Thursday, 30 June 2011

Thing 3 (Part 1) : Online presence, branding and advertising

Thing 3 requires us to consider personal "branding" and reflect on our own online presence. On reading the cpd23 blogpost, my first thought was "oh no! I'm doing everything wrong!" - no consistency, no picture of me, multiple forms of name - in fact I can't condense it all into one post.

By happy coincidence, to break out of the library echo chamber for a moment, journalists have been having a similar conversation among themselves this week. It's inspired by the idea that Web 2.0 enables individuals to escape the corporate identity of their employers (which is why some don't like it), creating an identity of their own, or "brand", which in times of insecure employment may be very important.

The concept of "branding" provokes strong feelings. I enjoyed Tom Roper's blog comments (and found much I agreed with): or, for a laugh, look at this robust response to a student from Gene Weingarten. At the same time, I do really like the careful way Jo Alcock has approached her online presence, with the purple flower theme across different platforms, and her consistent name use.

I've mainly been a public sector person, but my mother worked in the strange nicotine-fuelled hothouse world of advertising in the 1950s/1960s - real life "Mad Men" - so I've always been aware of some of the tricks (hence my dollop of cynicism - I can spot a publicity puff a mile off), understanding from an early age that the point is to promote and sell the product. 1950s jingles and slogans did just that (some are still memorable and even still in use today), whereas later more indulgently arty ads seemed to be challenging the viewer to guess what the product was. No use, according to my mother, if you don't remember the name. Moral: a clear message with attractive packaging = sales.

I don't think of myself as marketing a product. I'm not planning to change my job, although in these turbulent times who knows what the future holds? I do however think that considering how we present ourselves online is important to us all. I'm going to skip the name thing for now, as "it's complicated" (mix of common names, doppelgangers,Welsh names, the Welsh language, and marriage). I did the "vanity" Google search using various versions of my name, the best results coming from "Helen + Price + Saunders". Adding "library" to this puts "The Sol and Helen Price Library" at the top - yay! A Helen Price Library!- with the next three hits being me, all from the library staff page at my place of work. Not everything about us on the web is within our control! I found one annoying thing, the ubiquitous which pops up high on Google searches.You get a result for a name (in this case, just me), with partial postcode and town in 2002 (an out-of-date address for that year), and a long list of people I've never heard of allegedly living with me. Who are they? It was a tiny house! Everyone who ever lived in the house? The street? The whole company of saints? Apparently you can get yourself removed from this site, so that's on my "to do" list now. I also found something nice, a "thank you" on the website of Cymdeithas Melinau Cymru (The Welsh Mills Society), which I'd never seen before, which was lovely.

I treat all online communication as potentially open to the world. As I'm a bit late to all of this I haven't got as much to consider as some! I have never had a blog before; I do have a Twitter account, which is not locked down, and I'm happy to be followed by colleagues and anyone else. It's a mixture of personal and professional. I also have a Facebook account -  more privacy settings on that but I don't post much on it and there is nothing there which couldn't be read by anyone (not posted by me, anyway!) - and I'm registered with Plaxo (which I never remember to look at). I try to treat email in a fairly cautious way, as it only takes one click for someone to forward electronic communications far beyond their intended audience. If I really needed somewhere to express things I didn't want particular people to read, I would dig out my fountain pen and ink, revive my old diary, and use that - cold revenge is safer! Seriously, no potential employer is going to be thrilled to read lots of negative or incoherent stuff, so if you are job-hunting, tread carefully in the Web 2.0 world.


  1. I think that part of the problem a lot of us had with this Thing was the term "brand." Most of us (especially the women, I'd assume) have no problem with being known to have a "look" or "style" in real life, but "brand" seems so impersonal.

    As for your last sentence, part of the problem for those of us who have been active on the internet for a decade or more, in the Web 1.0 days, is that no one told us this. We never expected Google and the Internet Archive and the undying nature of our zombie posts, so the early spirit of the web can come back to haunt us.

  2. Yes, unfortunately what's done can't be undone, and with retrospective digitisation programmes even handwritten items or things previously published only in hard copy might turn up again unexpectedly too. I wonder if that could be an argument against consistency of use of names?

  3. Hiya, I agree that it's the word brand that makes a lot of people wrinkle their name up. I quite like the idea of having an online "persona" - after all, if you use a different name (eg realwikiman) - what is that but a persona. I think maybe the word brand antagonises people because you use a brand to sell something, and we're not interested in doing that, just in networking with other people. I really like your post - it's cool how you stick so many links in! I'm new to blogging and am going to start trying to do that.
    Good luck with the rest of cpd23!

  4. Hi Helen!
    There are quite a few of us here from the ASSL doing cpd23 which is fab.
    I've not really thought about my brand until now but I have tried to use the same profile photo and I use my real name so it is easy for colleagues to find me. It is something I will need to spend a little time on. I have only ever had a personal twitter and blog so wiriting in a professional capacity is totally new to me and I'm still a little timid.