Brand Me a Journalist

Using Social Media to Create a Professional Niche

Archive for March 2010

Social Media Guidelines for Journalists

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Before you can effectively use social media to promote your personal brand, you first need to know what is considered professional use of it. I’ve seen a series of tweets forwarding Reuters’ social media guidelines and decided I’d pull together a few other organizations’ policies for side-by-side comparison. Interestingly, most news outlets don’t appear to publicly post their policies, but I have found blogs that have posted the policies of The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Here’s a collection of policies to give you a sense of what is considered responsible use of social media for journalists:


Associated Press

The New York Times (via

The Washington Post (via


Society of Professional Journalists

And just as a reminder to us students here’s the policy for Cronkite School students.

If you know of other policies, feel free to add the links via comments.

Written by Jennifer Gaie Hellum

March 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm

Curating Your Digital Profile

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A recent discussion on the Wired Journalists forum addressed how digital journalists can update their resumes to reflect 21st century skills. Suggestions ranged from ways to organize content on a paper resumé to ways to present digital content.

Steve Buttry offered the most compelling contribution with a link to a year-old blog post full of clever, strategic ways to present your personal “digital profile.” Among other ideas, he suggested creating a Google profile— a collection of links and content you select about yourself for others (i.e., potential employers) to see. Think of it as doing a pre-emptive, curated Google search for them. Seems like an effective way to manage your digital profile and showcase your personal brand.

Written by Jennifer Gaie Hellum

March 18, 2010 at 5:28 pm

Using Social Media Skills to Find Journalism Jobs

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It’s spring break at the Cronkite School this week, and although some students are spending their time relaxing, others are busy searching for summer jobs and internships. Poynter Online had an excellent post on their Ask the Recruiter blog yesterday about the social media skills journalists need to find work in today’s job climate. (Interestingly, I watched the post make the re-tweet rounds on Twitter, proof that many journalists already are up to the task.) The article featured several industry leaders and discussed the skills their organizations are looking for in new hires. It’s definitely worth your time to read it and bookmark it for future reference.

I was just about to write a quick post about the blog when I got a tweet announcing a live chat was about to begin with the post’s author Joe Grimm, a visiting journalist at the Michigan State University School of Journalism. The tweet said the chat would focus on unexpected ways to find jobs, so I took the opportunity to participate and asked Joe some questions about how social media and personal branding can play into job searches:

Joe Grimm, Poynter: When I think about finding jobs in unexpected ways, I think of two things. One is looking for new jobs or new wrinkled (sic) on old jobs; the other is new ways of finding jobs or differentiating yourself.

Jennifer Gaie Hellum, ASU: As journalism grad students, we’re hearing a lot about how we have an advantage knowing how to use social media. Yet some of us are concerned that we will be limited to social media tasks at the expense of getting news-gathering and storytelling experience. What advice do you have on how to strategically use our skills without limiting our exposure to the craft?

Joe Grimm, Poynter: Jennifer, this has always been a concern. People with scarce skills are forever getting pigeon-holed. They are happy to get in the door, but not very happy about being pushed away from the things they love to do. This is a great subject to work hard on in the negotiations for a job. Get some commitments in writing.

Jennifer Gaie Hellum, ASU: Your post yesterday about social media skills affirmed much of what we’re being taught at the Cronkite School at ASU. We talk a lot about personal branding and being entrepreneurial journalists. Do you see news organizations adapting to these dynamics in their approaches to hiring, or is this just new jargon for freelancing?

Joe Grimm, Poynter: Oh, no. People are serious about social media. I think some managers do not have a well-defined concept of what they are asking for, so it is a good thing to probe in an interview. But these skills, as well as audience analysis, will only get more important, not less so. This does not seem to me to be a fad.

It is easy to be cynical about entrepreneurship when we see some places paying so little for freelance work. Places are looking for people to be INTRpreneurs, if you will allow me, to help them innovate. This is new.

Jennifer Gaie Hellum, ASU: I’m not so much asking if social media is a fad but rather the “journalist as a brand” phenomenon. We are being encouraged to establish ourselves on social media as a way to define our voices and areas of interest through the tweets we send and the comments we make.

Joe Grimm, Poynter: We have a paradox happening, Newspapers are eliminating specialty beats and critics, but it makes no sense for any of us to be generic. We need to stand out — for good reasons — and that means to have good, marketable journalistic brand identities. The generic people — forgive me — are not getting called.

On networking, remember the power of loose ties — the people who are not closest to you hear different information than you do and can bring you leads. Value the people who you don’t know best or who are friends of friends.

Jennifer Gaie Hellum, ASU: Often I see status posts on LinkedIn of people who are looking for jobs or looking to hire. The key to all these examples (mentioned in throughout this chat session) seems to be ACTIVELY employing whatever networking tool you are using.

Joe Grimm, Poynter: Amen, Jennifer. Networking is an ongoing activity. Not just what we do when we’re needy.


