self packaging – when is enough already?

I’ve realized recently that I’m pretty half hearted about the idea of self packaging/self promotion.

It’s not that I don’t do it. I do.

Well you have to now in HE. CVs and bio notes and university home pages are the bottom line for all of us. But there are of course multiple additional platforms across which you can re/present an academic self – facebook, tumblr, twitter, Wikipedia, pinterest etc. A new possibility nearly every month.

I do seem to rather relentlessly plug blog posts on twitter, probably much too much. On the other hand a friend who keeps an eye on such things was recently surprised to hear that my book with Barbara Kamler on publishing in academic journals had been out for some months ( read a review here). It had clearly passed her by and I obviously did a pretty crap job of promoting it. If your friends don’t know when you’ve published something, you’re in trouble! (Ive tried to compensate with these links!)

I confess that there are aspects of this self-packaging stuff which make me uncomfortable. It all seems a bit blowing your own trumpet very loudly and often… a lot like spin… more like self advertising for the sake of it…

But hang on… How culturally, generationally, and gender loaded is my reticence, I ask myself.
– generationally – I’ve not had to sell my soul or my self to get a job
– culturally – Australians, despite the reputation for being brash, tend to look disparagingly on self promoting tall poppies and England appears to be even more so
– gender – well I’m pretty ancient, and it was a case of girls being brought up not to put themselves forward. ‘Clever girls’ in particular were always regarded with some suspicion.
So there is probably a good sociological explanation for why I feel the way that I do about the self packaging game.

All well and good. Aside from considerations about the source of my discomfort about self promotion, I do also wonder about where you draw the line. On what basis do you decide something is OK, and something is too much?

I couldn’t name anything after myself. And I ‘m pretty sure I couldn’t write a Wikipedia entry about myself, although I know that some colleagues who have done both of these things. I might get round to doing a Wikipedia entry on something that I’ve researched – perhaps. Same for facebook – I could just about manage a research focused facebook page I think, but really I use FB just to connect with friends I don’t see in person very often.

However, I do get pretty miffed when I discover a book/Wikipedia/blog about something that I’ve been heavily involved with that doesn’t mention me – although I don’t make the effort to provide a correction. So there’s a contradiction for you. I want the credit, but I don’t want to have to do it myself.

Clearly it’s almost impossible to separate out the scholar from the scholarly work, and that’s what makes this whole topic of self packaging so interesting – and fraught. Promote the work and you promote the scholar – but is it always true vice-versa? Are there academic star cultures/academic cults of personality – and how does self packaging feed into them and are they a Bad Thing?

I’m not at all sure where I stand on all this and where to draw any new lines about what to do and what not to do… What do you think?

About pat thomson

Pat Thomson is Professor of Education in the School of Education, The University of Nottingham, UK
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17 Responses to self packaging – when is enough already?

  1. Scott Eacott says:

    Great blog Pat. As an unashamed product and producer of the contemporary university, I have wondered about this, especially after setting up my own website ( – although currently in hiatus as I shift institutions). That being said, I wonder if one can recognise where the line is and when it is crossed? Of course, I am of this metric driven academic generation, I am male, although I too am Australian (maybe un-Australian). This should make for some fascinating dialogue and would make a great topic for #ecrchat sometime


  2. Thanks for that posting Pat. I have been considering similar issues myself very recently. As a novice blogger ( AND a completer finisher (unfortunate combination!) I’m struggling to find a balance not only between time/effort spent and ‘worthwhile’ results but between my desire to express something meaningful and the wish to stay ‘visible’.


  3. Collette Snowden says:

    I totally agree Pat. I struggle with it daily, both culturally and professionally – and I teach a course in Public Relations! The aversion to ‘big-noting’ is so deeply in-grained, that I actually have a physical revulsion to it – in others and myself. Having a truly working class background, and as a female, English migrant to Australia, my enculturation was a constant in the value of self-deprecation and anti-intellectualism. I recall being completely baffled at being ostracised temporarily at primary school for the crime of ‘ thinking your so clever,’ not for anything I said or did -unless passing a few tests counts – but as a result of the teacher reading out the class ranking. My response was to become the ‘naughtiest girl in the class’ and spend quite a bit of time standing outside in the corridor. Anyway you know the story, it’s common enough.
    Now I have the opposite problem, apparently being good at my job is not sufficient I have to TELL everyone about it. The problem of teaching awards is especially vexing. How can an award that you nominate yourself for have any value? But, I’ve been advised that I need to nominate myself …. which requires a significant amount of self-promotion aka ‘big-noting.’ You can see the circular problem here!

    I can write your Wikipedia entry if you like. Send me your CV …. oh, there we go …..


  4. Scott Eacott says:

    There is something interesting about how the first two responses to a blog about over doing self promotion both include links to personal webpages 😉 And I myself am one of the guilty parties.


  5. For what it’s worth, I have never considered you to be one of the heavier self-promoters. “Relentless” and “much too much” are not terms I associate with your online presence.

