Annelise Madison, a PhD Candidate in Clinical Psychology (Health Track) at The Ohio State University, shares some of her own practices in cultivating a professional presence online. Summer can be a good time to give attention to your online profile.
Googling your name can be scary. If you courageously do so only to find an unflattering picture or inaccurate article about you or your work, you might feel helpless and assume that it is a permanent blemish. But there are a few simple steps you can take as an academician to cultivate your online presence:
- Set up a Google Alert for your name. A Google Alert will let you know anytime something is posted with your name in it. No need to regularly search your name because you will always be on top of media coverage. At first, you might have some nerves when you see an alert pop up, but over time it will become less anxiety-provoking.
- Curate your social media posts. Like it or not, your social media accounts are part of your professional online presence. Even though these are social accounts, they have the potential to compromise your professional reputation. Use social media for connecting with family and friends and posting pictures of fun memories but try to refrain from posting anything that you wouldn’t want your future employer or boss to see. The standard of what is acceptable can vary based on your field.
- Prepare to talk to the media. One of the most important skills to learn (and that I’m still learning) is how to talk to the public about your research. Create a few simple and catchy phrases about your work that are, of course, accurate. You want to strike the delicate balance of simplifying concepts so that they make sense to those outside your area of expertise without compromising the integrity of your work. For each article I publish, I have a Word document with about 10 bullet points that I try to make in every interview. Whenever possible, I ask reporters to send their questions to me so that I can either write my responses or think about the questions in advance. Reporters may want you to speak beyond the data to generate an eye-catching headline but stick to your data and pivot back to your bullet points whenever possible.
- If you see inaccuracies, speak up. Don’t sweat the small stuff, but if you see glaring errors in the media’s coverage of you or your work, feel free to make them aware of the mistake. Respectable news outlets want to accurately report your research, so they are usually happy to fix mistakes. As an example, a news outlet once reported that my peer-reviewed paper that was in press had not been peer-reviewed, and when I reached out to the reporter, they immediately fixed this inaccuracy. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that whatever has been published about you is permanent and unchangeable because in many cases it is simply not true.
- Have some go-to headshots. I was caught off-guard early in my grad school career when a reporter asked for an original headshot to accompany their article. The reporter was working on a deadline, so I didn’t have much time to scrounge together a picture. Professional headshots can be expensive, especially if you are on a grad school budget, but maybe you have a friend with a good camera who is willing to take a few pictures. You put so much time and effort into your work, and having a high-quality headshot is a small step that can pay dividends because people will start to associate your face with your work. Even if you spend most of your workday in sweats writing in your basement, have an online image that projects where you are headed.
- Create your own website. One major way to have more control over your online presence is to create your own professional website. Some journals have copyrights that prevent you from posting full-text publications in any place except your own personal website. Once you create your website, you can simply send your website URL to anyone who asks for a copy of an article. You can also include your website link in your email signature, and of course, in your job application materials. Faculty on hiring committees have told me that candidates with websites stand out. As an example, here’s my website. Think through the format that will best showcase your work.
Remember that cultivating an online presence is an ever-evolving process, as we, our work, and our technology develops. With these simple steps, you are well on your way. And the next time you Google your name, you can be satisfied with the result.