How to Brand Yourself as a Researcher

February 14, 2018

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:

Specialize.

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.

Stay focused.

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.

Branding yourself as a researcher

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.

 


7 Keys to an Effective Language Program Marketing Strategy

June 3, 2010

A marketing strategy is a map that gets your program where you want to go. It gives you a plan to promote your program, target the right students and allocate your resources wisely. They say that trying to grow your program without having a plan is like going on a road trip without a map. You may get somewhere, but will it be where you wanted?

Marketing strategies are useful in any organization dedicated to generating revenue.  In the case of language education, they’re also useful for recruitment purposes and increasing enrollments, even if you’re not expected to make money. Some people may tell you that you need a program degree or a marketing expert to prepare a strategy. While these things may help, you can outline a basic plan yourself, even if you don’t have a program background or the resources to hire a consultant. Common sense, a clear head and a vision of where you want your program to go can do wonders for helping you prepare a good, solid marketing strategy. In fact, the process of creating that vision can create marketing opportunities you would otherwise miss, simply because you are able to clearly describe your program anywhere, any time.

Here are 7 essential elements of a successful marketing strategy.

1. Define your program. What are you offering? Define it clear, simple, objective terms. Depending on what it is you are selling, your definition may be one line or several paragraphs. You want to be able to concisely answer the question, “So, what programs does your school offer?” If you fumble for an answer – or don’t have one at all – your marketing efforts may never be sufficiently focussed to help prospective students decide on you. Depending on what you’re offering, your definition may be one line or several paragraphs. If you offer more than one type of program, consider having  a broad, but concise definition for all of it, along with brief definitions of each individual type of program.

2. Highlight the benefits. How will your student benefit from your program? This can be tough to articulate. One way to do this is to ask yourself, “If I were a student, what would I get out of this program? What good is it to me? Why would I want it?” Another way to think of it is, “For what problem does this program provide a solution?” For example, if you manage a small language program benefits to your students may include personal attention and a friendly atmosphere. If you offer specialized courses in pronunciation, that is another benefit for students.

3. Be clear about the strengths and weaknesses of your program. Let’s be clear. Every program has limitations. Trying to be all things to all people may hurt you in the long run. We may like to think that the market for whatever we offer is limitless, but the reality is that the better we know exactly what we offer, the more likely we are to attract exactly the right student.

4. Know your competition. Take the time to find out who else is offering similar courses.  In today’s world, there are very few totally new ideas, products or services. It is in your best interest to know who else is offering something similar to you. Remember these tips to success: “First, best or different.” If you are the first one ever with a new idea, product or service, lucky you. If not, you want to either be the best at what you do, or offer something slightly different from your competition.

5. Determine who your market is for your courses. This may seem self-evident, but all too often, program managers say, “Well, everyone is a potential student!” That’s not true. After you define your program and assess its strengths and weaknesses, then you are in a position to ask yourself, “OK, who needs this most?” Whoever needs it most is your best target market.

6. Establish a budget for marketing, promoting and advertising. This is often the hardest part. Some people say that 20% of the gross annual earnings of a program should be funneled back into promoting it. Often, language programs are reluctant to put a number on how much they want to spend on marketing. In this case, one of two things often happens: either you overspend or you miss excellent opportunities to promote your program.

7. Keep track of what you spend on promotions and the results. This takes time. The idea is to track what works for your program and what doesn’t. You can speculate all you want, but unless you have numbers in front of you, the idea that you have is just a hunch, not fact.

A final reminder: marketing and sales are not the same. I like to say that marketing is about people and sales is about dollars. Marketing takes place over a longer term is closely tied to building relationships. This takes time.  Even if you don’t have huge dollars to invest in marketing your program, the time you spend developing a strong, effective marketing strategy is an investment in your program, your future and your success.  Write your own road map to success and then enjoy the journey!
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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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