Random Thoughts

Creating your Personal Brand

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At day two of the #ADE2010 conference here in Singapore we focused our time on thinking about personal branding. Something that I believe all educators should think about and that I’ve discussed on this blog here, here and here.

It's been frustrating getting connected to the Internet at ADE. Something I didn't think I'd have to worry about at this conference. Picture taken by teachingsagittarian

The presentation from Apple I believe was spot on in the fact that educators do not take enough time to pat themselves on the back, reflect, and think about themselves as a brand. Especially international teachers like myself who go recruiting ever 3 to 5 years and need to understand that their name and skills are their brand and can help them in getting hired.

What I’m not sure on….and the verdict is still out…..is why Apple had us spend a whole day focusing on branding ourselves. What’s in it for them? The fact that you would have all these educators out there who have websites/brands and have ADE on their resume? I’m not clear on the overall outcome of why we spent a whole day on this at this point…so I’ll reserve judgment till later.

Finding your niche
I talked with a couple other ADErs today who were struggling with getting started with branding themselves. I found it interesting that while Apple employees were introducing the concept to us they never talked about niche markets or audiences. Yet I find it helpful to start thinking about what your brand is, what your voice is to first workout who you plan to brand yourself too.

I talked with a high school history teacher who saw his audience as his students. Helping him to think about what it means to be an ADE and who that audience is he will be able to support, we narrowed it down to high school history teachers who are successfully integrating technology in their classrooms. Now that seems like a pretty small audience until you think about just how many history teachers there are in the world, and how many of those are looking for resources on the internet to help them teach their lessons….and you find your audience to brand yourself too (36 History Teachers on Twitter via wefollow.com).

From there he could brainstorm what his brand might look like and design a website that was tailor make for that niche audience on the web today. Apple brought in Joseph Linaschke to help us brainstorm and think through our brands. An amazing photographer who knows how to stage and capture moments. We took time to sit down with him in small groups to bounce our branding ideas off him. I talked about understanding these niche audiences and although he agreed that you need to have them in mind, he reminded me that your brand needs to be recognizable by anyone who comes across it. Personally Joseph doesn’t like to think about his audience to much but instead brainstorms and shoots with an idea in mind and then narrow it down from there.

Either way works….as long as you get to what your brand is.

All of this has me thinking of my own brand and the different between branding myself and branding a website. This blog has a brand that is The Thinking Stick…my faithful baseball bat that to this day sits with me in my office. That is the logo of this blog. It might not be the right logo, in fact at this point I’m sure people come to this blog and expect baseball content. My brand does not match my content….I have a logo/brand disconnect and wonder if I should fix it. But with what? 5th graders the other day said I should use a meter stick….not a bad idea….but then is that me? I’m struggling with this….suggestions?

My personal logo/brand is this icon to the left. Created by my friend and artist David Gran it is the current logo of my website and background for my profile picture on Twitter and conference websites. But is it me? Does it convey my message? The problem is I’m not an artist and have never claimed the creative gene. So I’m struggling with what a new logo would look like. This was a great logo a couple years ago when 2.0 was the buzz, but today are we 2.0ed out? Does it still convey the message that is me? What are your thoughts? Your suggestions….really……I’m all ears….and you are my audience! 🙂

So today for me was a thinking day. I enjoyed the conversations I had at lunch, in the hallways and over dinner the most (as per usual). Did I learn something new? Not really…but I did reflect and over the next month or so I hope you will help me recreate my logo to better represent me as an educator, consultant, presenter. So I go to bed tonight thinking, reflecting, and wondering where does all this lead to……

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Are you branded by these labels: educator, consultant, presenter, which represent what you do? Or are you branded more by your ideas and beliefs, which represent what you think?

    • Yes….right now my “labels” for lack of a better term are Jeff Utecht – Educator, Consultant, Presenter those are the labels that I think define who I am and who I want to be…..is that also my brand? Are we branded by labels but known for our ideas and beliefs?

      How do educators brand themselves like “Just Do It” or “Impossible is Nothing” can we? Should we?

  2. David (and Jeff)…aren’t you more branded by the things you create and share? The interactions you take part in? Not what you “do” or even your beliefs, but how you share those with others.

