Well, thanks to a couple of mentions from Ryan Sholin (@ryansholin), Jeff Jarvis (@JeffJarvis) and a flattering tweet from Jay Rosen (@jayrosen_nyu), this humble little blog has made a small blip on the radar. A million thanks.
If you haven’t read part one of these resolutions for journalism students, start here. And take good notes. Because we move on to the second overall goal, which applies to just about everyone in any profession, not just journalism students:
Network like mad
- # First things first: Make people remember your name.
Much of this entire list are specific ways to make this happen, but here’s the gist: You want people to know your name like they know Anderson Cooper‘s (@andersoncooper). So start using your real name online. Hammer on your specialty and make that shine through. Make yourself a brand. The personal brand was the topic of discussion over at Tomorrow’s News, Tomorrow’s Journalists, (@TNTJ) which is well worth the read. EDIT: Jay Rosen sent me this excellent post from Sarah Lacy, who knows a thing or two about personal brands in journalism. Andy Dickinson (@digidickinson), who teaches at the University of Central Lancashire, also touches on the rise of individual brands here. And the very-non-journalist self-proclaimed guru Dan Schawbel (@danschawbel) likes to waffle on about this (sometimes annoyingly so, but the information is still there). I took my own advice between my last post and this one and renamed my blog from “Everyday Journalism” to just “Suzanne Yada.” Many other bullet points on this list are more specific how-tos that fall under this “branding” umbrella, like the next one:
- # Consistency is everything.
Be consistent through your writing style, your follow-ups with your sources, the way you meet deadlines and in your social networking presence. That all reflects on your reputation, and it’s your most valuable asset. That’s your “brand.” What do you want people to think when they see your byline? Is it “smart investigative reporter covering state politics?” Or is it “that funny writer in the lifestyles section?” Have people who read your articles, visit your blog, see your resume or look at your portfolio recognize it’s from you. You can start with something simple: Megan Taylor (@selfmadepsyche) says here that she reuses the same colors with everything she does online. And David Cohn (@digidave) of Spot.Us does it best with his five personalities image and use of the same nickname across all his social networking sites. Adam Hemphill (@ahemphill) says here succinctly: “If you’re not consistent with your message, potential employers or collaborators will not know what to make of you. Think about these questions: What is your goal? What are your most valuable skills? What do you want to affect? Consider these things and develop a plan for presenting yourself consistently, whether you’re answering interview questions or tying Web sites together visually.”
- # Get professional, not stodgy.
Yes, you do need to create an image that says that you know your stuff and you mean business. So take down the frat party pics from Facebook and change your email from firstname.lastname@example.org. Google your name and make sure everything you find is something you want an employer to see. But Jesus Christ, don’t take out ALL your personality, people! News does not have to be dry, and neither do you. You’re not a robot, and sources are less intimidated talking to a human than they are talking to a, gasp, journalist. Yes, still have expertise, but be lively, be engaging, be intelligent, be funny, even be a smart-ass if it calls for it. Christopher Wink (@christopherwink) a freelance journalist in Philadelphia, says that adopting a clear voice in your writing style is all part of your brand. But you do have to learn to let your style show through without being opinionated or skewing your reporting. (Keeping your writing style intact through the editing process is another story altogether.)
- # Get your domain name.
If you don’t already have “your name dot com,” do it yesterday. It’s only $10 a year or so, sometimes even less. Post your resume, portfolio and clips on it at the very least, and if you’re adopting the very first resolution to Write Like Crazy, post your blog there too. That way, when that potential internship calls you back and asks for clips, you don’t have to keep them waiting for an e-mail. Just tell them your URL.
- # Start collecting potential sources.
It’s never too early to start filling out your little black book with phone numbers. Reporting is ALL about connections. Who can you call 30 minutes from deadline to verify something (other than trying Help A Reporter Out [@skydiver] )? If a source knows who you are, they’re much more likely to help you. And now’s the time to initiate those connections. Whether you’re the campus crime reporter or a wannabe food critic, make your name known now so you don’t have an uphill battle to climb later (say, 30 minutes from deadline). And keep a backup of that little black book (or BlackBerry database)! Keep it updated, organized and ON YOUR PERSON at all times.
