Suggesting a teacher ‘grows their brand’ can seem a bit like asking a neuroscientist to work on their badminton back-hand; it would appear, at first glance, that there are far more serious issues at stake. Hear me out, however.
Just like working a neuroscientist working on this technique can be amazing for their dexterity and hand-eye coordination, growing your teaching brand can have a far-reaching impact on your experience in the industry.
The way that your colleagues and the company that you work for perceive you online is incredibly important to your success. Below I discuss a few ways that you - as an employee of an online teaching company - can begin to hone and develop your digital personality (or ‘brand’) to ensure you are not lost among a vast mass of online tutors.
Treat your current students as your ambassadors
Before you begin work on creating anything marketing/branding related, it’s important that you have your craft mastered first. There is little point in growing the brand of an insufficient ‘product’; your qualifications, abilities, and skills must sell you as someone to rely on first.
What this means to you and your particular company can vary wildly, but most places will have regular evaluations and goals to reach before you are considered a ‘good’ teacher. Investigating the particular rubrics that the school works with when assessing your lessons is a good place to start with this in terms of finding out what they expect from their employees.
Separate to this, though, is what you think makes a good online educator. Spend some time hashing it out on your own, before reading the blogs and watching YouTube videos of high-profile teachers who are successful in the school you’re at, or who are at companies which have similar requirements to the one you’re employed with. If these are not available, there are now a plethora of courses which can help you to decipher what makes an excellent online teacher.
It’s important to remember that ‘online’ is the operative word here too - what makes somebody a good teacher in the virtual classroom is a bit different to the qualities needed in a brick & mortar school. There is some crossover, of course, but establishing the subtle differences between the two from the get-go will set a good foundation that will allow you to thrive as you progress in your career.
Working on these aspects first will allow you to use your students as your ambassadors. It’s a well-known fact that Chinese families are very vocal on social media about the teachers they deem good. Go above and beyond the call of duty for one, and most likely you’ll be inundated with bookings within not too long a time frame. Be a great, dedicated, passionate teacher first and foremost, and the rest should follow naturally.
Make yourself invaluable to your company
Growing your ‘brand’ while working for a company is all about the reputation that precedes you; how reliable, trustworthy, honest and non-confrontational are you as an employee? How do you interact with staff, with your colleagues, and with the wider public when communicating the company’s strengths and values? This is not to say that you have to be completely passive and un-opinionated, but being mindful of how you come across to your colleagues and support staff is all the more important when you consider the (sometimes considerable) cultural divides at play.
As well as being mindful of your communication, actively seeking out opportunities to help grow the company using your additional skills and experience is something that tends to be noticed. Are you good at writing amazing copy? Video editing skills second-to-none? Able to sweet-talk people into applying for teaching positions that you know would be perfect for them? Make these skills and attributes known by speaking with the relevant people and offering yourself up for positions and opportunities within the company. Having native English speakers with extracurricular talents is a godsend for many of these overseas companies, and your efforts will not go unnoticed.
Have some social media presence (& consistently branded material)
It’s not an absolute necessity to have a social media presence when you work for a company, as they are marketing your skills and experience for you through their brand. However, as mentioned, creating an overall impression of you and your skills will help immensely with the impression your company has of you (which may or may not spill over into bookings)
Setting up a teacher Instagram account, a simple website through a site such as Wordpress or Squarespace, a Pinterest account, or even a Facebook page/group can help to develop your online presence, and may even help you to find clients in the future if you do decide to go solo and find work privately. Posting quotes and anecdotes and generally being informational (while friendly and personable) is a good approach, but make sure the imagery is consistent and flowing to stop it looking amateur.
A good resource for this is Canva - a really easy-to-use design application which allows you to develop a branding style and apply it to every image, post and digital communication you put out. Having set colors, fonts and a general, overarching theme can help people to identify you among a sea of visual imagery. Having something consistent creates a certain feel to your work that carries through to your general impression as a teacher.
Be doubly sure that your online communications tap into your appeal - are you somebody highly personable and funny? Are you more serious and academic? Let your branding really bring home to potential or existing students (and/or the company you work for) the aspects of you and your craft that make you appealing and unique, and worth holding on to. Remember that every interaction, every post and comment, and every social media output adds to the mark you make and the impression you give - so make it informative, inspiring, and (in the main) positive to keep those bookings coming, and your employment pain-free.
Create, Curate and Keep Evaluating
Once you have set up the various online platforms that you will be using to communicate your message, it’s time to start creating. This can be in the form of resources that other teachers can use, such as videos to help people through the recruitment process and beyond, or blog articles discussing the various topics and issues to do with the online teaching industry. It’s important here to define who your audience is; is it stay-at-home parents, or cash-strapped students, or existing teachers looking to make a transition? Or is it simply a way to communicate with potential students for if and when you decide to take a leap and start teaching privately? This audience will absolutely determine your message and the way it’s conveyed, so being crystal clear here is imperative if you want to make an impression.
It is important, too, to understand how you’re currently looking when people plug your name (or your brand, if you are defining yourself as such) to the search engines. Like it or not, people will begin to formulate an impression from that very initial Google search, so it’s important that what comes up when your name is typed is at least partially curated by yourself. Making an effort to delete old MySpace profiles, professionally unflattering opinions on Twitter/Facebook, and anything that might be deemed offensive or not especially in line with the image you are trying to project is a really good use of your time when first starting out.
After your digital clear-out and initial spurt of creativity, it’s important to keep the momentum going. Update to your profiles regularly, monitoring the posts/articles/videos which do best - what kinds of topics do well, which others slide under the radar? After a while, you will develop a firm understanding of the subjects which work best for your audience and you can tailor subsequent posts to this need. A lot of patience is required at this stage; you will not have a large audience at first, and it can seem as though your efforts are for no-one in particular. The real rewards start to come a little further down the line, usually in the form of messages of thanks for your assistance at first, and then potentially in the form of bookings and real-money incentives like partnerships and introductions to other forms of income. As long as you keep curating those outputs, evaluating their impact and adjusting accordingly, then you have everything in place to thrive in developing your online teaching brand.