Some background: While at #pcf09, some other fellows and I joined a live chat led by Emily Ingram. Ellyn said if I pitched a good idea, I could lead one too. I mentioned the topic of effectively using various social networks, which soon became this topic. Voila!
How have I built my online brand? Like many who responded to this month’s topic, some of my online branding has been unintentional.
But I’ll freely admit that there are several steps I’ve taken with my online brand in mind. What follows includes a mix a both:
If you want to go way back, the first time I put my name on the Web came in middle school when I made a Hometown at AOL site (Hometown was shut down awhile back).
I later created a more formal personal site, first on FreeWebs in fall 2004. Next, I built an HTML site created in (cringe) Word and designed with (double cringe) frames for a non-journalism class project in fall 2006. No surprise, I took that one down. Then came a clean and simple HTML/CSS site I hand-coded for an online journalism class project in spring 2008.
I set up a blog, first on Blogger in November 2007 and then moved it to a self-hosted WordPress site on WebFaction in August 2008. The blogging engine doesn’t inherently help your brand, but using WordPress over Blogger has two distinct advantages. For one, I think people respect WordPress more. Second, it shows you are more blog-savvy, especially if you purchase hosting and set it up on your own. Finally, give your blog a unique name (mine is The Linchpen) and a clear tagline (mine is “A blog about online journalism and journalism education).
Your blog and/or personal site should have a few key things: an about page with a brief biography, a resume, work samples (writing, video, whatever) and a way for a visitor to contact you.
Don’t forget microblogging! Do not underestimate the power of Twitter. Seriously. I have 10 times more followers on Twitter than I have RSS and e-mail subscribers on my blog (I track those stats with Feedburner). I also use Twitter and find it more more useful than “normal” blogging. My online brand is enhanced because I offer updates on my journalism-related activities, provide various insights, share links (including links to new blog posts), contribute to discussions, answer questions and offer assistance when people have problems.
Flickr, YouTube, del.icio.us, Vimeo and other social media. In short, I’m on too many. Tip: don’t drive yourself crazy trying to do everything. Focus on what you enoy and what works best for you. After initially driving myself a little crazy, I found a good balance last spring and I’ve adapted that balance since then based on my interests, etc.
Wired Journalists and other journalism-related Ning groups. If you’re not on Wired Journalists, that should be one of the first things you do after reading this post.
Publish2 – This network is at least a triple threat: create a profile to promote you and your experience, post links to your clips and blog posts and share general links (you can also save them to del.icio.us and post to Twitter by checking two boxes with Publish2’s nifty browser tool). They also have this really cool contest, “I am the future of journalism,” where they are offering the winner a job (shameless plug: vote for my entry!).
Link to people because they are likely reciprocate, depending on the circumstances. The more people mention or link to you, the better.
From blogging to joining Wired Journalists, a huge part of building your brand is joining the conversation. Why be a shadow of a person when you can give yourself a face, a voice and an identity. And make friends!
Work, associations and affiliations
The Miami Hurricane – Having your name attached to known news organization is helpful. Having your name and a leadership position attached to a known news organization is very helpful. Apparently, I did such a good job ingraining online that I was the editor in chief that some people still think I am (that honor belongs to Matthew Bunch* this year). I was the face of The Hurricane and you should be a face for your organization.
The Miami Herald – The earliest memory I have of my name appearing on a Google search result came when I participated in the Herald’s “Teen Speaks” program during my junior and senior years of high school. Since then, I’ve freelanced for the community news section in summer 2005 and worked as a metro intern (writing and video) in summer 2008. Same deal here; your name + their name = good for your brand. I’ve also interned for the South Florida Sun Sentinel and Forum Publishing Group.
CoPress – I am the community manager and a core team member, so I am one of the most public faces for the organization. Being a part of and leader with a first-of-its-kind, innovative, foward-thinking organization can’t be a bad thing. Similar to what I do on Twitter, I’m offering insights, advice and joining a conversation, in addition to be part of a group that aims to help collge news sites.
Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists – Yeah, that’s this group! w00t. You can show off your blog smarts, promote yourself and cross-promote your blog. Another instance of being associated with a know brand or a brand larger than yourself (particularly something related to what you want to do – journalism) is very helpful.
Online News Association – I can only deduce that my role as student group leader resulted from the online presence, brand and reputation I had established beforehand. Having this role only helps add to my online brand. It’s yet another example of associating with a big-name, professional organization.
Society of Professional Journalists – This year I’m the University of Miami chapter president. That doesn’t really help build up my online brand. Entering contests does. This makes it possible to win awards, which gets your name on a nice press release (2005 and 2007), is always good. It’s especially when those press releases are posted on major news sites like Yahoo and Reuters.
Capitalize on associations – Example: “Miami Herald internship” is the second most popular keyword people use to find my blog (The most popular keyword is “greg linch.” I know that because I use Google Analytics). Two students found my blog last summer during my internship and asked for advice about applying. Besides showing your not a cut-throat shark, giving advice and helping people adds to your reputation and, therefore, your brand.
Overall, it’s been about five years since I’ve had what I consider an active online presence. I will continue to build my online brand, passively and actively, as time goes on because this is not a task that’s every really completed.
So, what should you do?
Search for your name on Google. Consider where you are online and where you’d like to be. Set goals. Brand yourself and join the conversation.
Good luck! Feel free to contact me with any questions.
*Related to Matthew Bunch’s site, I created his portfolio site for a Web production class assignment – free of charge. Considering this post and that experience, I think it’s significant because it shows how helping your peers can contribute to your brand as a good person – not selfishly guarding your brand. Also, it shows I can make an HTML/CSS site from scratch.
Weigh in: Do you have a personal or professional Web site?
Update, 11:45 A.M.: I was listening to NPR‘s “Talk of the Nation” podcast when I wrote this first part of this post. A few minutes later there was an interesting conversation about the jobs and the workplace.
Check out the podcast for Wednesday, Jan. 30 at 46:48.
Below is an excellent quote from U.S. News and World Report‘s contributing editor for careers, Marty Nemko. Nemko said the following (at 1:05:58 in the podcast) in response to a caller who said he always asks, “Why should I work for you?” at the end of a job interview:
“A job interview should not be an interrogation, it should be a kind of first date where both of your are trying to check out whether you are right for each other and whether you should go steady. And I think that is very empowering of the worker, and an appropriate empowerment of the worker. Those kinds of questions suffuse through the interview both confidence as well as you’re going to get a better sense of whether you are going to fit.”
Epilogue, Jan. 31 at 2:06 A.M.: Why did it take so long to post this? Well, I couldn’t find out Nemko’s name before I had to go into Wednesday deadline mode. Now that we’ve finished, I just replayed part of the podcast to find out his full name and check it online.
After sharing links to interesting articles and posting my thoughts on online journalism for a little while, I wanted to compile a “top 10” list of suggestions for journalism students. I actually thought of this idea the day before Howard Owens posted his objectives for today’s non-wired journalist, which reaffirmed my desire to do this.
This list couldn’t possibly include everything, but I know I would have certainly appreciated knowing several of the items as an incoming freshman. There is, of course, some overlap, but I tried to break it all down as best as possible.
Before I start, I’d like to emphasize something Rob Curley said in his remarks at ACP/CMA (thanks to Bryan Murley for the audio): “Mindset is important. Have the right mindset. … All that being said…it doesn’t hurt to have some skills.”
Disclaimer: I’m a student. I’ve never done hiring for a professional newspaper, Web site, TV or radio station. I don’t claim to be a long-bearded, learned scholar. I don’t have a Ph.D., a Master’s or even my Bachelor’s degree yet.
