There has been an ongoing conversation in journalism circles on whether we should develop and maintain our personal brands. As someone who has a brand and has spoken and written on this topic, I’m firmly in the yes camp.
The discussion came to a head in June, when Washington Post magazine columnist Gene Weingarten used his column — How ‘branding’ is ruining journalism — to say why he’s against journalists taking the time to brand. It comes from a man I see that has had the luxury to build his personal brand during his almost 20 years at the Washington Post.
Reaction to the Weingarten column was swift, and came from all quarters, including: Steve Buttry, Director of Community Engagement & Social Media, Journal Register Co.; Owen Youngman, Knight Professor of Digital Media Strategy at Northwestern University’s Medill School; Jim Romenesko of the Poynter Institute; Jennifer Gaie Hellum, creator of the Brand Me A Journalist blog; and me, over at the NABJDigital blog.
I have a brand – Aviation Queen – but I didn’t create it. My brand was created by the industry that I’ve worked in since 1992, so I decided to run with it. After all, I already stand out in aviation as the only female of color covering the industry. I can’t hide, even if I wanted to.
I bought the domain name AviationQueen.com and use it for my blog. I created a Facebook fan page (which is dormant right now), a Twitter account (@AvQueenBenet) and a Flickr account (Aviation Queen). I have a Google Profile and a LinkedIn page, and I even spent money on my logo (from Julia Edwards Design) and had separate business cards made, via Vistaprint. So why did I do all this?
- You have unique knowledge to showcase: If you cover a beat regularly, you get to know the ins and outs of your industry, along with its players. That leads to expertise, which leads to things including speaking engagements;
- Your Company/industry sees you as invaluable: With your knowledge base, you’re seen as an expert and a valuable contributor; and
- Your brand can save you: I learned this up close and personal after I was laid off from Aviation Week last month after a great five-and-a-half year run. Thanks to my brand and social media, I received some great job leads (and expect to be hired very soon) and a healthy amount of freelance work.
I had the pleasure of moderating branding panels at the National Association of Black Journalists Annual Convention and Career Fair in August and at the Online News Association convention in September.
My panelists at both sessions – Natalie ”The Frugalista” McNeal, AP race reporter Washington, Today Show/CNN tech journalist and guru Mario Armstrong, Reuters social media editor Anthony DeRosa and Tumblr media evangelist Mark Coatney – all have their own styles, but there’s something we can learn from all of them when it comes to journalists branding themselves.