Should you podcast under your real name, or a pseudonym? – TAP183

Photo Credit: wolfgangfoto via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: wolfgangfoto via Compfight cc

Some podcasters will consider using a fake name for themselves to protect their identity while podcasting. This also applies to blogging and making YouTube videos. Learn more about when a pseudonym is a good idea and when it would be the wrong decision for your blog, podcast, YouTube channel, or any online branding.

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When to use a pseudonym

Call it a “fake name,” “pen name,” “stage name,” “alternate personality,” “secret identity,” or whatever you want. Pseudonyms can be another regular name, like “Cali Lewis” (her actual name is Luria Petrucci); it could be your Internet avatar like, “Jax”; or a made-up title, like “the Ramen Noodle.”

1. Use a pseudonym when you must protect your identity

The most obvious reason to consider using a pseudonym is when your identity and security are at risk. Maybe you don’t want your Internet life to be connect with your private life. Maybe it would have negative affects on your job. Or maybe you’re concerned about your personal safety (more commonly a concern among women than men).

A pseudonym is a good way to protect yourself because it makes it just a little harder for someone to find the real you. Just make sure you use this pseudonym everywhere online, including domain registrations and accounts.

2. Consider a pseudonym when your name is hard to spell or pronounce

How easy is it for someone to spell your name if they have only heard it? If there’s a big chance they’ll get it wrong, or maybe use an alternative spelling, you may want to consider some level of a pseudonym. This is why Cali Lewis, of GeekBrief.tv and GeekBeat.tv, changed her name from Luria Petrucci—”Cali Lewis” is much easier to hear and spell. It’s shorter, too.

This could be as simple as only ever using your last initial, or maybe changing your name completely.

3. Consider a pseudonym when your real name is “taken” online

If you have ever tried to get your real name online and could not, I feel your pain! I have wanted “DanielJLewis” on many places for a long time. When I can’t get “DanielJLewis,” I usually use my trademark “theRamenNoodle” (like on Twitter or Instagram).

4. Consider a pseudonym when it truly makes sense

There are some cases where it just makes sense to assume a different identity online. This may actually make it easier. For example, Braxwolf Stormchaser hosts a video-game podcast called Beyond Bossfights. “Braxwolf Stormchaser” isn’t his real name, but it’s his gamer tag. So it’s much easier for his audience if he gives them a single name, as it’s already his name in the games. Then, people don’t have to remember who “Braxwolf” really is.

Depending on your approach to social media, you may also want to remove a personal name completely and your blog or podcast be your identity. But this gets confusing and extremely unauthentic. Imagine if you only knew me online as “The Audacity to Podcast” when I used personal pronouns online.

Another case would be when you have more than one host with the same first name. Using a pseudonym can help clarify who is whom.

Disadvantages to pseudonyms

Using a fake identity online does have some problems.

  1. If it is “cute,” you may not be taken seriously. I hear this in some wanna-be “professional” podcasters and I think it ruins their reputation (and it seems other listeners agree). Imagine if Michael Hyatt used a cute pseudonym instead of his real name, or if I was always “the Ramen Noodle” in The Audacity to Podcast.
  2. You may regret your decision later. Oh, how I regret not getting my real name earlier! Years ago, I didn’t think about how my online presence would grow. If you think there’s ever even the smallest chance you will build a personal brand later, get your real name now, even if you do not use it.
  3. You may have complications with blending identities. If you use a pseudonym online, what do you call yourself when you go to in-person events like conferences and meetups? What if you launch a business related to your podcast? You have to essentially live a constant “lie” if you use anything other than your real name.

When to use your real name

I’m a big fan of using real names, even if it’s just your real first name. These points could also apply as reasons to use a real-sounding pseudonym instead of something “cute.”

1. Use your real name when you want to build your personal brand

This is big! You cannot build a personal brand well if you are not an actual person. I’m starting to work more on building my personal brand, “Daniel J. Lewis,” more than any single podcast, network, or even media platform. You’ll see more of my sites say, “Created by Daniel J. Lewis. © [years] D.Joseph Design LLC.” I want my personal brand associated with everything I create, even though it’s my company that owns the rights.

Your real name makes you more honest and thus more trustworthy. So if you want to build authority and credibility, use your real name.

Someone recently discovered one of my Podcasting Video Tips episodes on YouTube and recognized me by name and voice from our Once Upon a Time podcast. This also happened with an interviewee at CES. If I didn’t use my personal brand across both areas, these people may not have been as excited to hear from me or even have respected me as much.

2. Use your real name plus an initial when your name is common or “taken” online

Again, I feel your pain if you have a common and probably taken name, like mine is. I also don’t like the way “daniellewis” looks online—”Danielle Wis” (I don’t mean any offense to any Danielle Wises out there!). I decided to use my middle initial, “J.” Not only does this look better to me, but it also helps distinguish me from “Daniel Day Lewis” (though I still get that joke all the time).

If your name doesn’t mash together well, it’s too long, or it’s already taken online, consider using a real initial with your real name. (Did you know that the “S” in “Ulysses S Grant” doesn’t actually stand for anything? That’s the one case where you would use a period on this initial, because it’s not an abbreviation.)

