Inspired by the Victorian Librarian’s post What’s in (your) name? I’ve temporarily abandoned Thing 4 to write this PS to Thing 3. I was actually going to include most of it originally, but cut it out because the post was too long. I totally identify with her difficulties with the multiple ways people can get your name wrong. I’m Anabel but also get Annabel, Anabelle or Annabelle, and sometimes even some completely unrelated fancy name beginning with A. (That’s the only advantage I can think of – a teacher who was convinced my name was Annette, and whom I could therefore safely ignore when she shouted at me!) I used to be uncomfortable about the name, because I felt it conjured up an image of someone more like a Disney Princess than me, though I’ve long got over that. I also thought the spelling was unique, but I now know there are many others around, particularly Spanish language speakers where Ana and Anabel are standard. However, when I Google myself, it suggests Annabel as I’m typing then mixes up the results. Even when I write to people, the reply often comes back misspelt. It’s irritating and not very polite.
I’m third generation – my great-aunt was Annabella, always known as Anna or Annie, my aunt is Annabella but goes by Annabel, and I got the fully reduced version. My Mum’s theory was that it would be simple for me to spell and the single “n” would mean it couldn’t be shortened. Kids don’t care about the spelling, just how it sounds, so that never stopped them. That’s my sister and me in the picture – I’m on the right. She’s called Elspeth, so we spent a large part of our primary school days being known as Annie Walker and Elsie Tanner. Elspeth once wrote an essay in class – I can’t remember the exact subject, what I did in my holidays or some such title – in which, as her only sister, I figured largely. It came back from the teacher with each mention of Anabel corrected in red pen. How arrogant to assume a child does not know how to spell her sister’s name!
So what does this mean for my identity, or brand? A name means a lot – your self is bound up in it. I used to get very annoyed when people got mine wrong, now less so and I often let it pass. When I got married, I kept my own name for a very short while before I changed to Marsh, which made me very uncomfortable to start with, a sort of identity crisis which underlines my point. I certainly hope these things make me more sensitive to getting other people’s names right. However, I’m also difficult to find if you don’t get the spelling right – typing Annabel Marsh will certainly not prompt Google to suggest Anabel, and this obviously has implications for the “brand”, so maybe I need to go back to correcting the spelling every time someone gets it wrong. It’s my name, after all, and I have a right to have it right!
What does the word “brand” mean? It doesn’t have very positive connotations to me when applied to people. It makes me think of a fixed, unchanging identity, a constructed image, that’s almost akin to “false”, so I find myself agreeing with Ian Clark’s post Why you should learn to stop worrying about your brand. This is me, aged 7. I’ve posted it because of the old Jesuit motto “Give me a child until he is 7 and I will give you the man”, or woman in this case, which has been to the forefront of my mind recently because the 7 Up series of documentaries has returned with 56 Up. I find this programme fascinating – I am almost the same age as the participants (slightly younger) so the times they have lived through are very familiar to me. In the first programme we saw Neil, the most bright-eyed and engaging of the 7 year olds, who grew into a very troubled man. We also saw Sue, chosen to represent London’s East End, who never went to university but now works in one and routinely addresses lecture halls full of students. She has visibly grown over the decades and glows with happiness and confidence. Could these outcomes have been predicted at 7? Am I the same person as I was then? I like to think I have the same core values but have grown and changed – preferably for the better – over the decades. Maybe the core values are the “brand”?
I guess Jo’s instructions for Thing 3 do reflect my concerns. “Brand” is only a word to represent how people see you, and for Thing 3, specifically how they see your online presence. It isn’t wrong to want that to be an accurate reflection of yourself and to present yourself well. As suggested, I checked up on myself in Google. My name is quite unusual and it was page 3 before I came across anyone else and they were Annabel not Anabel (how annoying of Google to do that). On page 6 I found an Annabelle and by page 8 I gave up – the Annabel Marshes had taken over and I think I must be unique. There was nothing, as expected, to frighten the horses. My “brand” probably shouts (or maybe whispers) middle-aged librarian. The other thing I checked was Personas which checks you online and represents you as a bar chart with different colours representing different factors of your presence. It was fascinating to watch it compute. My major colour was pale blue for education which is no surprise given my job in an education library, but more unexpected was the small size of the bar for books which was the same size as that for sports. What? Well, I suppose I do sometimes tweet when the tennis is on, but sporty I am not. And what was that, admittedly tiny, bar for aggression? Me? Never! So maybe my online persona is not as accurate as it could be?
As well as presenting myself well, I want to present myself consistently, which I suppose is part of a “brand”. I mentioned in Thing 1 that I had four blogs for different purposes and they all looked different. I probably need to think a bit more about that. I’ve also realised that when I commented on other people’s blogs, if they were using Blogger, my comment automatically used my Blogger persona and would have linked them to my children’s literature blog. If they were using WordPress, my comments linked to my primary WordPress blog, the travel one. So I’ll need to be more careful not to create that sort of confusion. Finally, when I leave my job in the summer I will no longer have my university persona. As a start to drawing together my online presence I have created a flavors.me page which I can use, for example, as a new email signature.
Despite misgivings about the term “brand”, this has therefore been a useful exercise in starting to think how I will project myself in my new library world.