Branding Bookshelf: The Road to Recognition by Price and Feldman

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Originally published April 19, 2018.

There are waaaaay too many books on personal branding on Amazon and the shelves of Barnes and Noble (I assume—Barnes and Noble is still in business, right?). You're an up-and-coming academic. You don't have time to read garbage books.

Well, lucky for you, I have to sort the trash from the treasure as I prep for the social media and marketing courses I teach. I have a stack of books on my desk, dog-eared and ready for decanting just for you. Welcome, friends, to the Honest Professor's Branding Bookshelf.

For our consideration this month is a genuinely good book, one of the few personal branding books that are actually worth picking up and reading cover to cover. Kudos, marketing pros Seth Price and Barry Feldman, for producing advice that everyone, especially those of us stumbling down the tenure track, can use.

Seth Price and Barry Feldman, The Road to Recognition (2017)

In a nutshell: Price and Feldman walk you through the personal branding alphabet, providing a wide-ranging series of tips to improve your personal brand online and in-person in the pursuit of a higher profile.

What the book asks of you: It's pretty flexible. If you act on everything in the book, you will fine-tune every aspect of your public persona and get strategic about your digital interactions. But you can also pick up individual recommendations buffet-style and improve, for example, just your use of social media in interacting with others regarding teaching and research.

Time commitment to read: A couple hours. It's a good book for a weekend afternoon. It's also enjoyable, with bite-sized nuggets of personal-branding goodness.

Key takeaways: Price and Feldman literally proceed through the alphabet, starting with the importance of authenticity and ending on living with zeal, hitting big personal branding concepts (G is for Google, W is for website, and so on) along the way. Here are a few big ideas you should start thinking about now.

  1. If you don't already have one, you need a website—a hub for your professional self. That website will host you (a detailed personal "about" page) and your work (links to published works, blog posts, your CV, and so on). You'll drive traffic to that website through social media and in person to gain attention for your ideas and to help people know who you are.
  2. Use the same profile picture and cover photo for your various social media profiles. The goal is to create a consistent and recognizable visual brand. You don't need a different face on Facebook from LinkedIn. To be remembered, be the same authentic, original individual on each platform.
  3. Produce content of value to your peers. This means you should synthesize your research into easily digested chunks (read: blog posts). When someone searches "Ken Ward Denver Post," for example, I want them to find my easily understandable blog posts that boil down my research before they try to parse my dissertation (This is a work on project for me, just as it will be for you. Search that phrase as of the writing of this post and you'll come up blank. In six months, that will be different.). Similarly, when I'm working on a big project, I'll break the work into bite-sized blog posts along the way to garner public interest in my work and my career.
  4. Say yes. When someone asks for your help judging conference papers or wants you to weigh in on a committee, help out. This is a tough one for some academics to hear—I think a lot of us were trained to protect ourselves from time commitments. But if you're trying to make yourself and your ideas visible, making yourself useful to others is essential. People tend not to forget those who help them out. Be that person.
  5. Lastly, and probably most importantly: have personality. The academic slog threatens to tear away our spirit. Don't let it. We may find ourselves blanding our writing for journals and conference papers, but blog posts and the like allow us to reinsert personality into our prose. Take full advantage.

Is the book worth reading?: Yea, it totally is. Only one or two chapters are throwaways. Read it and take its advice seriously.