You can read the entire chat transcript here:

(Chat embed courtesy of Poynter Online)

Your Authentic Brand

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As someone with an undergraduate degree in advertising and PR, I’ve tried to avoid making this blog sound too much like a self-promotion how-to manual. Unfortunately, the current state of upheaval in the business model for journalism has made it necessary for journalists to learn how to market themselves. I’ve focused, for the most part, on strategic ways digital media and social networks can help spread the word about your work and your personal brand, but I haven’t discussed an essential element of effective communication: authenticity.

In an article today on The Huffington Post, personal branding coach Malcolm Levene writes about the essence of personal brands being the combination of your Outer Brand and Inner Brand:

“Outer Branding includes attire, grooming, our physicality and the way we communicate verbally… Your Inner Brand includes your attitude, values, your behaviours, self esteem and your level of confidence. It also represents the different ways you communicate without words… And when your Inner and Outer Brand are congruent, your Personal Brand conveys authenticity.”

It’s worth taking a look at his list of practical and strategic tips for developing your authentic brand.

What, you ask, does this have to do with your brand as a journalist? If you take the time to identify your Inner Brand, you’ll be more likely to set attainable goals for your career and make satisfying choices about what kind of journalism will be fulfilling to you. Maybe you’re a crusader (environmental writer), a skeptic (investigative reporter), a relator (a narrative writer) or a competitor (political reporter). Defining your Inner Brand helps you winnow out the jobs that aren’t the best fit.

Once you embrace your Inner Brand, social media and the network they create give you countless opportunities to express it through your Outer Brand. Your blog topic and design, profile pictures and journalistic voice present powerful images that others will associate with you. They all should be in sync with your brand. Your tweets, comments on blogs and Facebook status posts reveal how you want the world to see you.

The ultimate goal for the entreprenuerial journalist is to achieve that old PR principle of “one voice” –  a consistent, singular message from one source to your publics–your readers, your employers, your colleagues and your community – which expresses your authentic brand. (Well, maybe that undergrad degree of mine has come in handy after all.)

Written by Jennifer Gaie Hellum

March 10, 2010 at 11:02 pm

Follow Me, and I'll Follow You

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I came across the link below in my Tweetdeck column titled “Social Media Journalists.” (I have permanent columns set up for hashtags and keywords to help generate ideas for my blog.)  Although the article includes how marketing and PR professionals use social media, it also has useful examples of what some established journalists are doing to maximize its power.

One of the things that caught my eye was how Julio Ojeda-Zapata, Technology Editor at St. Paul Pioneer Press, uses Twitter to communicate with sources:

“One of my key social-media tactics for work is a bit obscure: I autofollow everyone who follows me (using SocialToo). The reason for this: Crucial exchanges for stories occur via DM, which is why I do not want to ever think about whether there is reciprocal DM-ing with this or that person. Once this is set up, I can use Twitter as a sounding board with questions related to stories, get initial responses via public tweeting, then take them into private DM-ing as needed (or switch to e-mail or the phone). With close to 10,000 followers now, this is a system that works well – with parallel sourcing via ProfNet and HARO, which I see as two legs of a tripod. Twitter is the third.”

I don’t follow nearly as many people as he does, but his approach to being followed definitely made me reassess how I respond to strangers who choose to follow me. I certainly find the DM feature to be an efficient way to communicate with friends and colleagues, but now I’m going to remember that it’s one more way to build a network.

Take a few minutes to check out the rest of the post from The Online Marketing Blog and see if any of the recommendations can give you ideas on how to use social media to follow a lead, cultivate sources or build your brand.

If nothing else, you might find some knowledgeable folks to follow on Twitter… and they just might follow you back.

Written by Jennifer Gaie Hellum

March 9, 2010 at 2:18 am

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I just got a tweet from a fellow grad student announcing that he got a job at NPR. When I went to his Twitter page to check out his profile, I wasn’t surprised to see that as a journalist specializing in digital media, he’s taken the strategic step to create a portfolio web page with his name as the domain name. In this age of the journalist as a brand, he’s making it easy to find him and his work online.

Dan Gillmor, our digital entrepreneurship professor, has urged us more than once to do as he has and purchase our names as domain names. For the price of three frappacinos, you can secure your name for a personal web site for a year. This proactive move is particularly important if you aren’t the only person with your name. (See my earlier post about the classics scholar named Jennifer Hellum.) Once the name is taken by someone else– especially a published author– it can be tough to get it back. Even if you aren’t quite ready to build your personal site, securing your name is worth the small financial investment.

Interestingly, one of my classmates vaguely recalled that her dad had purchased her name as a domain name. Sure enough, by doing a quick search on, she saw that he’d bought it in 2008 and kept the payments current. In fact, my sister actually gave my techie son his domain name for his 12th birthday. What a brilliant gift for anyone who may care someday to have a say in his or her online identity.

