Brand Me a Journalist

Using Social Media to Create a Professional Niche

Posts Tagged ‘Inner Brand

Know Thyself: Figuring out what your brand is and how to express it

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I recently was invited to speak at ASU’s Cronkite School as part of “After Cronkite”, a series of brown-bag lunch discussions to help students prepare for their job searches. In the inaugural session titled “Know Thyself! Now Tell Others,” I joined Jody Brannon, the national director of the Carnegie-Knight News21 journalism initiative, to talk with students about understanding their personal brands and ways to incorporate them into their online identities through blogs, social media and portfolio sites.

Many questions focused on Facebook and Twitter and what constitutes appropriate personal and professional posts. One student asked us whether we’d be inclined to hire a candidate whose tweets revealed a strong personality over someone whose tweets revealed little personality. For me, the answer to that question would depend on whether the applicants’ personal brands – reflected through their overall digital presences – were good fits for the position.

A more fundamental question needs to be answered before you can know what online content is appropriate:

Who are you?

You can’t know your brand as a journalist if you don’t know yourself as a person.

Are you a global citizen with a healthy dose of cynicism and a passion for politics? Are you an empathetic storyteller who values images as well as words to connect with communities? Or are you an activist who believes revealing your biases makes you more credible when exposing injustice? Each of these profiles would dictate a distinct personal branding strategy.

You need self-awareness to know whether your digital presence is promoting or betraying your brand and, as a result, sabotaging your professional goals. As a journalist, your ability to communicate what makes you unique, i.e., your brand, will help you establish a professional niche that you can pursue with confidence and integrity.

Fortunately, many resources are available to help you understand the qualities and characteristics that collectively make you who you are.

Personality type

Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Do you make decisions with your heart or your head? The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) identifies 16 distinct personality types based on eight key traits. These personality traits are reflected in your personal brand, and being aware of them will help you know whether you’re effectively and appropriately conveying them through your online profiles.

In the decades since the MBTI’s initial publication in the 1960s, test administrators have used the tool to help people understand the role personality plays in career choice. (Employers commonly use its results during the hiring process and for management training.) You can have the test administered by a trained professional who can provide an in-depth assessment, but many online sites and books feature MBTI profiles from which you can gain a general understanding of the personality types.

When I took the Myers-Briggs test as part of career counseling services, the administrator stressed the results would only be valuable if I agreed they accurately reflected my personality. The assessment said I was an ESFJ, and when I read the description, it was so spot-on I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. So although I enjoy reading clever tweets from skeptics, philosophers and provocateurs, it would be inconsistent with who I am to emulate them and present myself as anything but a harmony-seeking, rule-following “Extra Special Friendly Joiner.”

Aptitudes

Although most people won’t find it necessary to seek IQ testing as part of determining their personal brands, it is of value to at least understand the distinction between your innate cognitive abilities and the knowledge and skills you’ve acquired throughout your life.

For adults, it’s not as important to know raw IQ test scores as it is to know which cognitive abilities are your best. (Often, trained test administrators have policies of not providing raw scores to adults and instead use general result terms, such as “average” and “very superior.”) I was given the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale – Revised IQ test, and although I wasn’t provided raw scores, I was given a ranking of how I performed on the test sections. I found it tremendously valuable to learn the abilities I had taken for granted, verbal reasoning and spatial relations, were among my strongest. That knowledge has allowed me to apply those abilities as a multimedia journalist and confidently present them online.

Talents

Like personality and aptitudes, talents are innate. Understanding the distinction between your talents and your acquired skills will give you the vocabulary to express what makes you unique and what you have to offer professionally, even when you lack the skills required for a specific position.

In 2001, Donald O. Clifton, founder of SRI Gallup, and Marcus Buckingham, a senior vice president of The Gallup Organization, used research they gathered in interviews with over two million subjects to identify 34 universal talent themes and developed a survey through which individuals could find their “Top 5″ talents.

Each copy of their book Strengthfinder 2.0 includes a unique access code that allows you to take the assessment online and identify your Top 5. (Mine are Learner, AchieverCommunication, Input and Individualization.) It offers examples of how others have used their talents successfully in their careers and guides you through applying your Top 5 in your professional and personal life.