There’s no guarantee you’ll get a job or internship if you do the following. This is merely intended to be a compilation of what I’ve read and heard from others who have the qualifications to give such advice. So think of it as just me relaying research to you, one student to another.
Enjoy! (Be sure to comment at the bottom)
Get Web savvy: But aren’t all young people already? Yes, in a sense. If you’re 18 to 20-something year-old student, you probably already use Facebook or MySpace, chat using an instant messenger, read news online, check a blog or two, use or edit a wiki somewhere, etc. Now take it a step further. Subscribe for e-mail news alerts and RSS feeds– make friends with Google Reader. Take advantage of what the Internet has to offer; it’s not just a series of tubes. Do you know what Digg, del.icio.us, Fickr and Twitter are? You don’t have to use them all, but you need to know what’s out there and be able to utilize new tools (many of which are free) at your fingertips to better do your job. I have mine linked on the right side of this blog.
Start a blog: The next logical step. This could be on any topic you’re interested in, but be sure it’s something you’d be able to write about at least once a day. A blog is a great way to keep writing. Use images and hyperlinks. Be careful about the tone and content of the blog because it’s going to be part of your digital legacy, something future employer will see. You want to avoid being too opinionated about a subject you may one day cover, because it could create problems later. Also, avoid writing a rancorous partisan blog – that probably won’t help you either. Be professional, but have fun. Another note: use the blog to link to all your work online, a sort-of “quick clips” page you can e-mail to a recruiter or editor.
Learn how to tell stories in more than one way: Journalism is essentially storytelling, so why not tell a story the best way(s) possible? Audio, video, photos, polls, interactive features and games can help. You don’t have to be Steven Spielberg behind the camera or have a voice like Don LaFontaine. You don’t have to be able to hack NORAD or reinvent Monopoly (no, I won’t link) for the Web. To be among the most viable candidates, based on what I’ve been told and read, you need to be able to capture, edit and upload content you captured with a camera, voice recorder and/or video camera. It’s really not that hard. Programming knowledge (HTML, CSS, etc.) is a plus, but not essential (yet?). Nevertheless, you should be able to work with programmers and online editors to tell a multimedia story. The best way to learn any skill is to do it yourself. If you’re waiting for someone to take your hand and lead you down the path of multimedia, it probably isn’t going to happen. Use online tutorials or courses. Practice. Learn from your mistakes. Practice some more. NOTE: As one of my professors, Chris Delboni, always says, “It’s not about technology!” She’s absolutely right. Technology doesn’t tell the story; it helps you tell the story. And technology changes. (Foreshadowing number 10…)
Two important Web sites: Join LinkedIn: Like a Facebook for professionals, LinkedIn combines your resume with who know. It’s great way to keep in touch with reporters, editors and recruiters you’ve met. You can also link to your blog, school (insert medium here)’s Web site, a page with links to your work and links to your social networking sites. If you’re ever asked to e-mail a resume for a job or internship, be sure to include a link to your public LinkedIn profile– and a homepage, if you have one. Overall, this is just one more way to show your Web savvy and shape your digital legacy. Bookmark Poynter:Poynter Online should be at the center of your online journalism world. The site has articles on a variety of journalism topics, columns, NewsU training courses and will soon have social networking with the planned Poynter Online Groups. Jim Romanesko‘s blog on the media is a must-read. Any one who wants to go into journalism or who is in journalism should subscribe to Joe Grimm‘s “Ask the Recruiter” column, which runs Monday through Friday, and take a glance at Colleen Eddy‘s weekly “Colleen on Careers.” Put all these feeds into your reader. Another area is Career Center, where you can look for job opportunities, post your resume and get career advice.
