Recently I was invited by the Werklund School of Education’s Writing Group, which is co-hosted by the Office of Research and the Office of Teaching and Learning, to offer a workshop on branding yourself as a researcher. I’m pretty excited because this gives me a chance to combine my passion for research with my entrepreneurial spirt that led me to have a successful career as an educational consultant before I entered academia full-time.
Branding comes from marketing, but that doesn’t mean academics should feel any disdain towards it. Think of it as learning to share your expertise with people in your field, and beyond, to a wider public audience.
Here are the 5 key points I shared during the workshop:
It is easier to brand yourself as a specialist than it is as a generalist. It is normal for novice and emerging researcher to have multiple areas of interest. This works while you are still figuring out who are you are professionally, but specializing shows you are developing as a researcher. Have a clear research topic that you focus on intently.
Articulate your expertise.
Marketing experts recommend being able to state your focus in 7 words or less. Here’s mine: “I research academic integrity and plagiarism prevention.” Don’t be that academic that has to ramble on for 38 minutes non-stop to say what it is you are researching. Get to the point and make it easy for others to understand. Practice writing out and saying your research focus until it feels natural.
Develop your plan.
Plan what grants you’ll apply for and when. Develop a writing schedule and target specific journals in your field. Ensure every element of your plan aligns with your area of expertise. Mapping out your research and writing activities will help to ensure you make time for them. Once you execute this plan, you’ll be on your way to having a fully developed research program in your area of expertise.
There are so many interesting research ideas out there it is easy to get distracted. Stay focused on your own research program. The most successful researchers do not jump on every project that comes along. Choose the projects you want to be involved with carefully and ensure they align with your expertise.
Mobilize your knowledge.
Have multiple channels, but one message. Think about sharing findings in both peer reviewed scholarly journals, as well as plain-language articles targeted to the general public. Think about videos, podcasts and other ways of distributing your knowledge.
The point of all this is to position yourself as an expert in both an academic audience and the public. Ensure others know you are the “go to” person on your topic. Becoming known an expert authority on a key topic not only helps you get noticed in your field, it helps you get hired, and may help you get promoted, too.
References and recommended reading.
Marshall, K. (2017). Branding yourself as an academic. ChronicleVitae. Retrieved from https://chroniclevitae.com/news/1681-branding-yourself-as-an-academic
Mutum, D. S. (n.d.). Social media for researchers and online personal branding. Retrieved from https://warwick.ac.uk/alumni/services/eportfolios/bsrfbr/dilip_social_media_academics_ebook2.docx
Mizenmacher, M. (2010). Branding your research (and yourself). Retrieved from http://mybiasedcoin.blogspot.ca/2010/06/branding-your-research-and-yourself.html
Tregoning, J. (2016). Build your academic brand, because being brilliant doesn’t cut it any more. Times Higher Education, (February 24). Retrieved from https://www.timeshighereducation.com/blog/build-your-academic-brand-because-being-brilliant-doesnt-cut-it-any-more
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Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.
Opinions are my own and do not represent those of the Werklund School of Education or the University of Calgary.