    You create content for reasons far above self-importance and status. There is no harm in letting people know what’s out there.


  6. Well, considering you blog regularly, Pat, you’re no Luddite or academic sloth! Keep up the posts.

    I use Facebook mostly for friends and shared interest groups (e.g. book club).

    Career-wise, I am on all the academic websites. I do find it interesting to see how and Research gate, etc., allocate scores to how many people viewed my profile.

    I just joined Twitter, but as I don’t have a smart phone and don’t want to be connected 24/7, I can’t see that it will be any use.


    • Jill Berry says:

      Just to say I’m a Twitter fan and find using it for educational professional development very powerful. I don’t access it on a smartphone, or 24/7, but I log in on my laptop for half an hour or so a day to see what’s new. It can work!


  7. Jill Berry says:

    Spookily, Pat, I’ve been thinking about this recently – see this:

    Had a conversation with another head about whether this is helpful as it raises awareness of the issue, or whether it’s actually damaging because it reinforces stereotypes about girls/women. I really don’t know.


  8. Julie says:

    Interesting post. I’m new to your blog, after following a link from a friend on Facebook. I recently went to a workshop on social media for historians (I’m a historian at a British university) and have been wondering ever since whether a blog would be a good idea. I’ve joined, but can’t decide if a blog would be a good move. I have been told and can see why that I need more of a profile on social media but, like you, I’m uncomfortable with the self-publicity aspect. I would be very interested to know how time-consuming you find blogging – my other fear is that the investment in terms of time would not be worth the extra attention I might generate.


  9. pat thomson says:

    I post twice a week and it takes about six hours max. But you could look at a group blog. Much less involved in this although you need an editor, or to rotate editorial duties.


    • Karen McAulay says:

      Interesting topic. For myself, half of me thinks I have to do the self-promotion thing, and the other tells me to act my age! Check google and you can tell when each half has been dominant!


  10. KiPjONES says:

    I find myself one of the guilty ones. When I promote, however, I try to make it about the work, not myself. I prefer remaining in the background in most circumstances anyway.
    Social media has quickly become both a liberator from the Ivory Tower and yet another occupation. Quite frankly, it needs to be explored and experimented with to ascertain what works for a particular academic, and what doesn’t.
    One of the clear principles of using Twitter, Facebook, etc is repetition. The world is not sitting quietly by waiting for your announcement of your latest blog or publication. Don’t expect the audience to be tuned in no matter what time you post. The world is, indeed, divided into time zones! Repetition, repetition, repetition. Also, use photos and/or graphics whenever possible. We live in a visual world.
    In social media, the audience is rapidly skimming through material. Get their attention. Become like the wunderkinder, Peggy Olsen, of Mad Men. Write great attention-grabbing brief copy.
    Many of us moaned the fact that the average number of readers of any journal article is three (and one clever audience member recently replied: “Yeah. And one’s your mother!”). Social media opens a a range of possibilities for attracting readers/viewers to our outputs.
    Don’t be wallflowers.
    By the way, I am touting FREE cinema tickets over at
    Get yours before they disappear!!!



  11. As someone who is no longer doing her own academic work but has thought a lot about this stuff because I run a business, I think the key is really to focus on the work and to judge the promotion of the scholar based on how that contributes to promoting the work.

    The fact is you WANT people to read your work. You think it will help their work. Those people might be other scholars who you want to engage in (rather formal) discussions of both empirical evidence, and conceptual frameworks for understanding that evidence so that all scholars in your field are doing better scholarship and creating new and better knowledge. Those people might be practitioners who will use your work to make better decisions about how they do what they do.

    Either way, they need to know about the work. And they need to know enough about you, the scholar, to be able to make a judgement about the likely quality of the work.

    They also need to be able to find your OTHER work if they really like the one thing they find.

    Start by thinking about how YOU find scholarship and how you read it. Then ask around to find out how others do this. (I did this in a workshop once and there was a remarkable variety of practices.) Do not assume you do it “the way everyone does”.

    And then think about what would help someone else find your work. Keep in mind that they are VERY BUSY. No one is “keeping up” with what’s come out recently. Everyone has a “to read” pile (physical or virtual). What makes things rise to the top of that pile?

    Lastly, don’t TELL people to read your work. Make a case. Give them summaries in a form that works for them (abstract? executive summary?) Give them the main points. They’ll read the longer version for the detail and if they don’t have time, they’ll at least know the main things and your goal (to influence their work) is met in some way.

    The fact that some people self-promote in skeezy ways does not make self-promotion itself skeezy.

    (and it seems maybe I should write my own blog post about this)


  12. Pingback: Self packaging - when is enough already? | Life...

  13. the seeker says:

    Reblogged this on Lectio Divina, or daily seeings.


  14. Hooray for self-promotion! More of us (particularly women) need to embrace it. My blog post today is about this, and I really hope it helps anyone pursuing a dream.


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