A wise and experienced journalist recently suggested to me that the personal ‘brand’ of a journalist is the key to the attainment of success. This brand does not come from the publication you work for or the topic of journalism you pursue but instead your ability to produce quality within whatever given nichÃ© you operate in.
This is possibly the best advice I’ve been given so far and its strength comes, as with everything, in the simplicity of the message; if you earn a good reputation you will be given good opportunities, to that degree a good reputation comes from the individuals ability and not the specific outlet it is hosted in.
Most media consumers see news outlets in general terms and will often have a favourite newspaper or television channel for their own reasons. Many ignore other media because it’s too trashy or too stuck-up; to one person a publication could be dumbed down while another is seen as pretentious.
It is true that a news outlet must build a reputation for itself in order to succeed; it needs to be known as the most reliable source of information to its respective audience. In order to ensure this a news outlet must staff itself with people capable of maintaining that quality and honest and as such will hope to find the best available. At this point it doesn’t matter if a journalist has a background in an outlet of good reputation but it instead matters if they were (or were not) a foundation of that good reputation. That is to say that writing for one newspaper over another does not make you a good journalist, while most newspapers will want good staff this isn’t always the case and is never assumed as such by editors.
The advice given to me on this occasion was that a good journalist is not defined by the publication they write for but the copy they produce; the truth is a journalist should not be concerned with writing for a publication that is known to take a bias as long as their own products are neutral, in the same regard a good journalist should not be concerned with writing for a publication known for its trashy celeb content as long as they are writing on issues of real relevance.
The development of a personal brand is not something that is unique to journalism; a worker in any industry will find it best to develop a good reputation for what they do and only a fool would rely on the reputation of their employers in absence of their own. Journalism does differ in the way a reputation of a journalist is usually built in public, although the reader will not pay attention to a journalist until their reputation has already been cemented; names aren’t often noted by the reader unless they appear regularly attached to good stories or regularly attached to bad ones. Of course at that stage the editors in the media community would have passed judgement long before.
There is great importance in developing a personal brand and it can naturally take some time, but if you continue to develop your knowledge and abilities in your chosen field and do so with honesty and integrity it will only be a matter of time before your investment and diligance pays off.
Additional reading: Was just sent this superb piece that relates well to branding in Journalism; it’s a bit idealistic but there are some gems of advice that I personally haven’t come across yet and that encourage me to continue on the path I’ve taken so far.