    • Good question. I think you brand yourself based on what you want to be known for, but are known for what you create and share?

    • Will: I think that branding represents a composite of who you are and what you believe in, and I would add, as you suggest, how you contribute and share those things.

      Interestingly, in a very simple way, have you become branded by willrich45? I think people now know me as djakes, which I consciously use when I create accounts which will display that, and when I enter a chat or a webinar.

      Of course, all of this suggests that we support students in creating a brand…more than Facebook certainly, and one that is just not found in a Google search.

      • Agreed….jutecht is part of my brand. Much like you I used it to create new accounts and when I log into webinars.

        I think that’s part of your brand. Creating a username or identity on the interent is just as important as your logo, or Twitter image.

      • So should I start setting up accounts everywhere under “tuckerrichardson”? Or would “tuckrich45” be just as good? I’m wondering if claiming the name is advantageous or even possible, these days. I have the .name domain for everyone in my family…wondering if my kids will use it as a way to build their brand. (Tim lauer is the only one that comes to mind who currently uses .name.)

        I wonder, too, how many “brands” don’t actually reflect the ideas and beliefs of the person and are instead constructs to fit a need or purpose. Is brand crap detection another skill we need to make sense of this?

        And I think Jeff points to a whole ‘nother piece of this in terms of the images we use to “brand” ourselves. Do we trust less in those who are obviously marketing themselves all over the place with their glamor shots? Is using Don Rickles as your avatar harmful, or does can that add to your brand in a good way?

        Just wondering…

  3. Hi Jeff,
    Creating a personal logo can be quite a challenge. It doesn’t have to be too literal … I mean take a look at avatars which can represent us but don’t necessarily look like the person they represent. I think that you perhaps were too quick to discard your baseball bat. I mean … I look at the Apple logo  and think computers/technology not er … fruit!! Perhaps your can do the same with the Bat/Utech 😉

    • Thanks Jane…..for the advice. The bat is already apart of my brand and maybe I’m thinking to literal with it’s use. Now I’ve even got more to reflect on today.

  4. Jeff, great post about personal branding and I believe that people need to promote themselves and not be ashamed of it. If people don’t know who you are, what you do, and what you’ve accomplished, how are you supposed to attract opportunities. I also agree that taking a niche is imperative because of how saturated the web is. By more of a niche it is the more you can stand out.

  5. Your branding should do the following:

    1. Clearly define what unique product/service you provide
    2. Define the values by which you function
    3. Define the audience you wish to share communication

    In a sense, building your brand is like claiming a beachhead as your own, then placing your towel (which takes up an appropriate amount of space-based on what you do and how you do it) in a spot that is not close to another’s.

    Apple is just deepening its brand values with the ADE group. It truly is that simple…at least, I think.

  6. And most importantly, it should be consistent! Don’t go around “revamping” your image and logos etc every couple of years, because that just means people don’t know what they’re looking at.

    Except if you are Google and changing your logo is a daily occurrence.

    Keep writing, cheers!

  7. Jeff, you’ve given me a lot to think about. I am reading your post as part of the COETAIL program running at YIS this year. You have confirmed something I wrote in my post about branding being an ongoing process. I will do my best to try and focus on components that are more timeless and likely to attract the sort of attention I hope for.


  8. The funny thing is, I never identified the logo as a baseball bat (I have to admit I didn’t spend too much time thinking about it). I guess it just upped the evocative ante a bit for me.

    One of the things I quite like about your brand, as far as I understand it, is the title of your blog. Maybe it’s a sign of my ignorance, but having no idea what a thinking stick is makes the term quite evocative. I like imagining a stick one holds when wanting to think deeply, or a stick multiple people keep a hand on when sharing ideas… I don’t know.

    For me, it’s much more effective, at least in the blog format, than the little word-button logo. I think most great logos are evocative instead of literal. I understand that a baseball bat alone might not make a great logo in other contexts, but the notion of a thinking stick, for me, if it could be translated graphically, might make for an interesting bit of personal branding. Curious to see where you go from here on this idea…

    Thanks for the thoughts (stick).


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