22. Organising your “personal branding”

In theory, there are no rules on “personal branding”, just those taken from marketing for creating a brand online. Being a news specialist, rather than a marketing specialist, a few common sense rules apply, especially on social media.

What discussions should be held on social media? Personal or professional?

While there is nothing to prevent you from opening a personal account, your public status as a journalist means that you are obliged to look upon social media platforms from a professional perspective (which does not prohibit personal messages). Here are a few rules on how to behave on social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter and others):

  • Use your individuality, which is what makes a journalist interesting
  • Get noticed in the places and by the opinion leaders where “things happen”
  • Adopt a more personal and relaxed tone than in your articles
  • Act transparently
  • Do not be afraid to say “I don’t know”
  • Do not be afraid to admit “I was mistaken”
  • Do not hesitate to ask your community when looking for info
  • Do not forget to thank/acknowledge/support what other professionals are doing.

Thus, creating your “brand” as a journalist requires as much work upstream (monitoring role in reporting relevant news and sources) as it does downstream (making your own work known). The one cannot go without the other and you will be all the more supported and appreciated by internet users if you can find a way to serve your community. Do not forget that the internet is, first and foremost, a space in which the philosophy of sharing is dominant.

How should you let your community know about what you are doing/publishing?

Since social media platforms are above all a space for personal expression, it is a good idea to let your community know what you are doing. The new industry increasingly replies on explaining what goes on behind the scenes: how do reporters work? Where do they go? What are their investigative methods? All these topics allow internet users to better understand how the news is made.

Our readers are interested to know if we are being sued for defamation (and by whom) or that a particular source does not want to answer our questions.

Knowledge on what we publish is more traditional. In this respect too, journalists did not wait for the arrival of the internet to create a “buzz” around their articles. Everyone has their own way of doing things, according to their personality and the nature of their media outlet. A tabloid like The Sun will not have the same way of “selling” itself to its readers as the New York Review of Books!

Do we need rules on social media use for journalists?

This is a recurrent question today, especially since major media outlets have issued charters and guidelines on the subject. In this respect too, the relationship that each media outlet maintains defines the tone of its presence on social media. Loyalty towards the company and respect of the rules laid down seems logical. Nevertheless, journalists are not prohibited from distancing themselves from the “official” coverage of their media outlet because, as is well known, when it comes to delicate subjects, there is rarely one ideal and unequivocal way to cover them!