in person and online) as part of a reputation strategy. Educators are often not sidetracked with self-promotion. The goal of personal branding is not to brag about yourself but rather to become very intentional about the words you choose, the company you keep and the way you represent yourself to your target audience.
Your reputation… online
Today it seems everyone has a Facebook page, Google+ and Twitter account, LinkedIn profile and he or she blogs incessantly. Should you?
For most of us, social networking plays an important role in building our reputation. Today’s social networking platforms offer the ability to connect with colleagues, parents, thought leaders and other influencers in the profession, to research, collaborate and grow our visibility.
In every action you take online (from posting an update on LinkedIn, to participating in a group on Facebook, to posting a YouTube video explaining a complex algebraic theory your class is struggling with), consider how others will perceive you. Become intentional about the words you choose, the way you communicate and engage others, and how you represent yourself consistently with your values.
Build a strategy for social networking:
In choosing to engage with your current and prospective audiences online, consider these points first:
- Apply strategy to your efforts. If you just want to get online and play around, you could damage to your personal and professional reputation – your brand – which is your most precious asset. Create a strategy for how you will engage, where you will become active and how you will measure success from your online activities.
- Articulate your value proposition. Educators entering social media need to be clear on what they offer that makes them stand out. What do you offer that makes you unique in your topic. What makes you different from your colleagues?
- Be careful. The way you represent you and behave online is public. What you post, share and comment on is public domain if posted in an online forum. Consider who might see your content and what that content will make them feel and believe to be true about you and your expertise, values and reputation. Students, parents, administrators and legislators can all see how you interact online.
- Focus on consistency. Educators with strong personal brands show up consistently and authentically. They have achieved genuineness through confidence and experience and through focus and care. Your online contacts expect you to use the same language, tone, posturing and attitude. Across any of the platforms you choose, strive for consistency: be sure to speak, write and represent yourself as the same person I’d meet in the flesh. There is no such thing as “personal vs. professional” since everything online is public.
- Focus on relationships. Social networking is all about interacting and forming relationships – professional, personal, and cause-related. Online, we give and take, collaborate, share and discuss; this is what makes the online forum rich and inviting.
- Know your audience. Spend the time understanding who and where your target audiences are online. Are they students, fellow educators, legislators and policy makers, parents? How do they engage with each other online? Learn as much as you can before you dive in. Also, learn about your institution’s policies for online activity.
- Listen. Your friends, students, parents and colleagues are talking online. They are sharing valuable information about their needs, likes and dislikes. Spend the time to listen and respond appropriately and authentically.
- Decide what to say. Not every educator needs to have a pithy blog to be relevant online. Everyone has something to say and there are many forums to offer input, advice, sharing, awareness and best practices. From LinkedIn Groups, to Google+ and Facebook fan pages, to blogs and community sites like Know New Ideas, there are many places to chime in and connect with others.
- Get started. Most individuals don’t know where to start with social networking. My advice is to begin by taking inventory of 1. Who you are, 2. Who might care, 3. Where they are, and 4. How you can reach them (using social media).
When building your personal brand – your digital legacy – you control much of the perception others will have of you. As you approach your behavior and interactions with strategy and intention, others begin to recognize your value and relevancy.
Lida Citroën is an international branding and reputation management specialist who enhances the identities of companies, executives and individuals globally. As principal and founder of LIDA360, LLC, she practices an integrated approach to branding, marketing and communications that enhances the total experience and reduces the investment for success.
An accomplished speaker, Lida engages audiences with her empowering message about managing your personal brand and reputation. Lida presents programs for school districts, corporations for non-profit organizations around the U.S. Lida is the author of Reputation 360: Creating Power Through Personal Branding, (Palisades Publishing, 2011) is a best-selling guide to gaining competitive advantage through reputation management.