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Developing Your Research Brand

Written by Evangeline Coker| PUBLISHED: June 22, 2022

​If you’re a researcher, your life is packed. You are busy teaching courses, mentoring students and postdocs, serving on committees, running a lab or a center, raising a family, and researching.

And then there’s your brand.

“Personal branding” has become a buzz phrase for intentional self-promotion. It can conjure images of motivational speakers, corporate ladder-climbers, and social media influencers. Researchers can also benefit from having a brand. A research brand.

What does a research brand look like? It’s what people think when they hear your name. It’s the reputation you have among colleagues, students, journal editors, program officers, potential collaborators, industries, non-profits, etc.

What’s my research brand?

            Before crafting your research brand, you need to know what you do and continue to do it well. Organizational psychologist and host of the podcast WorkLife Adam Grant says excellent work lays the foundation for a good reputation.

            “You can start by building your skills,” he says. “Having expertise to share sets you up to connect with interesting people.”

Associate Professor and Deputy Head of the Department of Business Strategy & Innovation at Griffith University Naomi Birdthistle says, “Branding is about bringing who you are to what you do and how you do it.”

Birdthistle breaks branding down into three main sections:

1. Your skills (what you do, including your accomplishments)

2. Your interests across fields and industries (what you know and care about)

3. Your core values (what you are passionate about and how you want to leave your mark)

You can start by building your skills. Having expertise to share sets you up to connect with interesting people.

Adam Grant

What’s my story?

Now it’s time to combine your skill, interests, and values into a compelling story. Use the “About” section of your social media account as an opportunity to break out of the typical bioography. Turn your “Bio” into a story that takes your readers on a journey.

Bestselling author and speaker William Arruda encourages people to take the elements of their brand and “weave it all together into a compelling narrative that’s all about the brand called YOU.”

            In writing your research brand story, you might be too close to appreciate how far you’ve come. Ask a colleague or close friend what accomplishments, victories, or passions of yours they would include. You may be surprised at what they share.

What do I share?

You’ve told your story. Now it’s time to create content. As a researcher, you have a treasure chest of original content just waiting to be shared. You could post about an article you published, a grant you received, a discovery you made, or a talk you gave at a conference.

Align your posts with your passions. Project Director of Public Engagement with Communications and Public Affairs of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science Keegan Sawyer says, “In general, people are interested in science because science gives them hope.” Write your posts in a way that conveys your passion and gives hope to your readers.

…But I don’t like self-promoting!

Branding can sometimes ooze with self-aggrandizing. Avoid mistaking egoism as branding. “While building your personal brand is hugely important,” says Birdthistle, “be careful about self-promoting behavior as it can turn people off and make you lose credibility.”

So how do you share your research brand without self-promoting?

Be careful about self-promoting behavior as it can turn people off and make you lose credibility.

Naomi Birdthistle

1. Ask someone else to promote on your behalf

Request endorsements from your colleagues. Your own department probably already has one or more social media accounts. Ask them to share your accomplishments.

2. Be generous

Use your platform to celebrate others. Congratulate your doctoral candidate on a successful defense; applaud your colleagues’ accomplishments; share outside research developments that excite you. Celebrate others, and you’re not only avoiding the self-promotion trap, but you’re helping build others’ research brands.

3. Reshare others’ posts

Reshare posts or articles that are important to you. Add your voice to the conversation by beginning those shared posts with your own reflections.

It’s not instantaneous

CEO and founder of Image Group International Jon Michail says branding is a journey. “The very best … brands will always come from repeated trial, error, mistakes and failures … because instant perfection is a myth.” Do the work, celebrate the work, and those who care about what you’re doing will follow.

How to build and maintain a Research Brand:

1. Know your skills, interests, and core values (aka your research brand)

2. Articulate your research brand in a biographical statement that tells a story

3. Create content about your accomplishments and passions

4. Create content about others’ accomplishments

5. Be patient

Contact: Evangeline Coker | Science & Technology Research Development Coordinator

Evangeline is focused on increasing the competitiveness of FSU’s STEM research portfolio through collaboration strategies, workshops, kick-offs, and mock reviews. She also leads the development of new interdisciplinary teams as an Incubator Guide in the Collaborative Collision program and hosts and produces the Journeys in Research podcast.

Evangeline earned her MA in Theatre Studies at FSU, where she taught theatre courses as a teaching assistant. After her degree, she was an adjunct theatre instructor and writing tutor at Tallahassee Community College. She also has five-years of experience of running a 501(c)3 performing arts company. During her undergraduate degree, she was a reporter and page designer for her campus newspaper The Bells.