Your blog, your name, your brand, your risk.

June 28, 2007

My name is Tiffany. The reason I’m not saying my last name? Well, I’m not sure I should. Recent things like the Creating Passionate Users catastrophe quite honestly have me a bit nervous. I believe in transparency, and I am an advocate of personal career branding, but I am struggling with the good-versus-bad of a name as unique as mine. A recent entry on pen names, real names and real life by Penelope Tunk – once Adrienne GreenHart – only confused my feelings on the matter more.

See, it’s personal and it’s business, and it’s difficult not to blur those lines anymore. It’s difficult to know if blurred lines is good or bad both for my career and my real, actual life.

Enter the personal: My serious boyfriend has a rather common last name. I’ve had many a heartfelt, heart wrenching conversations with him about the inevitable decision to some day change my name and become one of hundreds of Tiffany Plainnames. I don’t want to hyphenate an already three-syllable last name with a two syllable one tagged onto the end of a three syllable first name. It would take a good 30 seconds just to spit that out!

Enter the career: I’m pursuing my master’s degree, and hoping to make a name for myself in academia. I also want to blog about the theories I’m delving into, and hey, wouldn’t it be nice if my online persona could be tied to my academic one? And wouldn’t I want any potential employers or clients to be able to easily tie me – the real, live, actual me – to all those things? Heck, yes. Isn’t that the point everyone from Penelope Trunk to Fast Company trying to make about how blogging is essential to a career these days?

But do I want to invite attacks by bizarre, unsolicited stalkers, simply for being in the blog world as who I am? No. For sure, 100%, no.

The questions surrounding the name and the personal brand abound, and the more I think about it, the less clear the answers become.

  • Do I assign my full name to this blog, cross my fingers, and hope for the best, as well as an angel of safety on me and my property?
  • Do I dare connect my personal life to my career in a 2.0 world?
  • When my thesis is published, what name do I put on it?
  • Do I change my last name, hyphenate it, or go by my maiden name for career and academia, and my personal name for – finances and monograms?
  • Am I alone in this?

The answer to the last question is obvious. I’m not alone. My co-worker and I author a blog for our company, and we’ve gotten into many a heated discussion about transparency, authenticity, and being a female blogger in a not-so-friendly mediated world. I don’t know if men really think about this topic a lot – it tends to lie on women the identity burden of the potential name change phenomenon, as well, unfortunately, as the burden of potential threats of physical harm by weirdos.

So here we are, young, career-minded women, dreaming of a personal brand like that of Seth Godin, Penelope Trunk, or Adrianna Huffington. The thing is, do we make it really personal, like Seth , or do we take a page from Penelope’s book, grab a pen name, and figure it out from there?

I’m leaning towards taking the journalist byline approach and putting my name out there for the sake of my career, but I have to say, it’s enough to make a girl think. A lot. What do you think?

Update: As Penelope Trunk herself pointed out in the comments below, Penelope Trunk is now her real name – not a pen name. I merely used her personal naming struggle as example very clearly illustrating the issue I feel I face. Thanks, Penelope, for commenting and for your example of transparency, as well as your encouragement!


75 Responses to “Your blog, your name, your brand, your risk.”

  1. Ryan Healy Says:

    Hi, great post. I recommend putting your name out their 100%. I was really worried about it when I started writing my weekly column for Penelope Trunk, but she talked me into it and I’m happy I did. Why not put your real name behind all those awesome thoughts you write for everyone to read? It will only help your career, it’s already helping mine!


  2. Well, I read this whole post, and I came down here to write a comment about how you should use your real name. So it’s pretty funny that Ryan beat me to it.

    I just want to be clear that at this point, Penelope IS my real name. And I do receive threatening comments every week, and I’m fine. I do not feel like my life is in danger.

    You ask really important questions, and I wish you a lot of luck!


  3. Dan Schawbel Says:

    YOu need to use your real name, and if it’s unique, you will stand out in more ways than one.

  4. […] Your blog, your name, your brand, your risk. This post delves into dealing with the issues of transparency, authenticity, and whether or not to blog under my own name. […]

  5. […] life too. It could change your career. You can quit anything you want. The choice is up to you. It’s your risk, after all. But that’s what makes it so fulfilling when it pays […]

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  11. Tasha Says:

    It is a dilemma for sure. But I would say use it or lose it. As Dan said, if it is unique the better for you. But I would just be careful about the other personal info out there. I have found a site, where you load everything about yourself and pick and choose what people can see that way you have everything you need in one place to help you but also be picky about what you share.

  12. I agree. Real name’s the way to go.

  13. Hai tiffany….the thinking of personal and business ways are really nice…this is very useful to understand the different things..thanks again…

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