You are not a brand, you’re a human. Act like it.

I read a post by a popular UK educator who suggests that new educators looking for work build a brand by making a website; starting a twitter account; joining linkedin; starting a YouTube channel and getting a logo. This, it was suggested will improve their chances of getting noticed when it comes to employment.

I don’t agree with this, because it confuses having a media presence with brand equity. In this post, I’m going to firstly explain a little about brands, and then suggest an alternative way of improving use of digital media – killing two birds with one stone.

Brand equity is what differentiates one product from the generic mass. It’s the whole reason organisations spend billions of dollars into it. Once a brand has some equity, it sets about optimising it, such that each dollar works in it’s favour. Brands are locked in a media-war with other brands … The worlds top five brands are Apple, Google, IBM, Coca-Cola and McDonalds. Twitter and Linked In don’t feature in the Top 100 of 2013, because brand equity is more than brand recognition. Brands have to turn their slogans and logos into actual product that someone wants to buy which directly relates to income.

For a new teacher, building a web-presence is technically quite simple. Building an audience is quite difficult. One way is to aggregate information, such as Richard Byrnes “Free Tools for Teachers“. This is a lot of work, which has taken the best part of a decade. Another is to offer resources for teachers to save them time and effort such as Adrian Bruce’s “Go Teach This“. In both cases, they have worked hard to understand how to build brand equity – not simply a logo or website which in today’s world of information is invisible. Given the number of most major employers use dedicated ‘recruitment’ engines to sift potential candidates (for interview) from the audience they have reached (though brands such as Seek) then being able to write a good application is the most critical step to employment. Having said that, the biggest single challenge for new teachers is actually under-employment. Given most schools operate on a day to day paper-based-system, having ‘one pager’ is still the best envoy for employment along with a mobile phone number and email address.

Starting a journal online will lead (if persisted with) to a long term-connection with media. If you have the time and opportunity, then selecting a ‘topic’ of interest and writing about it is a good idea, but it’s not simple to wrangle your own thoughts on a regular basis. I’ve written on many occasions about my concerns that social-media-based educators farm the online space for their own ends and that a great deal of has become popular ‘edtech’ culture is neither new or useful in classrooms. I’d say, don’t follow the crowd, but try and build a path to your own insight and interest.

It might be that you are interested in comics or music. As a new teacher, finding a way to take that interest to the local community (be that online or physical) – actually going out there and HELPING other people will lead you to more important things than a job, it will connect the desire to ‘teach’ (because it’s a good thing to do) to the world. Tweeting your ass off or re-blogging trending items is just part of the noise these days. If you’re going to BLOG then be authentic.

Here’s an example. You may or may not know that I part-own a bike shop. I don’t actually work there, as I know nothing about bikes in comparison to the people who do. But I like bikes and I’m always looking for new ideas for the shop. So I actively go looking for blogs about bikes, rather than hope someone posts a link for me on Twitter. My point is to highlight the importance of ‘information seeking’ using digital media (which Judy O’Connell calls ‘fluency’). My second point is to emphasise that reputation can be built as a humanist, and that you don’t need to blog about education at all, but you do need come over as passionate, creative and astute. Any fool can re-blog the educational obvious, vanishing into the mass.

My five things: get an A5 postcard professionally designed (try eLance or Design Drown); upload it to MooCards and print it; get on a bike and deliver it to every school in the area; get a gmail account for communications; pay less attention to the edu-bubble on Twitter.

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