Brand Me a Journalist

Using Social Media to Create a Professional Niche

Posts Tagged ‘Entrepreneurial journalists

12 Tips for Journalists: My Semester on the Personal Branding Beat

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When Dan Gillmor assigned our digital media entrepreneurship class the task of blogging for the semester, he challenged each of us to “become an expert on a digital media topic”. He assured us that by blogging “2-3 times a week, at 300-500 words per post”, we would know more than enough about our topics to confidently own our chosen beats.

I have to say that at the time that outcome seemed pretty unrealistic to me. I began this blog about personal branding and social media with a basic understanding of the issue’s relevance to journalists:

How we manage our online identities as journalists is increasingly more important as the news industry goes through revolutionary change. Journalism school grads no longer have to accept the traditional employment path of starting in a small market with hopes of making it to a legacy organization someday. Instead, entrepreneurial journalists are strategically defining themselves through social media and niche specializations to set themselves apart from their peers, develop relationships and create their own opportunities.

After following other bloggers, interviewing journalists and watching Twitter feeds daily, I’m amazed by how much I’ve learned about this subject. I’m now convinced that journalists must learn to effectively use social media to develop a niche and a personal brand, and I feel comfortable discussing the tools to do so.

Therefore, in the style of many of the most re-tweeted posts about social media and branding, here are my Top 12 Tips for Journalists on Using Social Media to Develop a Personal Brand:

1. Find your niche. Consider your unique talents, interests and personal network and identify a topic you can own. Look for news coverage that make you think “why isn’t someone covering this more?” and investigate what has been written about it in the past. Whether you recognize a neglected topic, feel passionate about a beat or possess specialized knowledge, you can develop a niche and establish yourself as an expert by using digital and social media to your advantage:

2. Do your research. Use bookmarking sites like Digg and Delicious and advanced searches such as Google News, Google Blogs and Google Scholar to find relevant news and people who are concerned about, knowledgeable about and affected by the issue you’re exploring. When you find interesting sources, reach out to them on blogs, Twitter, Facebook groups and email. People like to talk about themselves and share their expertise.

3. Start a blog and participate on others. Regret the Error’s editor Craig Silverman looked for a topic no one was covering, found it in accuracy and corrections in the news and went live with a blog two weeks later. Personal Branding expert Dan Schawbel found inspiration from a magazine article about personal branding and started blogging about it that night. Investigative reporter Kristen Lombardi established her journalistic cred reporting on institutional indifference to cover-ups of sexual assault, and connected with advocates, victims and their loved ones via contact on blogs.

Whether you are a new journalist looking to create an online footprint or an established reporter who has been laid off, blogging offers a way to show initiative as well as your talent. And don’t be afraid of having more than one blog; you may have more than one area of interest.

4. Establish an searchable identity. Use the “One Voice” principle of public relations to create a consistent identity across your social media and professional profiles.

  • Decide what name you want to be known by professionally. Make sure it’s unique enough (such as Jennifer Gaie Hellum) to allow you to be found on the first page of a Google search.
  • Use that name for your Twitter account and any online comments. This will increase your online presence and increase your profile in search. (Tweeting under a clever moniker rather than your professional name might appear to add personality to your identity, but it doesn’t get you direct credit for your contributions.)
  • Create one avatar and use it whenever you need to post an image for an online profile.
  • Create a LinkedIn profile. Include your avatar, blog, portfolio site, Twitter feed and links to any online profiles on your page.

5. Own your domain name. For a small investment, you can secure your professional name as a domain name for a personal portfolio site. Whether you are employed or looking for work, a portfolio site is your online resume. Even if you have a bio page on your employer’s site, a portfolio is a vital way to present yourself comprehensively and define your brand for your audience, colleagues and potential employers. You should include a resume, your cumulative work, any professional goals or mission statement and links to social media. Include multimedia elements whenever possible.

6. Create a Google Profile. Like a portfolio page, a Google Profile is your opportunity to present your digital brand and allows you to define the first listing people find when they do a Google search of your name. It’s generally a more flexible profile than a professional portfolio site and would be where you could feel comfortable adding a personal element to your personal brand (sometimes referred to as your authentic brand or your inner and outer brands). This profile belongs to, former head of washingtonpost.com, now president of digital strategy for Allbritton Communications.

 

7. Tweet. Tweet often. A lot of veteran journalists have resisted signing up for Twitter, believing that the micro-blogging site is a fad and a distraction. In fact, Twitter’s power as a means of creating a network and finding story ideas, trends and sources is becoming increasingly more clear. If you are new to Twitter or have yet to become a regularly user, this Twitter checklist offers a practical plan for getting into the habit of posting relevant tweets to build your community and brand.

