5 Easy Steps to Building a Personal Brand as an Instructor

Professional Development

Article Summary

  • Actively managing your reputation in person and across digital and print is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity.|Thinking about who, what, why and where your brand has an impact makes it easier to positively engage with your audiences.|Your goals, values and experiences change—and your brand should reflect that.
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Reading Time: 4 minutes

As we explored in our first post in this series, the importance of a personal brand for educators and students cannot be understated. In it, we discussed the role personal brands can play in establishing and boosting careers, increasing class signups, building positive reputations and more.

Today, actively managing your reputation in person and across digital and print is no longer a luxury—it’s a necessity. But how can instructors improve their personal brands? Moreover, what do they need to focus on to ensure they effectively maintain those brands?

To answer this, we’re exploring five tips instructors can use to boost their own brands. In doing so you’ll be better equipped to facilitate engagement in your courses and even help motivate students toward better learning outcomes. Take a look!

1. Define YOUR Personal Brand

First and foremost, a personal brand should be exactly how it sounds: personal. That means you’ll need to think about what you want—and don’t want—associated with who you are as an individual. Narrowing down the elements that accurately showcase who you are—personally and professionally—is the first step toward an effective personal brand.

Take these two scenarios for example: if you’re an adjunct professor aiming to secure a tenured position, you’ll want to present an image of yourself that highlights your professional expertise as well as your drive to impact student success. If you’re looking to build a stronger relationship with your students, it’s important to demonstrate your commitment to their education.

With that said, it’s important to understand several key building blocks that can help you forge a personal brand as unique as you are:

  1. What goal/purpose do I want to serve?
  2. How do I differ from instructors in my field of study?
  3. What passions do I share that can energize my classroom and coworkers?
  4. Which key skills do I want people to associate with me?
  5. What are the values/principles that I try to live/work by?

By clearly defining these aspects, you’ll build a roadmap to guide you as you develop and maintain your personal brand.

2. Assess Where You’re Found… and Where You Want to be Found

In today’s fast-moving and increasingly digital world, you engage with students, peers, faculty and others across online and offline channels. Consider your social media presence; the online forums you participate in; the conferences, workshops and consortiums you belong to—all of these impact your brand. In short, The Police had the right idea…

“Every breath you take and every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you.”

That’s because for better or worse, when you engage with the public, your personal brand is in the spotlight. Knowing this, it’s critical to understand where you are found, and more importantly, where you want to be found.

Consider taking regular inventory of the channels, events, moments, etc. where you engage with people. Doing so will help you accurately and consistently maintain your own brand. Plus, it can unearth where you lack presence online and offline, helping you fill gaps and demonstrate your value where it matters most.

3. Define the Who, What, Why and Where of Your Brand Presence

You spend a lot of time communicating with different audiences. Maybe you’re emailing faculty and chairmen, conducting research for an academic publication or engaging students across social media.

Consider thinking about who, what, why and where your brand has an impact across these channels. Doing so will make it easier to consistently maintain your brand and positively engage with students,  peers, etc.

  • Who are the audiences you’re engaging with? Faculty? Students?
  • What do you want to contribute?
  • Why does that audience want to hear from you?
  • Where does your contribution fit into your personal brand definition?

By answering these questions (and tying them into the assessment we mentioned in section two), you’ll effectively encapsulate your unique brand while connecting with the audiences you engage with.

4. Think About How Each Interaction Helps (or Hurts) Your Brand

Now that you’ve defined what you want your brand to look like, understand the unique audiences you interact with and the channels you engage them on—think about the combined impact they have on your brand. Specifically, consider the positive and negative impacts each engagement can have.

For example, positive interactions with students can lead to high ratings on review sites like Rate My Professors—helping associate you and your brand with effective teaching. On the flip side, a poor online presence limits visibility into your skills and accomplishments—making it difficult to demonstrate your unique value and experience.

In both cases, being active on a particular channel (or not) and engaging audiences (or not) invariably impacts your personal brand. The moral: take the time to consider how you can use the connections you make to accurately represent the brand you defined in step one.

5. Be Consistent Across the Board

Regardless of the field, when it comes to building and maintaining a personal brand, consistency is key. It’s critical to stay true to the brand you defined for yourself. Remember, this is the picture you’re painting to show people who you are. Would renowned painters like Picasso, Pollock or Van Gough be as influential if their styles switched with each piece they painted? Probably not.

This isn’t to say your brand must stay locked into one singular definition. Your goals, values and experiences change—and your brand should reflect that! However, inconsistency paints a confusing picture and limits the impact your personal brand can make.

So, when your personal brand changes, try to incorporate those changes across areas like social media, education forums, research journals etc. This will help ensure that no matter where you’re found—you’re representing yourself accurately.

Building YOUR Brand for Professional and Instructional Success

In the ever-evolving landscape of academia, the instructors that take an active role in defining, creating and maintaining their personal brands stand to unlock serious benefits. Taking the time to follow the five steps outlined in this article will help make the process easier and more meaningful.

Interested in learning more about the role of personal branding in academia or helping your students recognize the importance of developing their brand? Check out our first article in this series, The Importance of Developing a Personal Brand In and Out of the Classroom.