23. Personal branding

In theory there are no rules for personal branding, besides basic marketing rules for Internet brand building. As you’re not an expert in marketing but rather a journalist, you need to follow a few common sense rules, particularly on social networks.

Personal or professional personal branding ?

Though nothing prevents you from opening a personal account, your status as a journalist forces you to consider social networks under a professional angle (something that doesn’t prevent personal messages). Here are a few social know-how rules for social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) :

  • Embrace your singularity, what makes you interesting as a journalist
  • Make yourself noticed in places-to-be
  • Be more personal, more relaxed than when you’re writing articles
  • Be fair : adopt transparency
  • Know when to concede and say “I don’t know”
  • Admit when you’ve made mistakes
  • Don’t hesitate in calling upon your community when looking for information
  • Don’t forget to thank/highlight/support what other journalists do

Hence, creating your brand as a journalist consists as much in working ex ante (news monitoring, signaling pertinent information and sources) as ex post (making your own works known). One doesn’t go without the other, and you’ll be all the more supported and appreciated by users if you know how to make yourself useful for your community. Don’t forget that the Internet is first and foremost a space where the sharing philosophy reigns supreme.

Making your works known to your community

As social networks are made for expressing yourself, it’s useful to tell your network what you’re doing. Newsmaking stands more and more on explaining what goes on behind the scenes : how does the reporter work ? Where does he go ? How does he conduct his investigations ? All these topics allow web users to understand how a story is made.

Saying that you’re charged for defamation (and defaming whom), that this or that source refuses to answer your questions is information our readers are interested in.

Making your works known is more usual. Journalists didn’t wait for the Internet to create the buzz around their articles, each in their own way, according to their character and their media. A tabloid won’t sell itself to its readers the same way the New York Review of Books will.

Should there be a list of rules listing how to use social networks for journalists ?

Such a question is recurring nowadays, especially since big media have edited charters (see 22) on that topic. There too, the relationship each media maintains defines its presence on social network. Behaving loyally to your company and its rules seems logical. Nevertheless nothing prevents journalists from distancing themselves from their media’s “official” treatment of the news : there hardly ever is an ideal and univocal way of treating sensitive news.