  • Follow colleagues, news organizations and individual journalists. Go to their pages and see who they follow.
  • Pay attention to weekly #FollowFriday and #ff hashtags to see who others are recommending. Participate in #followfriday to recommend Twitter users who you find authoritative on your subject area.
  • Send well-crafted tweets that use keywords and hashtags to increase their visibility and drive traffic to your blog.
  • Use hashtags to tag your tweets for maximum visibility.
  • Use a Twitter application like TweetDeck to manage your tweets and monitor relevant topics.
  • Re-tweet and comment on tweets related to your niche.
  • Consider the following strategy of following who follows you, which allows you to send direct messages (DMs) for private conversations.
  • Tweet responsibly. If you look at your Twitter stream and it doesn’t make a compelling case for why someone should trust or hire you, ask yourself what it’s contributing to your digital profile. If you can’t think of a good answer, delete it.

8. Join a professional social network. Ning groups like Wired Journalists give the opportunity to find and connect with other journalists who are interested in your beat.

9. Seek the input and advice of veteran journalists. Social media has broken down the hierarchy of professional org charts and created direct access to people. By using social media, blogs, LinkedIn and Twitter, I have communicated in the past four months with many prominent journalists, including NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, NPR reporter Don Gonyea, Jim Brady, Craig Silverman, Terry Greene Sterling, Kristen Lombardi, Dan Schawbel and Mignon Fogarty (aka Grammar Girl). Be fearless in reaching out to experienced journalists and experts in your subject area; the worst think they can do is say they can’t help you. Most likely, you will be blown away by how willing people are to help you.

10. Participate in live online chats. Poynter Online has weekly live chats with Joe Grimm aka Ask the Recruiter. Journalism students, professors and working journalists log on each week to discuss relevant topics. Transcripts are posted following the chats and logged on the site.

11. Be a true multimedia journalist. Take the steps to learn basic skills in video/audio editing and photograph. Become familiar with social media sites that feature them and create your own content.

  • Post videos on your website or video-sharing sites like YouTube.
  • Learn to create a podcast. (Click here to hear how Grammar Girl went from being a freelance writer/editor to creating her podcast.)
  • Learn to embed audio and video.

    • Learn to use Photoshop and create an account on Flickr.
    • Learn HTML and get comfortable with inserting code into blogposts, such as this post on interviewing for media jobs:

12. Stretch yourself intellectually. Keep on top of what’s new in social media by reading Mashable and pay attention to personal branding experts. Look for seminars and workshops to get firsthand advice and skills from journalists who are successfully and strategically using social media.

Personal Branding Expert Dan Schawbel on Why Journalists Should Care about Their Personal Brands

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I’ve been blogging about how journalists can build their personal brands with social media for the past semester. Although I’ve profiled several journalists and their personal brands, I realized that I haven’t sought the advice of a personal branding expert. An earlier post featured the definitive article written about personal branding by Tom Peters; in fact, the next generation’s personal branding guru Dan Schawbel, author of Me 2.0, cites that article for inspiring his career.

I emailed Dan recently to discuss how he found his niche and built his personal brand. Make sure you click the link below; his story is an inspiration and a blueprint for how you can change your life by pursuing your dream–with passion, with hard work, and with a strategy.

My thanks to Dan for giving this rookie blogger and journalist his time and insights; I plan to take his advice very soon. (Stay tuned…)

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Jennifer Gaie Hellum: Your degree is in marketing and IT and you spent much of your early career doing marketing and PR. How did you get interested in personal branding?

Dan Schawbel: Here is the complete story:

http://www.personalbrandingblog.com/my-story-from-nobody-to-brand-name-entrepreneur-in-under-3-years.

 

Jennifer: What made you decide to start blogging? Did you do it specifically to create your own personal brand or out of an interest in personal branding?

 

Dan: I started a blog in 2006 to help students get internships and help them learn from my triumphs during college, where I had eight internships, seven leadership positions and my own company. I then read Tom Peter’s The Brand Called You article in Fast Company, and it was my calling. I started my blog that night and haven’t looked back. My personal brand is personal branding, correct.  It wasn’t as intentional as it seems. It was a natural progression from middle school.

Jennifer: You’re a blogger, a writer and a publisher. Do you consider yourself a journalist?

Dan: Yes, and no. I don’t abide by the traditional journalism rules for the most part. I have two blogs, a magazine, and two columns in mainstream media (BusinessWeek and Metro). All of these platforms are flexible and I can basically write anything about personal branding I so choose. A journalist that is hired by a company has to cover a certain beat, from a certain location, and has to run everything by his or her editor for approval. If you get paid to write articles, there are more corporate obstacles you have to run through to get published.

Jennifer: Why should journalists care about personal branding?

Dan: The media landscape is changing and a lot of journalists are losing their jobs and being left with nothing. By developing a personal brand, you’re protecting yourself from a layoff. Journalists should create their own blog, with a list of articles they have had published and links to them. They should also write original content on their blog, so they can become part of the online community, be a valuable contributor, and grow an audience to help boost their careers.

