J-students: Supercharge your career with The Brand Called YOU

An early example of the development of my “personal brand,” a screen snap from October 2002 of the home page of my website, which I launched in 1997. It featured PDFs of recent magazine articles I’d written, interviews with industry leaders, and examples of recent client work.

I’m preparing for a weeklong visit with the standout students of The Poynter Institute’s College Fellowship in Visual Journalism, which I’ve been involved with since 1988, either as a visiting instructor or director of the program while on Poynter faculty. This year’s topic: Developing a “personal brand” for an assist in career development and advancement.

No longer is a polished resume, maybe a PDF made in Microsoft Word, sufficient. The best and brightest journalism students – whether writers, editors, designers, or photographers – will be hitting up recruiters with some semblance of a personal brand – with a consistent voice, typography, mission. A website or blog that conveys who they are – preferably with visual samples of their work (both course work and work from internships), examples of their writing, recommendations in the form of direct quotes from their college instructors or employers. At the core of this should be a concise, engaging personal statement that says: who you are, what your passion is, why should the recruiter consider you, beyond the bullet points of your work experience. What makes you tick? What inspires you? What do they have to offer that the majority – or any – of their competitors cannot?

In a tough job market, where lots of hungry applicants are boasting strong work, packaging your skills in a dynamic, unique way could be the approach that makes all the difference.  That’s a key element of successful “branding.” (And “The Brand Called You” is not a new concept – we’ll be reviewing the article that started it all, the excellent piece by Tom Peters  published in Fast Company magazine in 1997 – the year I started my own website, ronreason.com, pictured above in a 2002 screen snap. Students and fellow instructors, please read the original article, accessible here, before our session at Poynter.)

While many of the digital tools of “personal branding” were not yet in vogue, Peters wrote at the time with good advice that stands today: “You are a brand. You are in charge of your brand. There is no single path to success. And there is no one right way to create the brand called You. Except this: Start today. Or else.”

I’ll be talking about:

  • the evolution of my own personal brand as a design and organizational consultant (which started right here at Poynter), as well as a “side brand” I’ve recently launched, as a gallerist in Chicago (see website screen snap, below).
  • other “personal brands” and what makes them tick. (Yeah, Martha Stewart is a personal brand, but so are lots of lesser known, but highly successful, professionals – including journalists.)
  • how the topic of “personal branding” came up two weeks ago when I returned to Cambridge to work again with the student staff at The Harvard Crimson. (Harvard! Now, there’s a brand.) Read my blog entry about that visit here.

We’ll be working one-on-one with students to home in on what they consider to be their “personal brand.” In addition to being fun, it should supercharge their job-hunting materials for entry into the real world.

Another diversion into “personal brand” development: as a side interest, I run an art gallery in Chicago. Promoting exhibits has necessitated a catchy gallery name and logo, Twitter feed, Facebook presence, and website (home page from October 2008 shown here). This translates into design of event signage, press release content and design, and mission statement, which you can explore here. We’ll walk through these and other components of “personal branding” at our seminar session.

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