Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

6×6: branding

Posted in 6x6 series, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on August 17, 2009

6x6 advice for multimedia journalists

The first in a series of 6 blogs, each with 6 tips for the next generation of freelance multimedia journalists.

branding

Even as far back as 2006, the likes of Andrew Neil appreciated the journalists of the future will need to brand themselves well. “The journalist of the future…will have more than one employer and become a brand in his own right” he wrote.  With full time jobs in well staffed newsrooms becoming more sparse, but opportunities outside traditional/mainstream journalism becoming more plenty, this prediction is coming true. So, what can you do to boost your brand?

01. own your name

The first thing to overcome is the embarassment or discomfort of ‘blowing your own trumpet’. For some people the idea of self branding is for cocky self promoters. Well guess what: if you’re going to succeed as a freelancer, some self promotion has gotta be done. Oh, and aim for confident, not cocky.

As a freelancer especially, your brand is your name. Therefore you need to own your name, especially in cyberspace. You should try and own your domain name (www.yourname.com or http://www.yourname.net or http://www.yourname.co.uk).  If you’re running yourself as a business with its own name that’s OK too.

Lisa Barone at Outspoken Media agrees: “It’s always better to have the username and not use it, then need to wait and kick yourself later when someone else grabs it. Having a unified social media username is very important in establishing trust with other members.”

Another unpopular thing to do: Google your own name. How far up does it come? If an editor or potential client needs to find you, you must be high up the rankings. You don’t need to pay for this (although you could); instead you should be putting up authoratitive quality content which gets you those all important links, diggs and retweets from readers.

Brian Clark, in his excellent Authority Rules e-book, makes the point that if “people think you’re important, so will Google.”

02. define your niche

The branding experts tell you if you’re going to have a brand, people need to know what you’re about. And you need to be able to give someone the elevator pitch about yourself too. A niche will give you a vital advantage over general-news journalists. Freelance science journalist Angela Saini for example knows what she’s good at (science) and has successfully built herself a reputation as a science journalist around that, in less than a year.

If you don’t have a niche, don’t worry too much. But just be able to sum up what you’re about: not only will it define your branding, it’ll help keep you focussed on what projects you pursue.

03. have a good great website and blog

As a multimedia journalist your content exists for the web. And so to not have your own web presence is ludicrous. But your website must be great (not just good). It must stand out and most importantly be designed to show off what you’re good at.

So:

  • if your selling point is the great photographs you take, make sure your website has a huge single column on the front page, with a flash platform displaying your best photos at their best
  • if you’re a video journalist, your front page should have an equally large single column splash video showreel
  • if you’re about the audio, think about getting a visually exciting audio player, again at the top of the front page

Here are three original, striking and inspiring portfolio websites to get you going:

6x6-portfolio-carmichaelx

6x6-portfolio-maisiex6x6-portfolio-monicax

A blog is another crucial element for the multimedia journalist, for several reasons. It keeps your website current and up to date; it allows you to build on your brand and show off your expertise with some well written authoratitive blogs; and allows you to build and engage with a community of other journalists and even clients.

Back to Brian Clark at Authority Rules: “Your content actually demonstrates your expertise, compared with a website or bio page that claims expertise.”

04. have a fresh CV and showreel

After your blog and front page portfolio, the most important thing visitors will need to be able to find is your CV/resume and showreel. Have it in the top navigation bar and in one of your sidebars.

Your CV must be in pdf format (or a Google Doc) and up to date. You can chose to have it typed up in the page as well.  Create an image button to make it more attractive. Mindy McAdams says your CV is  vital to prove your claims, so “your real work experience should be easy to find and easy to scan quickly. People will want to check this for verification, so dates should be clear, not obfuscated.”

Your showreel must also be up to date, especially if you are pitching for daily news work. Radio journalists especially: make sure your uploaded bulletin is only a few weeks old.

Upload your showreel and embed it into your web page. That way potential editors and clients don’t need to download large files to be able to see what you do. Vimeo is ideal for video. Soundslides does the job for photographs and audio slideshows. And I use Soundcloud for embedding audio. If you can, use flash to give your showreel some animation. Freelance radio journalist and web designer Katie Hall does this to good effect on her site.

05. keep your networks consistent

An important part of brand management is consistency. The internet is a hugely powerful tool for connecting with people, so it is important you spread yourself across as many social networks as possible: Twitter, LinkedIn, Wired Journalists, Demotix, Current TV and Facebook to name just a few.