Journalists, unlike most people, are already visible so they have the clear advantage. For instance, a journalist that works for Men’s Health or Vogue will already have a leg up on others that don’t have that credibility. The key is knowing how to leverage other platforms (in this case, the magazines) to your own benefit.

You need to have a website and use other media to promote it, because at the end of the day, your website or blog is your only asset. You can get laid off tomorrow and have nothing if you don’t protect yourself. Also, journalists are being expected to not just write content, but to promote it. More and more journalists are being paid based on pageviews, so if you don’t have platform, you won’t make much money.

Jennifer: What social media tools, beyond Twitter and blogging, should journalists be using to promote their brands?

Dan: There is actually a really popular social network for journalists called Wired Journalists (http://www.wiredjournalists.com). It’s based on the Ning.com architecture. Other than that, I think journalists should get serious about video because it’s slowly becoming part of the job description, so I would resort to using YouTube and other video sharing sites for practice at a minimum. Blogging is by far the most important thing you can do as a journalist, and almost every mainstream media site has blogs now, so you should take advantage of those opportunities. Then there’s LinkedIn and Facebook, but they are a bit less relevant to journalists in my opinion.

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Dan Schawbel, recognized as a “personal branding guru” by The New York Times, is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, LLC, and the leading authority on personal branding. He is the author of the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0. Dan is the founder of the Personal Branding Blog®, the publisher of Personal Branding Magazine®and the Student Branding Blog, head judge for the Personal Brand Awards®, director ofPersonal Branding TV®, and holds live Personal Branding Events.

How Craig Silverman Built a Personal Brand on Merit, not Pedigree

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As I’ve mentioned before, the Cronkite School does an amazing job at bringing in prominent journalists to share their insights with its undergrads and graduate students. Last Thursday, Dan Gillmor and CJ Cornell hosted Canadian journalist Craig Silverman, editor of Regret the Error, for a whirlwind day of guest lectures and discussions with faculty and students. While much of the focus was on his expertise on topics of accuracy and corrections, I was drawn to Craig’s success story of using social media to create his own professional niche at age 27. During one of his brief breaks between lectures, we had the chance to sit down and discuss how he did it.

Regret the Error creator Craig Silverman at ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism’s Digital Media Entrepreneurship Lab

Craig started freelancing in 1996 when he was in journalism school and had been freelancing full-time for two years when he began looking for a way to “kick start” his career in 2004. He found a niche in tracking corrections and accuracy, despite having no background in copy editing. (He said he chose the topic because errors offered the opportunity for quick, pithy posts.) “I realized there was no expert there,” he said, “so I thought I could potentially become the expert. It’s an amazing thing to think I could just do this.”

He started by evaluating different paid blogging services (because he “wanted the blog to look good”) and having a friend with a design background create a logo for him. He then wrote a two-page business proposal for his friends to review, tested his posts on them and went live with the blog. From concept to market, all within two weeks.

On the first day he got over 10,000 hits, confirming he’d indeed identified a need. The Craig Silverman/Regret the Error brand was up and running.

When I asked Craig how he managed to spread the word about his blog, I expected him to say he’d posted the link in comment sections of other journalists’ blogs. “No, he replied, “I didn’t want to be too spammy. I wanted to go to them as a fellow professional.” So he sent emails to bloggers, including Jim Romenesko, and asked them to take a look at what he was doing and post a link to his blog if they liked what they read.

Through six years of research and consulting with scholars, historians, fact checkers and news industry leaders, Craig has effectively established his personal brand as an accuracy expert. In addition to being editor of Regret the Error, he’s the managing editor of two websites and writes two weekly columns (one for the Columbia Journalism Review — not a bad gig).  He published a book titled “Regret the Error” in 2007 and currently has over 400 fans on Facebook and over 2,000 followers on Twitter. All because he identified a niche and started a blog.

While he’s the first to admit the blogosphere is much more crowded now than it was in 2004, Craig stressed more than once that opportunities still exist for journalists to create their own niches. “Journalists can establish expertise on their own. People look at the merit rather than the pedigree.”

Of course, his entrepreneurial success was both inspiring and reassuring to this forty-something rookie journalist, so I asked Craig what advice he’d give to journalists entering the field now with so many social media tools at their fingertips. “Number one, you have to own your own domain name and Twitter ID and be conscious of what you’re doing with them.” He recommends using your personal website to post updates on professional achievements, awards, speaking engagements, and topics relevant to your niche.

“The best way to make people want to hire you is to have a strong personal brand. Even if you aspire to be on a staff somewhere, you have to realize that employers are motivated by brands as well as bodies of work.”

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.

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You can read the entire chat transcript here:

(Chat embed courtesy of Poynter Online)

www.yournamehere.com

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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 www.godaddy.com, 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.