I was sitting down to a meeting with one of my committee members. He was telling me about a phone call he had just received from a colleague asking if he knew anything about a “Katy Meyers” because she was doing some good work online that was worth checking out. Hearing things like that is not only a great confidence booster, but it means that I’m doing something right. My name is spreading in my field, and in a positive manner associated with my academic work. I’m not going to say I’m a genius at managing my identity, but if you Google my name without any qualifiers, I dominate the first page.
Making your name unique to yourself isn’t easy. Trust me, I know. I grew up with a Katie Myers in my high school, a Katie Meyers in my dance class, and there is a Katie Myers in my current university. My name isn’t unique. However, I have flooded the internet with my brand, causing Katy Meyers to be almost exclusively associated with the real me. People are going to google you: whether its to look for presenters for a conference, to check you out before a job interview, or to get to know you a little better before a date. Everyone is doing it.
The way that you do this is by creating a brand. My brand is Katy Meyers- Bones Don’t Lie. I have the same picture on every website, the same short description of what I do and who I am, and I keep the same tone throughout everything I do. That brand is completely academic. By branding I mean creating something as recognizable as the brands used in marketing with the same repeating logo and punchline. If I showed you a partial upside down swooping arc and said “Just Do It”, I’m sure you could guess what it stands for. You want your brand to be just as recognizable, even if its just in your discipline.
1. Name: This is going to be obvious, but pick a common name for all of your sites. I’ve been called Katy, Kate, Kathy, Kath, Kathryn, and Katrina. When it came to picking a name for my brand, I didn’t really have a choice- most professional people knew me as Katy, so I stuck with it. In addition to this, any user name I have is Bones Don’t Lie. You don’t need to have your name be also your user name, but make sure that there are few identities and that they all connect to one another.
2. Picture: Have a nice photo that is going to represent you, what you do, and use the same one for every single site. Some people choose an image that doesn’t really show their face, or they make a personalized logo for themselves. Personally, I like having a head shot like image so that when people actually meet me they immediately connect my face to the one that is all over the internet.
3. Description: Come up with an elevator speech describing what you do and who your are. This means one or two sentences that sums up your work. I follow this: I am a graduate student in blank university, studying blank. My focus is blank, blank and blank. (Obviously, you can fill in the blanks).
4. Be Ubiquitous: Get your brand on as many academic and networking sites as you can. Find out what sites are important to your discipline. As a starter, I would suggest Academia.edu, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
5. Keep Up to Date: You need to keep the information as up to date as you can. If you do decide to update or change your brand at all, you need to make sure that you change it on every site and in the same way. Having the unified brand will make it easier for potential employers to know that the Katy Meyers on site A is the same one on Site B.
Controlling your identity is important. If you don’t flood the internet with a controlled brand of yourself, someone else will. You want potential employers and colleagues to find you through LinkedIn or your own website, not through a MySpace page you made when you were 13.
How do you control your academic identity? Any tips?
[Image by Flickr user Vapour Trail  and used under Creative Commons license]