Are you experienced? Join campus media: This is an item that everyone should know, but for some reason people still don’t do it. Why? In the most simplistic way I can rephrase it: Recruiters are not going to select you for internships without some kind of previous experience in that field, and you need internships (note the plural) to get a job. Dabble in the various student media at your college or university. Find the one you like the most and focus on it, but don’t leave the others behind. Establish working relationships in the spirit of cooperation/convergence to better tell the story. You need to be familiar with other forms of storytelling (see number four). Gear it towards the Web (number one) and blog about it (number three).Look for off-campus opportunities: When I took Miami Herald sportswriter Michelle Kaufman’s sports reporting class last spring, she told of how she, as a student journalist, would go through the UM team rosters and pitch features to a player’s hometown paper. Be entrepreneurial. You’re going to need clips, and simply working for a campus news outlet isn’t likely going to be enough, depending on where you apply. Try to string for your hometown or college town paper during the summer to get clips and quality experience. But when? Don’t wait until you’re a senior, or even a junior or a sophomore. If you can, try to do it before you even get to college; experience in high school helps with this. Once you’re in school, apply for multiple internships EVERY summer. Leave the comforts of a familiar setting if you can. The only way you have a chance anywhere is to apply. Interview as an underclassman, even as a graduating high school senior to help you evaluate where you are and where you need to be to get a position. This will also help you establish a relationship with a recruiter early on in the process.
Utilize campus resources: Part I — Talk to older students:Who are the best professors? What should I being doing this semester, next semester, next summer, next year? Talk to your peers. Find a student mentor. Professors and deans make great mentors as well (see part II), but having a peer – someone who you can better identify with – guide you is a great asset. As a first semester freshman, I met a journalism/political science major who was two years older and offered a lot of great advice for both areas.Part II — Get to know your professors: Assistance can also come from professors, outside the classroom. Shocking, I know. You likely have access to a wealth of academic and professional knowledge in your journalism school or department – take advantage of this. I enjoy talking to my professors and, in the many countless hours I’ve spent chatting with them in their offices, I’ve received a great deal of help. Internship advice, information on upcoming classes, story ideas, study abroad opportunities and more. Where should you look to intern and/or freelance? Networking is huge (i.e. LinkedIn and next item) and professors are probably some of your best connections to newspapers, TV, radio and online news sites. Even if they didn’t work at whatever organization you want to go to, they might know someone who does.
Network: Meet people. This is an essential part of your job as journalist. If you can’t network with students, journalists, professors, reporters, editors and recruiters, what does that say about you’re ability to connect with readers/viewers and maintain good contact with sources? This overlaps with the previous two items, but networking warrants its own segment. Networking will help you do your job better, as well as get a job or internship. You’re much more likely to get a position you want if you know someone at the paper. The best references are people who the recruiter or editor knows and trusts, or those who have a well-known reputation. But how? Go to job fairs and conferences. Comment on blogs and articles. E-mail your favorite writers and reporters.
Know the business: Subscribing to Romenesko (part of number five) will help you keep up with the industry in which you hope to work. Another great way to do so is by reading Editor & Publisher. If you can have a conversation with a recruiter or editor about the current state of the news business it will show two things: 1) You’re passionate about the profession and 2) You’re not just another green college student – you comprehend the world you want to get into, its harsh realities and why people are both optimistic and pessimistic. Reading blogs (item two) and talking with professionals (item eight) will help you to do this.
Be able to evolve and have an open mind: Above all, you must be able to adapt to the changing world of journalism. Evolving is at the heart of numbers one through five. This concept also involves having an open mind, as Curley and others note. Similarly important is being entrepreneurial (six) and being able to do it yourself (four). Being spoon-fed ain’t gonna happen, folks. You need to take the initiative to learn on your own. A Jan. 9 post by Paul Conley triggered a wide-spread discussion about training and adapting. While I don’t think that train has left the station (sorry for the horrible pun), training should not be a crutch. Training should be supplement, a way to learn new tips and tricks. (Insert “old dog” clichehere).
Weigh in: Did you find this list useful? What would you add or remove? I will take into consideration suggestions and recommendations for adjusting this list.