3. Use just your real first name when you want to be authentic, but still private

If privacy is still important to you, then use just your first name. In our Once Upon a Time podcast, two of my cohosts use only their first names because of privacy and security concerns. This is still more personal and authentic than using their avatar names, like “Jacquelyn” instead of “RumplesGirl.”

Disadvantages to real names

Using your real name isn’t without its cons.

  1. Everything you do online will be connected to you—forever. This can potentially hurt when applying for a job, but it can also greatly help you. Just be careful with what you associate your real identity.
  2. Your real name may be too long, already taken online, hard to spell, ambiguous, or similar to a celebrity. This is tough and I share your frustration! Be creative, but also don’t limit yourself to what you may someday change (that’s why I’ll never be “PodcasterDaniel”).
  3. Your real name may compromise your privacy and security. Yes, the biggest concern online is with your privacy and security. This is a very legitimate concern. You can offset this with other privacy practices (like getting a PO Box, using a Google Voice phone number, and never sharing location-revealing information).

What do you think about real names versus pseudonyms? Please comment and share your reasons for one side or the other, and what you think when you hear other podcasters do it either way.

Also check out the great thoughts in Podcasters and Podcasting Technology Resources] communities on Google+, and my personal Google+ profile.

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  • Ben Avery

    Whoa! The picture accompanying this would could be more creepy…but you’d have to work at finding a creepier one!

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      It was between this and a masked man that looked like a male stripper.

      Maybe I should pick a new photo. :P

      • Stephanie b

        It’s pretty creepy. :-)

  • Ben Avery

    Branding is definitely the important factor here, and even a pseudonym can indeed be a brand. I have an author friend who made a name for himself writing in one genre, and when his publisher accepted a book in a different genre, they asked him to write it under a pseudonym. The reason? His real name was already a brand in one area, making it a harder sell in another.

    Weird to think of your NAME being a brand…making your PERSON a product? Almost.

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Good thought!

      But when a face or voice can be connected with a name, it’s probably important to be consistent. Harrison Ford doesn’t go by any other name. And even “The Rock” changed to Dwayne Johnson.

      • Ben Avery

        The “Rock” changed because he changed venues, though. It took time. He was Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson for a long while.

        But to your point, my friend would have to do some book signings under his real name and some under his pseudonym. It could be weird if someone wanted both books.

        That reminds me of one of the more famous pseudonyms — Stephen King and Richard Bachman. He kept that branding around, but only to have it turn into “Stephen King writing as Richard Bachman” even in recent times, on books that were never intended to hide his identity. Of course, you want to talk about personal branding, Stephen King is possibly the biggest “name brand” out there.

  • Stephanie b

    I just use my first name in both of my podcasts, mainly to separate my personal social media presence from my podcast social media presence. BUT now I wish that I had come up with a fake real-sounding last name. When I was asked to be member of a fan panel at a comic con pretty soon after launching my podcast, they asked for a first and last name to put in the program. I didn’t really think about it, so I just used my real name. Since then, some folks have managed to find my personal social media profiles. I don’t have definite evidence that the two are connected, but I think it probably helped.

  • Marti LeRoux

    I use a pseudonym because I’ve been stalked online twice. It wasn’t anything serious, but it was still creepy and quite frankly, made me feel a bit paranoid.

  • EveFranklin

    I use a pseudonym, but it was derived from a screen name that I’ve used for years as a login for many online communities. While I can actually explain how my pseudonym represents me as a real person through extended family names, the name doesn’t exist for real, and is surprisingly more unique than my actual name. I’ve often wondered about starting a Facebook account for Eve Franklin so that she can interact in podcasting communities as a real person, but it seems just a little bit dishonest, since she isn’t a legal entity. As to my reasons for using a pseudonym, I do it mostly to protect my identity and my connections with my employer. While it occasionally has proven inconvenient to use a pseudonym, my entire Google presence has become Eve Franklin, so it’s nice to be able to fool Google, if nothing else.

  • Relatively Geeky

    I use the nickname “Professor Alan” in almost everything online, so using it for my podcast made sense, too. And neither part of that nickname is inaccurate.

  • TJoe

    It may be worth noting that in most locals. you are required by law to register any fictitious name you use. Almost silly in this day of internet. On the other hand, if someone wants to stalk you, they will (and perhaps even include your family members). These days, it is almost impossible to hide.

  • zodiac legend

    Unsure what to do …

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      Ick. That stinks.

  • Dan Frigo

    What about if you want to have a personal brand and then a seperate brand that do not mix? Would it be best to have two seperate identities online, or simply use the same name. For example I am Dan Frigo, a photographer and internet business minded person online. I want to develop a brand around survival and create a pen name for that blog/video/podcasts. However do not want to come across as a fake. Considering I will use my real picture it would be weird to see my face online with two dif names.
    Thoughts?

    • http://DanielJLewis.net/about Daniel J. Lewis

      There’s nothing wrong with associating your name (personal brand) with other brands. iPod, iPhone, and Mac are all separate brands, and they’re owned by Apple. Your name could be like Apple and your separate outlets are brands you run.

      I recommend using your real name across both platforms. You don’t have to cross-link them.