Developing a Personal Brand is a Must, and the Sooner the Better

By Keith Becker

The shift toward the individual reporter and away from journalistic institutions was identified as one of the major trends in journalism by the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s State of the Media Report for 2009. One key takeaway from the report:

Through search, email, blogs, social media and more, consumers are gravitating to the work of individual writers and voices, and away from institutional brands like newspapers and publications.

Marketing extraordinaire Seth Godin uses his head as a brand.

As such, students need to consider how they are going to stand out as experts in a knowledge-based economy.

Alfred Hermida, a journalism professor at the University of British Columbia and writer for PBS’s digital media blog MediaShift, has found a single question that guarantees to set students off into a frenzied buzz — even more so than final exams or essay assignments: How many own your name as a domain name?

Having a website that reflects your professional identity is your digital calling card. Your online presence should show who you are, your interests and background, and showcase your best professional work; or to put it another way, your personal brand as a journalist.

In the journalism of today, the personal brand is becoming increasingly central to the prospects of a young person starting out on a life of reporting. So it is important for students at journalism school, and even those still in high school, to develop the professional brand that will set them apart come graduation.

How do you do this? There are many ways:

For some, the best way could be starting a blog on a specific topic to develop a reputation as an expert in this area. It might be by leaving informed comments on stories of interest. Or by simply following and interacting with key people in your field on Twitter.

As Mindy McAdams points out in her 10 tips to building a personal brand, the key is to become visible enough that you pop up in the top results when your name is typed into Google.

In the ever-shifting media landscape of the 21st century, two things have become self-evident: the evolution towards digital media and the knowledge economy. The new journalist needs to create and develop his or her niche in this new media ecosystem.

Now go buy your domain name! Sacrificing a few weekends of beer money will be worth it to spend a couple dollars a month on a dedicated personal web address.

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