- # Make Twitter your friend.
Notice that I’ve posted a (@username) after every single person I mentioned in this post from beginning to end? Those are their Twitter names. It is not a coincidence everyone has them, and I didn’t exclude anyone just because they didn’t have a Twitter account. If you are a journalist and don’t have one: Fix. That. Problem. Right. Now. Use your Twitter to network with both other journalists AND potential sources. Start on the journalist side of things by following everyone I’ve referenced in this post (especially those in the next bullet point). Also follow 10,000 Words’ top 10 journalists on Twitter (full disclosure: I’m on it). If you’re really ambitious, add the people who follow @JournalistTweet, and follow them yourself. To hunt down potential sources, go to the advanced Twitter search and look up people tweeting about your beat subject in your area. Poynter (@poynter) gives basic journalism Twitter tips here. Steve Yelvington (@yelvington) explains more thoroughly here.
- # Read and follow other journalists’ blogs and Twitters.
Find the good journalism-related bloggers out there and read them religiously. Fill up your RSS reader (like Google Reader) with their work. Give ‘em feedback, ask questions. Link to them, quote them, share their posts, reply to their tweets and they just might return the favor. Want to get started? I’ve freshened up my blog roll on the right column of this Web site with some high quality folks, but if that’s too much to follow, then start with these. These are all the names that are at the top of my mind right now — playing into the importance that your personal brand makes:
Greg Linch (@greglinch)
Daniel Bachhuber (@danielbachhuber)
David Cohn (@digidave)
Meranda Watling (@meranduh)
Daniel Victor (@bydanielvictor)
Anyone else involved with CoPress (@CoPress)
Anyone else involved with Tomorrow’s News Tomorrow’s Journalists (@TNTJ)
- # Boost the link economy.
The exchange of links makes the Internet go ’round. So do it. When you come across a blog post or an article you like, save it and spread it. Write a blog post about it. Share it on Delicious, Twitter, Publish2, Google Reader, Facebook, Digg, StumbleUpon. Make it second-nature. That’s how you meet people, make contacts and build a name for yourself. But it’s more than that: Jeff Jarvis (@jeffjarvis) harps on linking as a journalistic skill too. When you are immersed in your beat, instead of viewing other news outlets as competition, he suggests you do what you do best, then link to the rest. If your beat has an online presence (like those at BeatBlogging.org), reference as much information on your subject as possible. Having a robust collection of links about your subject sets you apart as a well-read and connected source of information of your beat.
- # Join online networks.
Get on LinkedIn right away. Jump in on blog rings, like TNTJ or the Carnival of Journalism (even if unofficially). Join Facebook groups like Social Journalism, CollegeJourn or the aptly named Journalists and Facebook. Sign up for Ning sites like Wired Journalists or Visual Editors. Join Twitter chats like Wired Journalists chat (#wjchat) or CollegeJourn (#cjchat). Your name will be known as long as you have good ideas and discussions behind it. As an extra bonus, having a presence on all of these gives you wonderfully high rankings in Google.
- # Join associations.
Part of me wants to tell you to join as many journalism-related associations as possible. The other part thinks it’s best to pick one or two and go hog-wild with those. Since most associations worth listing on your resume cost money, I am going with the latter option and I’m saving up my pennies for a membership of the Society of Professional Journalists and the Society of News Design this year. (Be sure to check if your school has chapters and what the price of membership is.) It doesn’t matter if you’re a multimedia reporter, a photojournalist, a copy editor or an investigative reporter; are interested in religious, environmental, health care or GLBT issues; or you come from a black, Asian or Hispanic background. There’s an association for you. Once you find one, network like hell with the other members, and attend any and all meetings associated with it. If you can’t find an association that interests you on any of these links here, just Google your interest plus the words “journalists association” (without the quotes). You might be surprised.
