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Brand Journalists

Those of us who hire journalists are fortunate, because reporters are generally not in the profession for the big paychecks. It is also a tough job, so it tends to weed out the lazy. Generally you are working with passionate people who feel a sense of mission about what they are doing, whether it’s writing about semiconductors or the Iraq War - or PR, for that matter.

But in the last five years or so a new imperative has informed the journalists’ career. That is the need to build your personal brand. The branded reporter transcends his or her outlet - however well positioned by it they are. The branded reporter speaks, writes books, and waxes on in the land of punditry.
At times, this brand building can work in direct conflict with the media outlet you ostensibly represent. Remember Bob Woodward failing to tell his employer The Washington Post, that he was told about outed CIA operative Valerie Plame by a senior Bush administration official? That was a case of brand conflict - the Woodward Brand taking precedent.

Media outlets have to help their stars develop their brands while harnessing their firepower - a tricky task for companies without deep pockets, or that are lower down on the prestige food chain. Often a small outlet will help foster a brand journalist, only to lose them to a bigger competitor. Such is life.

2 Comments so far

  1. David Heiser on April 23rd, 2008

    This reminds me of something that Steve Cody frequently talks about on his podcast and on his blog. He is always talking about “creating your brand,” which is directly in opposition to the opinion-free style that is necessary for news writing. Do you think this is partly a result of our celebrity crazed society which places a high emphasis on recognizability as a measure of an individual’s self worth?

  2. Julia Hood on April 23rd, 2008

    Absolutely, and I think recent examples of breakdowns in newsroom ethics are a function of the desire for recognition overriding the norms of the vocation. And what is the penalty? Greater fame…

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