By Melissa Kitson @mnkitson
For a freelance journalist, having a strong personal brand can mean the difference between work and no work. That said, many journalists shy away from building a personal brand, feeling uncomfortable with the idea of ‘selling themselves’.
But branding is not about self-promotion. It is about being you - with consistency and clarity.
For those who still cringe at the thought of their personal brand, here are some tips to make the process pain-free and effective.
Follow your passions
The most successful personal brands tap into what inspires a person. Be it travel, music or a penchant for French literature, when people share their passion they attract interest and attention. Passion is magnetic. For journalists, it is also a chance to show character outside of the newsroom/office/station. Think of SBS reporter Lee Lin Chin. The self-described “fashionista” has become one of the most recognisable newsreaders through her distinct sense of fashion and style.
Brand psychologist Mary van de Wiel believes a brand must be active if it is to stay relevant. The same is true for personal brands. To avoid being a “dead brand walking” as she describes, journalists need to actively engage and cultivate their network. This may be by contributing articles, creating a blog, participating in online discussions, investing more time in social media or attending relevant industry events. In short, there are lots of ways to engage. Find the way that is authentic to you and your interests.
Don’t be afraid to share an opinion
This is perhaps the trickiest point. With an opinion, there is always the risk of a rebuttal. There is also the risk of misinterpretation. But it is important to put these risks aside. They can be mitigated with tact and diplomacy. In personal branding, opinions matter. This does not mean you need to be divisive. The idea is to take a stance that could be on the future of the economy or the latest trend in Belgian cinema. As Jon Lombardo, Brand Strategist Enterprise Technology at LinkedIn explains, “People don’t buy your product, they buy your perspective.”