Personal branding expert and founder of Branding Personality Support Marieke Hensel gives her advice on how journalists should and shouldn't be using the web to build their own brand.

Companies like Google and Coca-Cola are brands, as are many of today's celebrities. They are established, well-recognised brands, but everybody has a kind of personal brand. We might not have the same popularity in the market, but people that we know have an idea in their mind of who we are and what we do. To radically change the perception in someone's mind is difficult. But gradually showing people who you are and what you stand for teaches them that you are the way you want to be portrayed.

In fact when people have a clear idea of who you are and what you stand for, it is easier for them to contact you, and the expectations of your expertise in that area will be higher. Many journalists have an area of specialty, an area they know a lot about, like current news, celebrity journalism or politics. If your name is consistently associated with an area you are passionate and knowledgeable about, people will start to recognize you as such and will contact you before others if they are looking for a journalist who stands out for that niche.

Sell your work softly
Nobody is interested in buying commodities, unless you can get them for the lowest price. For journalists that is definitely an area of caution, it is a trap you don't want to fall into. The easiest step and the softest way to sell your self, is to show more of who you are and what you do online. Start sharing your newest articles on social media. Use Ping.fm or services provided by the social networks themselves, to automatically post a copy of the message to other social networking websites. By doing that, you allow yourself to only post the message once, and it will be automatically posted to all the platforms of your choice.

Share your articles by posting a link to the article online. If you start sharing your content online, you will see that more people will follow you, friend you or show you that they like your articles and you can build connections that way. Connections can lead into potential projects, especially if you make connections with the right people, or people who know the right people.

Making your brand unique
Journalists should sell brands that are most of all true to who they are themselves. This is an area to do a bit of research on. Two main ways how you can differentiate yourself from the market, are expertise (your area of knowledge) and personality. But there might be journalists clever enough that can brand themselves because of other distinctive features that might not work for everybody, like connections they have or former experience.

Building a brand online isn't just limited to a website anymore. And by keeping your presence just on a website, you are losing out on ways to stand out in 2010 and making sure you attract more projects. A presence on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter should be part of the online foundation for journalists. But just setting up a profile is not enough. Your profile needs to have an interesting bio or short summary that attracts people to learn more about you. A personal picture is another must; it gives credibility and increases the chances of a media producer contacting you. This is most of all so they can see that you are real, an authentic person sharing his/her content. In the same line, share your name. If you want to build your name (your personal brand), you have to use your name consistently, or an artist name if you are consistently using that.

Value in conversation
The value of the content online is in the conversation, not the one-way street conversation. When you have multiple replies going on on the same message, that is a clear example of where a relationship is building. Sharing information, talking to an audience, helps you get started, but if the communication is only going one way then you won't get much out of it. Social media is not about advertising, it is a communication channel. Ask questions online; respond to other messages and you will see that conversations start to happen. Having a presence online is a necessary element of being successful as a journalist.

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