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How do you develop your brand as a journalist?

Usually when someone says brand development your mind’s eye might see a room full of public relations and marketing staff who are trying to position a company or product for the consumer market. There isn’t a journalist in sight because branding is “not for journalism”. In reality, however, developing a brand is one of the key elements of being a Multimedia Journalist.

As a high school student, I began developing my brand with some help from a few trusted industry professionals. I knew I wanted to be authentic to me: fun, positive, out-going, charismatic and honest. This is an important first step in creating your own brand pillars. You need to know who you are and what you want the world to know about you.

Branding is not just for a website or business card, (although those are important!) It is also for your social media presence. It is important to maintain a level of professionalism online while also showing your personality. This is a delicate balance and journalists walk this tight rope every day. Ultimately, it comes down to you and your preferences.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I launched my Instagram TV show The Next Big Thing, which shared infotainment news with my viewers. As a young journalist, I knew my target audience was the 18-to-25-year-old demographic. I made my show high energy with quick stories because of my audience. I also structured the show so that people would relate to the news. I started with a series of national news stories and then moved into an interview with a special guest. Each week, I would feature a new guest. Who joined me? ABC White House Correspondent Jon Karl, ESPN anchor Kevin Neghandi, former NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez, ABC Chief Meteorologist Ginger Zee and Little Fires Everywhere actor Jade Pettyjohn. The variety stayed on brand and kept people interested. Then, I would transition to entertainment and mindfulness stories because the world needed some light news during a particularly difficult time. This helped me to further develop my brand and unofficially trademark the phrase “What’s poppin’?”

Here are my top three tips for brand development as a budding professional:

  1. Be consistent: Taylor Swift goes through a rebrand with every album, but as journalists, we can’t do that. We need to stay consistent with our content so our viewers can develop an understanding of who we are and what we report on. We also need to be consistent with our social media and website posting to maintain a following.

  2. Be unique: In college, I had to teach myself that I should not mimic what others have done before me. Once I lifted this pressure from myself, I became a better journalist and came to understand my brand.

  3. Be You!: Ultimately, your brand is an extension of you. It is how everyone will come to know you as a journalist. It is important to do some self-reflection when making your brand to truly know who you want to be as a journalist. What topics do you report on? What medium do you use (print, tv, radio, digital, etc.)? What is appropriate for those topics and mediums? Who are you?

What are your tips for developing your brand? Share them in the comments below!

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