Selling myself online (and other causes for anxiety)

Russian dolls

I have a confession to make – until about 3 weeks ago, I was conducting an experiment into how to be invisible online. Most people who know me in real life would say that I am outgoing and (possibly annoyingly) over enthusiastic, I am also an anthropologist at heart and am fascinated by other people – but in reality I am quite a private person. I live in the middle of nowhere, I have no real interest in popular culture (I don’t have a working TV) and (like most people) I am completely disillusioned with Facebook.

So for me, the concept of ‘branding’ myself is terrifying to the point of almost inducing a panic attack. In order to conquer my fear, I had a long and soul-searching conversation with my boyfriend, who works in advertising, and gave me lots of good advice which applies to branding a product, but not (I think), a person. I tried to think about this objectively, and turned to DDC 23, thinking a nice library-based approach might be to classify myself, like a book. This turned out to be impossible, seeing that my classification skills are limited at best. I struggle to classify photography books – I’m definitely not ready for people! And that, I think, is the essence of my issue with self-branding – the terms ‘personal’ and ‘brand’ are antithetical: a ‘brand’ is cold, carefully calculated and neatly packaged. a ‘person’ is unpredictable, changeable and psychologically complex. What is most intriguing about someone else are the subtle quirks that you can only uncover by really knowing a person, in real life. That’s why people make the effort to become friends, to get to know someone…

It was Ned Potter’s ‘You already have a brand…’ that marked the turning point for me. It made me realise that I’ve already jumped in with both feet by setting up this blog and my Twitter account – and that I might as well make sure that my online presence is telling people what I want them to hear! Reading other people’s ‘thing 3’ posts also taught me that being online is just an entry point – a short introduction to you (and hopefully one that makes people want to know more). So here goes: I will now commence a strategic analysis of my brand identity and market position…

When Googling myself incognito, none of the results on the first page refer to me at all. The first result that comes up is someone else’s Facebook. This Emily Corley appears to own a horse, which obviously makes me immediately jealous. The rest of the results appear to relate to people in America – LinkedIn and Twitter profiles, flickr and Formspring accounts and a sportswoman who shares the same name as me. Apparently ‘Corley’ is a more common surname in the US. My Twitter account (finally!) appears on the second page of results, and 4 pages in comes my Lisnpn profile (kindly pointing out that I have 0 friends!)  – but that’s about it.

When adding ‘library’ to my name, a lot more hits actually relate to me – my Twitter profile is top, followed by a post on University of Bradford’s special collections blog, and my account on the National Libraries Day website. This blog doesn’t come up, which I imagine is down to my sub-standard self branding skills, as I don’t think my full name is attached to this at all. This wasn’t initially intentional, but I think I will leave it that way for now – I’m still testing the waters.

The name of my blog

I have not used my own name in the url of this blog. This is because I am not a strong enough ‘brand’ yet for people to have heard of me by name, so instead I chose to use a pseudonym which I think reflects both my childlike curiosity for most things, and the fact that I am just starting out (and therefore still exploring the world of librarianship).

My photograph

The photograph I have used is me – in the distance on my very old and much loved bike. I like this photo (and the ones I’ve used as a background and header) because they were taken with my brownie camera, which I guess reflects yet another of my personal interests – analogue photography. I also used this image as I do not enjoy having my photo taken, and I couldn’t find any suitable ‘close-up’ shots of myself.

On Twitter, I don’t have a photograph of me at all. I don’t see this as a hurdle – I want to introduce myself at meetings and conferences –  I don’t want people to assume they ‘know’ me already and therefore not talk to me.


I think that finding the perfect balance is key here. I’m not entirely sure whether I’ve got that balance right? I think (hope) that in general I am a friendly and very approachable person, and I want to come across that way. But I’m not quite sure my ‘professional’ side is so evident…

My visual brand

I have to admit, I spent an awful lot of time agonising over the aesthetics of this blog. I am a perfectionist about how things ‘look’ – I know this is shallow, but my previous job was writing publicity material, which taught me that if something doesn’t look enticing, no-one will bother reading it. Having said that, as a writer I do honestly believe that what is written is the most important thing. How often do you hear people saying ‘I read somewhere that…’, but describing a visual image so that it has real meaning is much more difficult. I do not believe that a picture speaks a thousand words.

I deliberately chose not to have any images that involved books or libraries. This is because I want my blog to express other aspects of my personality too. And also because I am contrary – I always have to do things a little bit differently. I know this is not a good quality, but hey-ho.

I realise I’ve gone on and on here – but they say never to start writing until you have too much to say!

So now it’s over to you – any thoughts? Any comments on what you think my personal brand is would be useful and/or amusing! It would be especially nice to hear thoughts from people who’ve never met me in real life.