But keep them all consistent. Have the same username for each – and make it your name. My Twitter name is AdamWestbrook, as is my Vimeo and LinkedIn profile. My Facebook URL is facebook.com/AdamWestbrook.

And do the same with images. Have one image of yourself (it’s called a Gravatar) and use that for your profile images. One name, one image, one brand.

06. get business cards

All these tips so far have been for branding yourself in the online world. Amazingly the real world hasn’t given up the ghost through lack of attention just yet, and it’s equally important to promote yourself at networking events, conferences and other shindigs.

Business cards are a neccessity. There are many sites offering this service, not to mention high street stores, but UK born website Moo.com has been recommended to me far too many times for it not to be good. They’ll even give you 50 free business cards as a trial.

The final word…

Now I know I’ve pushed for you to brand yourself as your own name as a multimedia journalist. It’s a lot quicker, cheaper and easier than creating an actual stand alone business. But a wise word of warning comes from James Chartand at Freelance Switch:

A personal brand traps you into always being present in your business. You will be at the mercy of your clients and your career…your personal reputation is at stake. One bad day, one slip, a job gone sour, an unhappy client spreading rumors, and your reputation is tarnished.

Next: video for multimedia journalists!

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30 Responses

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  1. Tracy Boyer said, on August 17, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    I can’t decide whether or not to take the time and produce a demo reel. It is obvious that strong demo reels are extremely time consuming to make, and I am nervous that combining a variety of unrelated multimedia projects would do more harm than good. Especially since our portfolios are constantly changing … is it really worth the investment of time and energy when it will be outdated before you know it?

    Great analysis, Adam! I look forward to the rest of the series.

  2. Philip John said, on August 17, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Great tips here that make a lot of sense.

    I have an issue with #3 where you say “a flash platform displaying your best photos” – from a usability point of view, flash should only be used where necessary. Instead, use a custom lightbox system which uses Javascript (ask any good web developer).

    Also, a little extra tip related to #4: you can always use a service like VisualCV.com rather than a PDF (never a good idea) or Google Doc (can be confusing to some).

    For #4 you can use a service like usernamecheck.com to check the many social networking sites. You don’t have to claim all of them, but try to cover most bases. Oh and it’s called an Avatar, not a Gravatar. Gravatar is a service which allows you to upload an avatar that can then be used by different web sites. By default, all WordPress blogs use Gravatar.

    @Tracy – if the reel is video or images you can upload them to your Flickr account and embed a Flickr slideshow into your web site. This means that everytime you upload your videos/images to your Flickr account your web site’s show reel will be instantly updated too. Easy peasy.

  3. Ellie Broughton said, on August 17, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    Some great stuff there! Bring on the rest of the tips…

  4. David said, on August 17, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    Adam,

    great tips… thanks!
    Advice – as it turns out my name is extremely common. On most all of my social network profiles, I had to add some numbers after my name to differentiate. I’m worried this isn’t very professional and it’s difficult to remain consistent across networks. Domain names are also a problem. What do you think is the best way to handle this problem?

  5. [...] Adam Westbrook is posting a series of 6 blogs, each with 6 tips for the next generation of freelance multimedia journalists. Check it out HERE [...]

  6. [...] Alexandre Gamela shared 6×6: branding [...]

  7. adamwestbrook said, on August 17, 2009 at 8:06 pm

    @Tracey I guess a flashy showreel is really only something if you’re pitching to traditional TV newsrooms or for presenter work. You’re right, when it comes to multimedia it’s good to have a mixture – although if you are a VJ, potential clients/editors will want to see your video before anything else. Perhaps just put up your strongest video work to date?

    @Phillip you sure about pdfs? They’re pretty standard right? Especially compared to a word doc which is still what many people use.

  8. adamwestbrook said, on August 17, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    @David that’s a good question. If it were me, I would probably add a word rather than numbers, so I might go for http://www.adamwestbrookjournalist.com or facebook.com/adamwestbrook_journalist etc.
    Depending on who your potential clients are you could be a bit more off the wall, but if you’re going for a corporate audience try to stick as professional as possible.

    In terms of priorities, your domain name is probably the most important one – get that first and then do your best to match your other networks. It is not the end of the world though if your twitter account isn’t exactly consistent – as long as it’s easy to find.

    Hope that helps!

