Adam Westbrook // ideas on digital storytelling and publishing

How to add some Flavors to your online portfolio

Posted in Entrepreneurial Journalism by Adam Westbrook on January 10, 2011

Image Credit: youngthousands on Flickr

Up until recently, I have advocated WordPress.org as the best platform for building your own, easy portfolio site. I talked about it at length in last year’s Blogging for Journalists series, and in this article for journalism.co.uk.

But all is not well.

Over the Christmas break I started reworking my portfolio website. Up until now I’d been using a WordPress install with a decent free theme. I’ve been updating it through 2010, but its message was confusing, and crucially, it wasn’t bringing in any new work. I decided I needed something new: something simple and eye-catching.

So, I started the hunt through hundreds of WordPress themes, free and paid for…and after three frustrating days – I found nothing.

Hundreds if not thousands of developers create new WordPress themes all the time, but many of them focus on using all the features, creating themes packed with text, widgets, columns and menus. There was no room for simple, elegant theme (incidentally, if you’re a WordPress theme designer reading this: gap in the market!)

I almost gave up…and then I discovered Flavors.

Why use flavors?

Flavors.me‘s tag-line is “make a homepage in minutes” – and that’s what it is about. It is a platform for you to create a one-page destination for your digital world, detailing who you are, and bringing all your different feeds into one place.

For me, Flavors offers three really significant things for someone trying to make a quick, distinctive website:

.01 simplicity: there are no pages, posts, comments or widgets to worry about. You can actually create the whole site in about 30 minutes, which for a website is pretty remarkable

.02 versatility: despite this, no two flavors.me sites I have seen look the same. And it gives you the chance to use the whole browser window and create a really attention grabbing theme.

.03 curation: flavors.me was designed to provide a one-stop shop for all our different digital outlets. So you connect your Twitter feed, your blog output, your Tumblr, Flickr and Vimeo feeds – and they can all be viewed from one page.

Wordpress vs Flavors: which is more eyecatching?

How to use flavors

  • You start with flavors.me by registering with the service for free and creating your own url – at first http://www.flavors.me/yourname.
  • Then you’re taken to your page, and a floating ‘design’ panel lets you add all your news feeds, edit the name of your site, and mess around with the shape and size.
  • Flavors lets you adjust the positioning of your content to about six or so templates, for example, to the left of the screen, right in the centre etc. You can also adjust the font, size and colour of your text.
  • Finally, you can decide on the background for your site. People use photographs, their own graphic designs or just plain colours. They all appear full screen, right across the browser, which instantly makes your own website stand out from the crowd.

What about your portfolio?

So, how do you create a portfolio of work inside Flavors.me? This is where the site’s curation tools are most useful, because you can connect them to the third-party sites holding your portfolio work and it does the rest of the work.

For example, as a video journalist, I want my films available to view on the site. But I don’t need to worry about creating a new post for each film, and embedding it: I simply connect Flavors to my Vimeo page and it does the rest.

It works the same with Flickr and Picasa (and others) for photojournalists, Soundcloud for audio journalists; Behance for designers and all the major blogging platforms for writers.

Best of all: clicking on each feed, opens it up in an adjoining panel: so people can watch your content without leaving your website.

How to match it to your domain name.

Flavors.me is free to access most of the features. However, to get all the fonts and full range of design options, SEO metadata and domain matching you’ll need to pay an annual fee of $20 (£12).

The paid version also lets you add a nifty ‘contact’ page and a few other things too.

If you really like your Flavors site, you might want to make it your official homepage. Obviously, you’ll need to own a domain name (try services like Bluehost (affiliate link) if you don’t have one already); but once you do, redirecting is pretty simple.

You need to log into your domain name’s Control Panel, find the options to change DNS records, and add a new A-record, changing the IP address to the Flavors.me server.

Flavors offer  quick guide to doing this, so it’s pretty straightforward.

Examples of great journalists portfolios

Loads of journalists are already experimenting with Flavors. Here are some examples of it being used to great effect. If you want more inspiration, the site’s directory is a great place to start.

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There are some design downsides: the site’s full-screen nature means it looks different on each computer. I am also not sure how it looks on mobile devices or an iPad.

NOTE: Lovely readers, including Philip John and David Berman have pointed out my site looks less impressive on an iPad. Clearly something to test with your own background designs.

Image Credit: Philip John

What you compromise is the flexibility of WordPress: there are no plugins, no widgets, no CSS; but what you gain is the chance to design a website that really stands out. And with the number of websites in the billions and growing daily, that’s what matters.

Fresh Eyes: what can journalists learn from a branding expert?

Posted in Fresh eyes series, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on March 3, 2010

What happens when you ask a film maker or a musician about the future of journalism? What skills can the next generation journalist learn from a coder? As part of Fresh Eyes experts in non-journalism fields cast their eye over the digital revolution and offer their wisdom.

Jon Moss, Marketing Consultant

After nearly a decade working for a FTSE100 company, Jon decided working for other people sucked and now runs his own marketing consultancy, theappleofmyi. He specialises in branding, online marketing and social media, and is the founder of the Hull Digital group, a meetup of tech lovers in East Yorkshire, UK.  Check out the HD website, for some great talks from the likes of Audioboo, TechCrunch UK and the BBC.

Would you choose your brand?

“Your brand is formed primarily, not by what your company says about itself, but what the company does.”

Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO.

Except when you are talking about a journalist, blogger, freelancer or anyone for that matter, it’s not the company, it’s you. That’s the big question.

What are you doing?

Brands have an incredibly powerful, emotive and frequent part to play in virtually every buying decision we make. Day in, day out, we are making decisions based on our current or historical perception of a brand, or a brand experience. It can be a good experience, a bad one, or a mediocre one. They all play their part. Whether using a Mac or PC, which toothpaste you choose, what pair of trainers, and what car you drive. Brands.

Brands used to be tied, or rather cemented to TV advertising and perhaps big billboards. Of course with the onslaught (and make no mistake, it is an onslaught) of digital communication and the rise of the connected online world, brand experiences have changed forever.

You probably haven’t considered TV advertising, but you almost certainly use the web. Which means that you compete with the big boys, the multi-million dollar companies. The internet is a great equaliser, nearly everyone uses it, and it is not going away in a hurry.

The way you answer the phone, your answerphone message. Your business card, your website, your blog, your email signature. You name it, it is all part of your personal brand

65% of consumers report having had a digital experience that either positively or negatively changed their opinion about a brand. Of that group, a nearly unanimous 97% say that their digital experience influenced whether or not they eventually purchased a product or service from that brand. Digital is not only a place to build a brand: it can also make or break it. (Source – 2009 Razorfish Digital Brand Experience Study).

So, we’ve set the scene on brands and digital brands. You are starting to understand that brands and brand experiences are not just for Apple, Coca Cola and Nike.

Your brand matters. It matters a lot, and, critically can help in your marketing flow. Marketing is simple. 5 words simple: know, like, trust, use, recommend.

So having a good brand can most certainly help with getting known, getting liked, gaining trust and being used. The web can exponentially accelerate it.

Your personal brand is something you should be considering, building and adding to on a daily basis, and it is not only online. Remember that your personal brand encompasses every single touch point that a client, friend, colleague, prospect or family member could have with you, or something that represents you. The way you answer the phone, your answerphone message. Your business card, your website, your blog, your email signature. You name it, it is all part of your personal brand.

Nine questions to ask yourself

How people perceive you, your service, your business is all part of your brand. There are a few questions you may like to ask yourself to see how your brand measures up…

  • Q. Can people find you easily online?
  • Q. Have you got an interesting and extensive web presence?
  • Q. If they can, is it professional?
  • Q. Are you valuable to people?
  • Q. Do you influence or are easily influenced?
  • Q. Do people remember you for the right reasons?
  • Q. Do you have an opinion?
  • Q. Do you contribute and participate?
  • Q. Do you listen and learn?

You must socialise with your peers, clients and prospects. It cannot just be push. You need to join in, contribute and have something to say, an opinion or view. People want to work with people who are doing something, that have ideas, that are joining in. It’s important to be practicing what you preach.

Ten things to do in 2010 to improve your brand

If you only do a few things in 2010, this is what you should consider as a minimum:

1. Own your name online (you do own your own domain name, don’t you?)
2. Make it easy for people to get in touch with you
3. Be memorable, and not for bad things
4. Contribute and engage
5. Do something different
6. Decide what you stand for, what makes you special and different
7. Start something
8. Meet people and volunteer your time
9. Be polite and enthused – ask, because if you don’t, you won’t get
10. Treat others as you would like to be treated

P.S. Have some fun 🙂

Jon Moss is a marketing and branding consultant based in East Yorkshire, UK. He runs theappleofmyi.com and founded the popular Hull Digital meetup group.

Get your copy of 6×6: advice for multimedia journalists

Posted in 6x6 series by Adam Westbrook on October 26, 2009

6x6 advice for multimedia journalists

My e-book 6×6: advice for multimedia journalists is now available for download.

I put it together after the popularity of the blog series of the same name back in August. It sums up the advice in that series and updates it. It’s also packed with bonus tips which you won’t find in the series itself, plus a page of resources and links to help you on your way.

The six chapters cover the technical skills, like video, audio & storytelling, plus the non-technical skills, like branding & business.

Best of all, this 32 page e-book is 100% free – you won’t need to register or anything – just click on the big download button below to get it!

And please hit me with feedback, good or bad. What did it miss out? What would you put in?

Click to download for free!

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!

6×6: starting next week

Posted in 6x6 series, Journalism by Adam Westbrook on August 14, 2009

The walls of the debate are shifting. People don’t want to be reminded how bad the newspaper/journalism sector is right now; they don’t want to read more introductions to articles reeling off the various nails in the coffin.

In the last couple of months we’ve started to see more articles looking forward. And that’s a positive thing.

A piece I wrote last month on what the journalist of the future might look like sparked a lot of debate – and got me working on something which I’m launching on Monday:

6x6 advice for multimedia journalists

Six articles, each with six tips for the journalist of the future. They’re going to be focused on the down to earth practical stuff, and cover six broad areas the next generation freelance journalist will need to be familiar with:

  1. Video
  2. Branding
  3. Storytelling
  4. Audio
  5. Business skills
  6. Making things happen

Some of them are new skills, which are just emerging; others are some of the oldest. And that last one isn’t a journalism skill, but I think it’s vital for freelancers if they’re not to end up sitting at home staring at their computer screen.

It starts on Monday with Branding – and as always, it’s never a complete list so feel free to add your advice in the comments!