As registered dietitians, we should be seen as the go-to resource for nutrition information. Unfortunately, misinformation about diet and food runs rampant on social media and the Internet, many times promoted by self-professed experts with little to no schooling or training about dietetics.
What can we do about this information gap? By making an effort to brand ourselves as nutrition experts we will increase awareness of the profession and instill credibility in our skills.
We are exposed to brands every day. Whether on TV, billboards, magazines, food packaging, or storefronts, brands identify the product or service of a “seller” and serve to differentiate them from others. While branding on the business level is common, it’s becoming just as important on a personal level, especially when it comes to being recognized as an expert in a field of work.
While branding sounds like it should come naturally, it does take effort. Here are five steps to brand yourself as a nutrition expert:
1. Be Up-to-Date on the Latest Research
Research is continually evolving and it’s our job not only to be aware of new findings, but also to be open to new approaches to diet and lifestyle. More importantly, we must be able to translate new findings into appropriate recommendations for the public. Subscribing to scientific journal newsletters, building relationships with researchers personally or through social media (such as following them on Twitter), or attending nutrition conferences are ways to stay up-to-date on the latest science.
2. Align with Other Professionals in Respected Organizations
It’s not enough just to be a member of professional organizations to build the credibility of your brand — you need to make the next step. Take on a leadership position, commit to attending meetings or mentor other members. A major part of your brand is the people you surround yourself with. Getting involved with your state or district Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics section is an easy way to link arms with like-minded nutrition professionals.
3. Invest in Continued Education
To truly be an expert in your field, you must be willing to continually learn. Make it a priority to attend conferences (such as the Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo), listen to webinars and read books about your profession. Equally as important to gaining new knowledge is strengthening basic skills such as writing, public speaking and social skills. If you feel that you lack these skills or they are weak, take a class at a local community college or join an organization such as Toastmasters (a public speaking organization) to sharpen your skills. Knowledge is power for building your brand as an expert in the field of nutrition.
4. Be Present on Social Media
Being present on social media is essential for building your brand. It’s important to respond to messages and requests because they may open the door to new opportunities for growth and development. To be an expert, you must be connected with your community and accessible to those who need your guidance. In addition to a presence on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, create a “resume webpage” where your credentials and accomplishments can be shared.
5. Find a Mentor
Finding a mentor to impart knowledge and provide guidance can help you make choices that are true to your brand. Reach out to someone you respect and actually ask them to be your mentor (rather than just calling on them when you have questions). Set up reoccurring meetings and come prepared with discussion topics. Advice from someone who is knowledgeable about your career field is invaluable when developing your brand.
The question is no longer if you have a personal brand, but whether you will choose to guide and cultivate the brand or to let it be defined on your behalf by someone else. Start building your brand as a nutrition expert today and be an influential player in the future of the field of dietetics.