Be Your Own Brand

The web is reshifting so many businesses, and certainly the world of media, publishing & journalism, which is where I focus a lot of my attention. Today, I want to explore how an individual journalist – or ANY individual – can build their own brand, boosting their career and delivering more value to their employer.

To explore these concepts, I wanted to share the experiences of my colleague Sima Dahl (right), who is a marketing consultant & networking coach.

Sima worked in corporate settings for years, and has been blown away at how powerful social media can be to shape one’s career, expand their network, and achieve goals.

Through social media, she has created unique and authentic experiences that could serve as a model that journalists could use to grow their value and push their career forward.

First, a list of the basic tools:

  • Blogging
    Sima blogs at,, and her own website (note: Expert Business Source is a brand owned by my employer, Reed Business Information, and that’s how Sima and I met.)

  • LinkedIn
    Sima has over 500 connections on LinkedIn and actively uses many of its services. She is a firm believe in being a contributor, not just consumer, of its content.

  • Twitter
    Sima has over 5,000 followers on Twitter, and follows just as many. When you look at her feed, you can see she isn’t just broadcasting content, but replying directly to lots of folks and ReTweeting their Tweets as well.

  • Email Newsletters
    Sima launched a service called Marketing Job Wire, that shares marketing job leads for free via email.

What I like about how Sima uses these services is that it is a blend between old-school tactics and new media tools. When considering how an individual can reframe their career, adding more value to their employer and increasing the likelihood of attaining their goals, I came up with a few suggestions:

Step off the Wheel

To get the most out of social media, often, one needs to reframe their life. Many people have a myopic view of their lives, defined by a professional title, a place, and a role. Often, we are all racing towards other people’s goals and jumping through their hoops.

This is why it is so important to – every so often – step off the spinning wheel and consider your own goals to ensure they align with the track your life is on. This is not selfish – this is to give proper motivation and resources to deliver on those goals in the most meaningful way possible. This is intended to benefit not just you, but your employer and those you work with.

Social media merely empowers your goals, your passion, your creativity, and the network of people who can help you realize these experiences. But, you get out of it what you put into it.

Unsure of what you want? Stop and figure it out. As Sima told me: "You can’t do it until you name it." Have clear goals. And yes, this is the hardest part.

Create an Identity, Not Just a Job Title

Your identity stays with you through thick and thin (employment and unemployment, changes in titles, etc), and is something you are building in a 360 degree manner, throughout all aspects of you life. Again and again I see people get laid off, only to rethink their entire career, having to start things from scratch.

Align your passion and personal goals to your career as early as possible. Not just for your own sake – but for the sake of your employer.

Sima says that when using social media services such as LinkedIn or Twitter, your profile must tell a clear story. On LinkedIn, share status updates as to what you are working on, and actively reach out to others. This puts you on their radar in a very specific context – the one that you are trying to build a career around. This interaction is critical to moving you closer to your passion and goals.

Create New Business Relationships

Connections & relationships are the key drivers behind your career – and this is where social media really deliver the most value. Likely, your career will be volatile, which is why it is so critical to build a network in good times that can help you in bad. Be sure to actively help others in your network in the same way.

Mark S. Luckie, a print journalist, has a great post titled: How Twitter saved my career… and my life. Truly, a must read.

Sima was telling me that she gets a ton of leads from Facebook, LinkedIn & Twitter – potential clients and speaking opportunities that help her grow her business and achieve her goals.

What really struck me in chatting with Sima is how meaningful the relationships she created via social media were. This is not just a marketplace, it is a community of people with real dreams, real skills, and a real willingness to step outside of their own bubble.

Help, It’s Good Karma

When people first begin using social media tools such as Twitter, they seem to be taken by two aspects of it:

  • The ability to broadcast their message, perhaps driving traffic back to their own website.
  • How easy it is to act as a voyeur in the lives of others.

But the third option is the most powerful – interacting with others using the service. You can do this in so many small ways that require no bravery, no preparation and no commitment. Some things Sima suggests:

  • Say congrats to people’s accomplishments on Facebook.
  • Reply to their Tweets.
  • Answer their questions on LinkedIn.

In Sima’s case, she had developed a lot of good job leads that she couldn’t use, so she decided to share them broadly with her network. That’s how Marketing Job Wire was born.

Yes, social media creates business opportunities, but you have to approach it as a human being, not a voyeur or predator.

Ignore Fear

We all have some amount of fear of sharing, of connecting, of rejection, of failure, of the downside to any potential action. But the fact of the matter is, when it comes to social media, the upside is much more likely to occur. Fear will not just stress you out, but prevent you from pursuing the opportunities that you desire most.

As Sima described her career path, she suggested loosening the purse strings a bit – a small investment in your career today will have a massive payoff for you and your employer later on. Whether it is paying a service or an event, invest in yourself. Considering starting a mailing list? Spend the $20 a month on aWeber. Attending a conference with someone you know from Twitter – take them out to lunch.

Find a Balance

Find that elusive balance between passion and responsibility; between personal and professional; between delivering on the needs of today, while strategizing for the goals of tomorrow.

And please, have fun!


  1. Dan you captured my thoughts on being a good networker and social media “citizen” perfectly. By making small “digital deposits” into people online, you can begin to form relationships which transcend the medium and add real value to your offline life.

  2. I love the idea that there really are those out there working hard to secure the validity and integrity of social media. I both blog and tweet and find that in the frenzy to monetize or cash in many people are jumping into just forging the new identity of spam.

  3. Social media opens up a lot more doors then were previously available when networking for business. It's important not only to build up the corporate brand, but your personal branding and value as well.

  4. Very true, I believe that by staying dynamic, you're on a more creative level. By constantly pushing outside of you comfort zone, you will look at things from a different perspective.

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