professional identity

Your Personal Brand & PLN

CPD23 Thing 3 considered personal branding. Prior to my LIS studies I was ignorant of this idea of creating and building my professional self as a brand. And it does make sense, especially in a working climate where people are not likely to stay with one organisation their entire career. We’re entities in ourselves. A thoughtful and strategic approach to building a personal brand is required to market ourselves appropriately to the opportunities we wish to seize and the goals we wish to achieve.

I have a degree in business (marketing), so I tend to think about and apply the term ‘brand’ in this sense. Let’s dust off the old marketing textbooks….here’s some definitions.

Brand – “a perception resulting from experiences with, and information about, a company or a line of products” (Duncan, 2005, p. 6).

An alternative….

Brand – “a name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of these, intended to identify the goods or services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of competitors” (Kotler et al, 2004, p. 407)

A related concept…..

Brand identity – “the design of the public face or distinctive visual appearance of an organisation or brand” (Duncan, 2005, p. 329).

Okay, so these definitions are heavy on marketing from an organisational and/or consumer-driven perspective but we can see some key elements.

  • Perception – your personal brand is how others see you. How others experience your contributions to discussions, projects, etc form your reputation.
  • Public face – your presence (online and offline) and the professional you display publicly. A blog name, blog design, domain, twitter username, avatar, logo, all make up your online ‘public face’.
  • Differentiation – your character traits, skills, knowledge, experience and interests identify you as a professional and make you different from others.

To me, a personal brand is determined by three things: –

  1. Identity
  2. Reputation
  3. Professional relationships.

Thanks to social media knowing no boundaries, personal learning networks are often formed with members having not met each other in real life. When building a personal learning network – establishing and strengthening relationships – you’d obviously like other people to feel comfortable to form a connection with you. First encounters are often with personal brands. People who you follow, who follow you, people you converse, share and collaborate with form a connection with your brand. You’d like people to be confident with you and respective of your contributions to the personal learning network.

Developing a personal brand is an ongoing process of aligning how others see you with what you’d like to convey. So far, for my online presence, I’ve paid thorough attention to: –

  • Choosing my domain and blog names
  • Twitter username
  • Twitter and Linkedin avatars
  • Look of my blog and choice of photo in the header
  • Look of personal business cards
  • Biographies – for blog and speaking events
  • Content discussed and posted on Twitter and blog.

With the decisions I’ve made about my online presence, I’ve aimed to achieve, to some degree: –

  • an accurate reflection of who I am
  • consistency across ‘profiles’ – LinkedIn, Twitter, Blog
  • flexibility (for my different career stages)
  • purpose and meaning

Given I’m still a LIS student and not sure exactly where I’d like to go in my career (though I have an idea and know what skills I’d like to develop), my ‘offline’ professional presence is about aiming to do my best in everything I undertake, take up opportunities to receive advice as well as to provide it, expand my skillset and knowledge base, and applying what I learn to my work. While the decisions I make impacts the kind of ‘presence’ I convey at this stage of my career, I do not make them lightly. It shouldn’t matter whether you know where you want to head or not, how you conduct yourself among your peers contribute to the development of your personal brand.

My ‘two cents worth’ of advice to others is to start small and pay attention to the smallest of details. This is how I’ve approached establishing a personal brand and I think it’s worked well. It all adds up to being your ‘public face’. Make yourself easy to find and connect with by helping others ‘join the dots’ of your online presence and maintain a consistent identity. Keeping an accurate, and by ‘accurate’ I mean ‘honest’ personal brand will enable you and others to identify people with similar (or varied) interests, values and expertise to connect, share and collaborate with. A personal brand is an important consideration in building a personal learning network.


Duncan, T (2005) Principles of Advertising and IMC, 2nd ed. McGraw-Hill; USA.

Kotler et al (2004) Marketing, 6th ed. Pearson Education; China.

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  1. See, I wish I’d thought about some of these things earlier – someone asked me once what I would call myself on twitter when I’m no longer a New Grad (@newgradlib may sound funny in 10 years) and I struggled with this with my blog name as I’m no longer working in an OPL.

    For the moment I’m leaving both as they are – I have established a presence under both these brands and strictly accurate or not, they are who I am.

    I’m actually doing a social media subject for my MIS this semester so might give this some further thought as part of that.

    Cheers, again for a great post!

    1. I completed a similar subject last year as part of my MLIS degree which forced me to become more comfortable with technology, Web 2.0, as well as introduced me to the concept of personal learning networks and establishing an ‘online presence’. Until then I had a ‘fear of the unknown’. I think you’ll enjoy the social media subject. It’s an interesting area. Cheers!

  2. Excellent post 🙂 “First encounters are often with personal brands” – Yes! And I so agree about accuracy = honesty.

    1. Thanks for your comment, David. I think by having an ‘accurate’ personal brand, not only will people feel more comfortable in connecting and conversing with you, but also help others identify who’d they’d like in their personal learning network. Everyone has different views, interests and expertise, so if we communicate ours accurately, people will be able to build a more authentic network. After all, a personal learning network is a professional development tool, we’re all here to learn and to learn from each other!

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