How can you create your own brand as a researcher? It might seem impossible, as this is often a skill that is not taught in a formal institution such as higher education. It is also the case that some researchers are not aware of how much knowledge they possess, and don’t utilize their full potential to create a real audience. They might seek to work for a big environmental or social justice organization, which can be rewarding, but if you don’t get in the door for one of these companies, then what?
In some cases, junior researchers and those looking to make a name for themselves in an industry need to take up branding, and it doesn’t have to be a painful experience. In short, having a brand others know you for is critical for staying competitive and relevant in some fields. That is the case for psychology, for example, and opening up a practice. But it takes that mindset and spark to get started.
Emerging Fields and Branding
Some niche fields are not big enough yet or well established. Some are up and coming such as environmental consultants, or alternative therapists. For example, many people know about conventional therapy but less know about homeopathic remedies or other styles that take a non-traditional approach. These new “fields”, backed by hard research, have only come into existence because the individual behind them was able to create a following for their alternative profession.
Such pioneers often have an entrepreneurial attitude and believe their ideas and angles taken will resonate with a larger audience. They are trend setters who perhaps see a larger than life idea for their research background.
In turn, such a mentality allows professionals to do a few things that they wouldn’t normally be able to do if they stuck with a more traditional career path, such as:
- Have more creative freedom for how they deal with clients and client protocols
- Attract new and youthful clients
- Establish themselves as the true “pioneer” in their fields, thereby acting as industry leaders
- Set their own pricing mechanisms—This is crucial because potential demand in a new field could be very
- Advance their careers faster without having to jump through bureaucratic loopholes
Tools for Branding and Attracting Clients
Online platforms and website domains can easily help professionals who want to establish themselves in an alternative field or create a branded angle. We see this most simply when people in our network change their titles on their LinkedIn profiles. It is also the case that more professional outlets, such as Impactio, can showcase publications and citation metrics and give professionals real weight in their industry.
But while Impactio or LinkedIn appeals to professional accomplishments and academic networking, branding also has an ethos component. For example, many consultants engage in some type of branding through creating their website to give users a distinct feel for what working with them will be like.
I recently spoke with a former aid worker who created their own website with a unique branding strategy. Their goal is to help current aid workers deal with re-entry shock and the stress that aid work over long contract periods can create. Browsing on the website, you could see how their new line of work was more than just the research or title they had developed over the years. The visual feeling of the site gave off an incredible tune for self-help, healing, and being in touch with oneself. They had found a gap in the industry and filled it with their own brand.
Be a thought leader in your industry
One of the best ways to bridge this gap between branding and expertise is through thought leadership and taking risks. Thought leaders often emerge in traditional fields when they challenge the status quo of their field and in turn gain a following for doing so. This following is interpreted as a reward for the thought leader, who is then able to capitalize on this process and turn their knowledge base into a real platform.
This strategy is also how some professionals get the idea for writing books. They know that gaining an audience will be beneficial in the long run.
But taking risks doesn’t always pan out so well. Often times it takes many trials and errors for those with an entrepreneurial mindset to break out of their traditional line of work and brand themselves. What is so interesting is that usually professionals with strong research, or academic background, are able to make this transition and make it last.