By taking the assessment, I learned how my talents influence the kind of journalist I want to be: a person driven to gather information and learn about people’s lives to communicate their diverse, individual stories. The blog posts I write, tweets I send, articles I share on Facebook, and the people I connect with on chats and LinkedIn tend to reflect these qualities about me.

Skills/Knowledge

Social media offer constant opportunities to share the abilities and knowledge you’ve acquired throughout your life. Rather than relying on job interviews to relate them to potential employers, you now can present them online through digital resumes and portfolios that can be found in search as well as through casual references in tweets, chats, online groups and other social media.

It’s OK to show what you know. Whether I’m commenting during #wjchat about digital storytelling tools for journalists (social media), sharing photos via Twitpics (photography) or respondiendo a un tuit (Spanish), each of these digital footprints I leave reveal a skill of mine and add dimension to my brand.

Life experiences and interests

Your family life, friendships and the communities you’ve lived in are just a few of the many influences that affect your belief system and inform your perspective as a journalist. Your collection of life experiences and interests naturally emerge through social media and reveal commonalities you share with others. The challenge lies in understanding how these personal elements affect your personal brand and deciding whether incorporating them into your online presence strategically enhances or detracts from it. What you say, join and “like” can potentially make you interesting or turn people off.

Anyone following me on my tweets and hashtags knows I’m from Green Bay, Wisconsin (#Packers), have two bright sons (#Ilovemyboys), stay up too late (#nightowl) and like watching Mad Men with my husband (#callmebettydraper). These personal glimpses don’t directly involve my professional life, but when shared appropriately, they can spark connections with others and add a personal element to my brand.

Once you understand how your personality, aptitudes, talents, skills, life experiences and interests fit together, you’ll quickly be able to assess whether they’re reflected in your online presence as well as your face-to-face interactions. Take a few minutes to view a snapshot of yourself online and see if it reveals who you genuinely are.

My Personal Brand Tagline: Reflection or Aspiration?

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As part of our online media course, I had to create a personal portfolio page. I needed to find a line to present the kind of journalist I want to be and eventually came up with a sub-heading tagline to describe my vision:

Telling Stories Through Multimedia Journalism.

In the end, my site was pretty elementary, but at least I’d defined my goals for myself: I’d write compelling stories about interesting people and issues and use photography, audio, video and graphics to present them online. So when I completed my recent post on Tom Peters’ “The Brand Called You” column, I felt pretty good that I could check off one of his challenges–a tagline in 15 words or less–to use consistently throughout my digital profile.

But when I think about it now, that tagline doesn’t yet reflect the collective work I’ve done.

This leads me to ask a chicken or egg kind of question: Is my tagline not supporting my work or is my work not supporting my tagline? What is the true representation of what I have to offer as a journalist? How can I use social media to express and promote that?

Coming up with a personal brand tagline can be an effective way of checking whether you’re work and goals are in sync. The work I’m doing now would suggest I’m interested in being a social media editor. I’m advocating through this blog that journalists and news organizations harness the power of social media to create communities and share the human experience. I use social media actively, participate in live chats and try to read what I can to stay informed so I can be familiar with how journalists are benefiting from it.

Yet I’m still interested in what led me to grad school in the first place: a desire to share people’s stories. The small yet powerful stories, like the kind you hear on NPR’s StoryCorps segments, of people who never make the news but have struggles and triumphs that move you. I’ve used Twitter and Facebook to follow and connect with reporters who’ve mastered that kind of storytelling, and I try to follow their blogs.

Yet neither of these efforts fully reflect my authentic brand, which includes my undergrad degree in public relations and advertising, my career in media planning, thirteen years as a parent, my work ethic, my professionalism, mi abilidad de hablar en espanol, and the rest of what makes up my “inner and outer brands.”

That’s where social media can help me. Through my Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, my Facebook page, email signature, and eventually, a personal website (at least I already own www.jenniferhellum.com) with a well-crafted tagline, I’ll have the chance to tell the rest of my story.

Now to just work that into 15 words or less.

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