But don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. Skip Starbucks and instead go online like I just did and buy your eponymous domain name. It’s a must-have for an entrepreneurial journalist and it takes all of ten minutes.

A Random Post About Clouds

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From time to time I’ll be posting random assignments from our Digital Media Entrepreneurship class. This one is about learning to use mapping tools. The assignment required us to take pictures around Phoenix and post them on a map on our blogs.

On this particular day, I was busy juggling being both student and parent. I’d left campus downtown to pick up my kids in North Scottsdale, and while I was driving, I noticed the amazing clouds in the sky. So while I ran errands– from school, to stores, to Casino Arizona for an interview– I shot pictures of the clouds for a wall hanging in my sons’ room. Here’s where I went and what I saw.

Written by Jennifer Gaie Hellum

March 4, 2010 at 9:30 pm

Video Resumés as Part of Your Brand

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I saw a story on the ABC Nightly News about how Tufts University is now accepting one-minute video elements with prospective students’ applications.

The story got me thinking of how this generation of multimedia journalists could incorporate such videos into our portfolio sites. These promotional video not only show examples of video editing and writing skills but also allow entrepreneurial journalists to express why they’re interested in their beats and highlight their personalities.

I wonder what my classmate who loves meteorology and horses would create to showcase her engaging personality and specialized knowledge. Or how another classmate would demonstrate how she speaks three other languages.

In the past, only broadcast journalists had a venue for looking into a camera and telling viewers why they’re passionate about the work they do. Now any of us can share our stories, on our blogs or on our personal websites, to connect with our communities as well as potential employers.

Written by Jennifer Gaie Hellum

March 3, 2010 at 11:41 pm

Twitter as Your #Resumé

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I have a confession to make: I really like using Twitter. Most of my friends and family can’t imagine why I’d waste my time with it, but I have fun watching news break as it ripples through the dozens of news sites I follow (usually lead by @breakingnews– go figure!) I enjoy checking out trending topics during a pop-culture moment and following what other journalists find noteworthy. Although none of my friends have a problem with texting, most wouldn’t dream of sending a DM with a quick question or comment.

How journalists use Twitter was one of the most pervasive topics at the Carnegie-Knight Initiative’s conference, A Way Forward: Solving the Challenges of the News Frontier, held in New York earlier this month. Twitter factored into every breakout session and panel discussion. That was when I fully appreciated how essential it has become as a journalistic tool.

Mathew Ingram, a Canadian journalist I follow, recently sent a tweet about Twitter from the Canadian Association of Journalists’ Innovate News conference on Jan. 30:

Jim Brady says that he follows people who apply for jobs on Twitter, to see how they use it, and if they don’t use it “that’s a problem”

If Brady, the former executive editor of made such a statement, that’d be quite an endorsement. Now president of digital strategy for Allbritton Communications, he made the comment during a panel discussion at the journalism education conference in Toronto. Given that he’s currently developing a local online news site for Washington, D.C., and planning to build a staff of up to 50 people, this pro-Twitter comment caught the attention of Twittering journalists.

When I contacted him to verify whether he’d made the comment, Brady confirmed he had but said he wanted to clarify one part since the tweet didn’t allow for context. “That’s mostly right,” he said, “though I added something to the effect that it’s not a dealbreaker if you don’t use Twitter, but since this web site is going to use social media aggressively, it is a strike against you if you’re not using those tools now.”

He added he does look at Twitter feeds of people who have applied for jobs so he can see how they’re using Twitter. “It’s going to be part of their jobs,” he said, “so why not take a look?”

The most compelling part of Brady’s statement for me was how he thought Twitter should be used. “It’s important for journalists to use Twitter, and as more than just a place to post their stories. They should post other stories relevant to their beats, provide some color around stories they’re reporting and engage the reader,” said Brady.

This sentiment affirms what we are being taught at Cronkite about how journalists can use social media to build an online identity, connect with their communities and strengthen their personal brands. Well-crafted tweets can help define who you are and increase your exposure.

In addition to contacting Brady, I also reached out to Mathew Ingram to find out why he sent out the tweet. He emailed me the following response:

“I re-tweeted what he said not necessarily because I agreed with it, but simply because I thought it was an interesting comment from a guy who was in a position to hire people for a new-media venture, and therefore his take on it was newsworthy. He told me later that he saw a lot of the re-tweets and thought he probably was more emphatic than he really meant to be, and that he certainly wouldn’t exclude anyone because they didn’t tweet– but that he saw using social-media tools as a crucial part of a new-media job, and therefore would like to see people using them and experimenting. I would agree with that perspective.”

So whether you’re putting together your resumé for an online news job or planning to blog as a career, remember that your Twitter stream can play a supporting role in the brand you build for yourself. (Now try and say that in 140 characters or less.)

Written by Jennifer Gaie Hellum

March 2, 2010 at 2:21 am