  9. Tracy Boyer said, on August 17, 2009 at 9:51 pm

    @Philip Thanks for the advice! I currently don’t use Flickr (gasp!) but as I get more into photography I will definitely utilize it down the road.

  10. duckrabbit said, on August 17, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Bloodyhell … take me a year do all that!

    Your right though brand is important, it’s just I couldn’t decide to be a duck or a rabbut?

  11. Mary Hamilton said, on August 18, 2009 at 6:31 am

    Great tips, and a really useful checklist for folks just starting out. Thank you!

  12. [...] first series up is about branding and Adam starts right off saying “The first thing to overcome is the embarassment or [...]

  13. Greg Linch said, on August 18, 2009 at 11:14 am

    @Adam: Great advice! I’m looking forward to the rest of the series.

    Regarding no. 5, I agree it’s great to be everywhere so people can more easily connect and get in touch with you. But I’d also say it’s good to focus on a couple so you don’t go insane and so you can maintain a high level of engagement. And I’d include commenting on blogs in that area :)

    @Philip: I echo your advice for JavaScript over Flash — unless you’re branding yourself as a Flash wiz.

    @Tracy: Zach Wise has the best multimedia demo reel I’ve seen:

    http://digitalartwork.net/2008/12/21/demo-reel-2008

    That said, I don’t know if it’s necessary for non-broadcast jobs in the U.S. I can’t recall seeing it on any job postings.

  14. Bryan - After5PC said, on August 18, 2009 at 2:44 pm

    I agree. If you’re looking for something worth it in the end, you’ll need to own your own name and have your own brand.

    Get it while you still can!

  15. duckrabbit said, on August 18, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    AVOID FLASH … nobody can link to your photos which is the really important thing and google hates it. Also its crap to update and rubbsih for text. I ditched our flash website after six months …. so glad I did.

  16. Philip John said, on August 18, 2009 at 3:16 pm

    @Adam – They are used extensively yes, but it’s one of the biggest web usability gaffs around. Don’t take my word for it though, take Jakob Neilsen’s: http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030714.html

  17. Wayan Parmana said, on August 19, 2009 at 4:05 am

    great info..this article was what i’m looking for…thanks a lot

  18. [...] Video 2. Branding 3. Storytelling 4. Audio 5. Business skills 6. Making things [...]

  19. [...] Adam Westbrook recently spoke at a Hull Digital MeetUp about the Future of Journalism (you can see the presentation here), and we recently caught up with him to talk about his latest project – 6×6 – Advice for next generation journalists. [...]

  20. [...] a new series he’s calling 6×6, Westbrook has weighed in on how to brand and market yourself as a freelancer. Now, he’s sharing tips on shooting video, most of which apply to both [...]

  21. Basic Branding 101 — Expad.ie said, on August 20, 2009 at 8:00 am

    [...] first post, on branding yourself, carries some simple, universal rules that should apply to  international entities as well as they [...]

  22. khoster said, on August 21, 2009 at 8:16 am

    This is great information. I’m starting to get story ideas zooming in my head.

  23. [...] Adam Westbrook’s advice on branding, I  now own my own name, and it’s consistent – as is my avatar – across most of [...]

  24. Branding « Metamedia said, on September 8, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    [...] 6×6 series – and, I imagine, all the others too once they’re up. It’s on branding yourself online and in real life, with common sense [...]

  25. [...] Adam Westbrook, a multimedia journalist who has been running his blog since 2006 and has worked across media in multiple formats. He has dedicated a series of six posts that relate to issues of professional multimedia journalism. The second of these posts, from back in August, has to do with this idea of branding. The series is called 6×6. [...]

  26. [...] This news doesn’t come as a surprise to me, because the line between public and private in social networks is always on my mind (and quick plug, this kind of thing will be discussed at news:rewired). I want to be a journalist, so I realise that my name is no longer just my name, its my brand. [...]

  27. Branding | Metamedia said, on May 25, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    [...] 6×6 series – and, I imagine, all the others too once they’re up. It’s on branding yourself online and in real life, with common sense [...]

  28. [...] Adam Westbrook’s advice on branding, I  now own my own name, and it’s consistent – as is my avatar – across most of [...]

  29. [...] Westbrook listed a guide for the next generation of freelance multimedia journalists called 6×6 Branding. Some of the more important points he mentions [...]

  30. moncler said, on November 11, 2011 at 1:23 pm

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