- # Get business cards.
I’m serious. Design them, print them, carry them everywhere, especially to those association events mentioned above. Vista Print will give you some for free, but I personally think the tagline they add to the back of the cards makes you look cheap. (Full disclosure time: My family owns a handful of print shops in Central California, so I am naturally going to encourage you to support your local printer. ;) ) EDIT: Gina Chen (@bloggingmom67) commented here to add: “Be sure all your contact info is on your business card. (This is more advice for folks who have been employed for a while and never thought of putting their blog address on their card. Do it.)”
- # Get rid of the business cards.
You are not going through the trouble of getting business cards just to have a stack of them in your closet. SCHMOOZE. Pass them out. I’ve given mine out in formal networking settings, to people I’ve interviewed for stories, I’ve even handed them out to a few people on a bus stuck in traffic. You’re not selling your soul here, you’re letting people know who you are and how you can help them, either in telling their stories or being the best damn hire they’ll ever make.
- # Hone your elevator pitch.
Sum up your personality and career goals in 10 seconds or less, and repeat it over and over in your head. It’s called the elevator pitch because you never know who you might bump into in an elevator, and you have to be prepared. Memorize your pitch so the exact wording tumbles out of your mouth the next time you bump into Ms. Executive Editor in the checkout line. (Career marketing consultant Michelle Dumas [@michelledumas] posts a more thorough look here. Or try the 15-second pitch generator here.) Once you spill your spiel, hand them your professional business card with your URL on it, and they have an instant ticket to your whole portfolio of work.
- # Never underestimate the power of lunch.
Free food is just one of the stuff journalists like. Feeling like a mentor to a fresh-faced journo student is another. When Sean Webby (@seanwebby), a San Jose Mercury News reporter, came and spoke to my magazine writing class, I had the guts to hand him my card after class. He handed me his. I e-mailed him later and offered to buy lunch. He e-mailed back with an even better offer: a two-hour tagalong on his beat. That experience was as phenomenal as it was educational. And it wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t do this next item:
- # Follow up. With everything. Yes, even that.
With everyone who hears your elevator pitch, with every business card you collect, with every e-mail exchange that happened today or the one that happened six months ago, follow up. When someone links to you, thank them. When someone writes something of interest, leave a comment. When someone retweets something you said, respond. When in doubt, follow up. Also, invest in some thank-you cards. Actual, paper-based ones. Send them to the internships that called you back, the professionals that speak in your class, your teachers, your student editors at school publications, and most importantly, after every interview or callback from potential employers. Have the fact that you follow up on everything become a part of your “brand.”
Now, I fully realize the title of this post is sorely misleading. This isn’t just for journalism students at all. This is for everyone wanting to develop their career, whether you’re simply looking for another job in the field or an entrepreneur wanting to expand your startup’s network. But there’s a reason I’m specifying journalism students: We don’t think about this stuff nearly enough. We don’t go to the campus job center or read career advice blogs. We have our heads stuck in the projects that are right in front of us. So it’s my hope that a post with the words “journalism students” in the title is more likely to be read.
Because now is the best time to make a name for yourself. Do it before this so-called real world comes by and hits you in the face. Do it now, while you have the flexible schedule and the energy.
Set specific goals, right now. Take a look at both these blog posts and choose a couple of these items you really want to focus on this year. But only a couple at a time! Then tailor them to your situation. Give them deadlines, timelines and other specifics, such as “I will order and pass out 250 business cards by March,” “I will study PHP one hour a weekend,” “I will blog once a week for 10 weeks” or “I will pitch three stories to magazines by May.”
In fact, just close this browser. Shut off the Internet. Go make your own personalized list of resolutions, and do them. Now.
Related posts from me:
- Tips for an awesome student newspaper experience
- How our university newspaper used social media to find news and break it
Excellent related posts elsewhere:
- Read Will Sullivan‘s (@journerdism) fantastic series on job hunting and career advice:
- Meranda Watling (@meranduh) wrote a lovely post in response to mine.