Do I have a brand? Am I branded?

Thinking back to our “digital footprint” week I have learned that, like it or not, my “brand” or persona has a digitally created life of its own and that I allow others to manage it at my own peril. Now, I have known about branding for some time. We are all aware of the insidious nature of logos (Naomi Klein, No Logo) and these are just the most obvious faces of branding… In a more specific sense, visual recognition of an image created by piles of money on marketing and advertising. Nike doesn’t make shoes, someone in a developing nation does that, Nike sells Nike as a lifestyle image or at least used to (Naomi Klein as previously cited).

I have had the idea of branding myself in the back of my head for some time. I have even created embryonic websites for this purpose along with a business plan I played around with for a little while. Now though, I have a much better understanding of what this entails and a more advanced skill set with which to proceed. If there is an essence to the brand I am trying to create, it would be creativity, ability and enthusiasm. I want my love of creating, sharing and learning to be what beams out from my tweets, posts, links and creations, wherever they be found. I suppose my COETAIL blog is the best example of my commitment to continual professional development. I now also have a job search site that further exemplifies who I am and what I’ve done. Good old Twitter rounds it off. I may have only fifteen followers now but once I get the time to spend commenting on a wider variety of other bloggers offerings I am confident I can increase that.

For an excellent introduction to personal branding you need look no further than Dan Schawbel’s Mashable post, Personal Branding 101 (Though he doesn’t make it easy to cut/paste his name given that all references to himself are links). As he, correctly, states:

…transparency and authenticity are the only means to survive and thrive in this new digital kingdom… [and] …Personal branding, by definition, is the process by which we market ourselves to others. As a brand, we can leverage the same strategies that make these celebrities or corporate brands appeal to others. We can build brand equity just like them.

He goes further still suggesting, “Social media tools have leveled the playing ground and have enabled us to reach incredible heights, at the cost of our time.” To me this here is the thing. We brand ourselves as well as we can with the know-how we have gained. Of course, this know-how itself is a function of the time we spend searching for, digesting, using before then promoting ourselves with it. To put a positive spin on it, however, it seems to me that branding (a fancy word for promoting) will and should always be a work in progress as we, ourselves should be.

At this point he goes Tony Robbins for a moment before getting back to some solid advice and guidelines. If you are considering promoting yourself and are just getting started, you should read this.

Jeff Utecht’s blog post, Creating Your Personal Brand, highlighted designing one’s website with the audience in mind, an idea which was then further clarified by one of the presenters at the conference that inspired it, in that a website should try to capture the attention of anyone coming across it. Different approaches to doing so were also discussed. Jeff makes the point that he is reconsidering some of the images attached to his own brand presently due to what he feels is a “logo/brand disconnect.” Keeping this in mind I will do my best to try and focus on components that are more timeless and likely to attract the sort of attention I hope for.

I did not wish to put it as a comment on his blog but those of you working with Jeff might want to point out the typos I came across: “website that was tailor make” and “the different between.”

I am seriously running the risk of writing another literature study here so I will change tack a little now and offer further musings. Branding appears to fast becoming a part of life for educators. The readings supplied this week offer much to consider. I have, in fact bookmarked them in my new BRANDED folder to follow up when time allows. As I write it strikes me that (as alluded to above?) the level at which I have been empowered to create the content I wish to share is quickly consuming time I need to spend “getting it out there!” No complaints, the rush of creation and sharing has me. I have not only created a job search website, complete with a screencast of how to get the most out of it. Frankly, I believe it to be immensely intuitive and easy to use but could not resist the opportunity to further brand my skills by producing the screencast.

I am presently in the froth of a job search so have been burning the midnight oil producing tools in order to have more to brand. I’ve made a Moodle demonstrating how I can administer a course management system and host it on my own domain and collaboratively created an online resource with Brendan Lea from the course as an Acceptable Usage Agreement Teacher Assistant to further try and get myself out there.

So, to reiterate, my brand is me and what I can do for your school. I stand for being up on the latest trends and having the organization and know-how to help your school integrate in meaningful ways, across the curriculum. (Did I mention my website?) I reflect my personal brand in a variety of networking technologies such as Linkedin, Twitter, my blog (no need for a link here methinks), old-fashioned face-to-face conversations and, well, please comment with my next outlet.

Sean Thompson

About Sean Thompson

Sean is an educational technology specialist at Sacred Heart International School in Tokyo. He travels extensively across southeast Asia speaking, presenting and participating in discussions regarding the effective integration of technology in an educational setting. In 2014 he partnered up with DEEP Learning to support the team with the development, promotion and execution of professional development conferences for teachers worldwide. Sean is also an Apple Distinguished Educator, an International Baccalaureate Educator Network Workshop Leader , a Google education Trainer and a Certified Google Educator available for professional development at your school.
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6 Responses to BRANDED

  1. Jamie Raskin says:

    Hey Sean,

    I appreciate your comment of the time investment involved in branding. I feel like it’s a big pill to swallow, the notion that we need to spend time contextualizing and promoting what we do, as opposed to just more time doing it. But I understand the pressure. I’ve been working on re-inventing my CV (the CV?) of late and I understand how the thoughts behind such processes can run many layers deep.

    I guess the thought of time spent in self-promotion just disturbs me. Maybe it’s the time, maybe it’s the ethic, maybe a little of both. I’m sure you know what I mean. It feels like a slippery slope. Where does the transition between productively sharing our work and self-importantly bragging come in, I wonder? I guess it’s one of those things we like to think we know when we see it.

    I think one of the challenges is that there seems to be this general consensus that we should all be very conscious of our brand, which seems pretty self-perpetuating. If all of us are being conscious of our brand, does that make it competitive on some level? Does the person who spends most time working on their brand beat the person who spends most time working?

    I guess this is where the authenticity game comes in. If what you’re doing in every facet of your life speaks to your truth (and no one tags you inappropriately on facebook), transparency and authenticity oughta do the job .

    I don’t know. Lots of thoughts for me to thrash out. Thanks for a thought provoking post!


  2. Sean says:

    Hey Jamie,
    Thanks for the comment. It feels a great deal less psychotic when someone actually reads these posts! Like maybe I’m not some isolated maniac madly typing and referencing for hours pointlessly. Oh, wait, this comment feels damaging to my brand. Should I erase it?! Nah, I’m comfortable being a little flaky. One positive thing about the whole branding idea for me is that it gets me busy producing more to share. I have been going nuts on screencasts lately. If you have 5 minutes check out the post after this one: Acceptable Usage Online Seminars, Policies & Agreements for Students & Teachers.

    It is a screencast so you can just sit there and let it wash over you.

    Thanks again, have a great holiday!

  3. You’ve identified one critical component in all of this, and that’s identifying your audience. Right now, you have a very specific audience in mind (potential employers), but this might become a little less clear once you land that golden position. I know that it’s something that I’ve struggled with, but I’m generally okay with thinking of myself as my audience – if I’m interested in something, then I’ll bother to write about it. If not, then I’m also okay having gaps of several weeks with no posts on my blog.

  4. Daryl I says:

    Thanks, Sean for sharing. I am in awe with the amount of web presence that you have created with a variety of media. Your IT know how is definitely a part of your brand.

    After reading Jamie Raskin and Brian Farrell’s comments, I think that motivation for branding can at times be a challenge. Perhaps Daniel Pink can offer some motivation–


  5. Sean says:

    Thanks Daryl,

    Like I said, I’ve been working hard at it. It finally paid off with my new job!

    I have bookmarked your suggested link to read later.


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