Journalism Brand Fans

David Brauer points out today at MinnPost that the recently released KARE 11 anchor Rick Kupchella scooped his own station in announcing his departure by releasing a video message at Vimeo:

The fact that Kupchella could, and did, scoop his own station points to a trend in journalism that we see in abundance here in the Twin Cities market: Not just the development but the leveraging of reporters’ personal brands.

The conscious cultivation of personal brands has long been a staple of television news, of course, but now we’re seeing in among print journalists as well.

David Brauer has been doing this for years as the moderator of E-Democracy’s Minneapolis Issues email discussion list. (I sit on the board of E-Democracy). Brauer’s personal brand is so strong that MinnPost has been using his BrauBlog there for a successful experiment with micro-sponsorship of journalism. David’s built more than 1,500 followers of his Twitter account.

At the Pioneer Press, personal tech columnist Julio Ojeda-Zapata has a personal blog called Your Tech Weblog, has more than 5,300 followers at Twitter and is considered an expert on the business uses of Twitter, having literally written the book on the subject.

Fellow PiPresser, fashion/shopping columnist Allison Kaplan (she’s a client), has her own Twin Cities Shopping Guide called AliShops.com and a companion blog called AliShopsBlog.com. Her Facebook fan page has more than 500 friends.

WCCO TV is consciously leveraging the personal brands of their personalities, which is in large part a result of the great work their director of digital marketing, John Daenzer. (I’d be singing his praises even if wasn’t sitting on a panel with him tomorrow. I’m a fan.)

Jason DeRusha has been building his personal brand long before the media discovered the wonders of Facebook and Twitter. In addition to his official blogging for ‘CCO, Jason has more than 2,400 followers on Twitter, he’s got more than 1,400 Facebook friends, he does Flickr and YouTube, and has a WordPress and a Tumblr blog. He even was sure to optimize his Google account so he’d be found there for searches on his name.

A short two months after Amelia Santaniello joined Facebook (and aired a segment in which I appeared–damn, this is the most I’ve ever had to disclaim in one blog post!), she has more than 1,500 Facebook followers.

Esmey Murphy tweets during her radio show and has 1400 followers there.

All of these journalists have created a direct channel with their fans. Because of the nature of the medium, it’s easy for television journalists to build personal brands because their personalities are on display day in and day out.

Print journalists, on the other hand, have not had it so easy. Until now.

The beauty of the social Web is that through the day-to-day interaction, one’s personality accumulates. As you interact with someone through Twitter or Facebook, bit by bit your personality is revealed and grows.

And people are fans of personalities, so now the lowly ink-stained wretches can build their own audience nearly as easily as their TV counterparts.

The nice thing for journalists about this is that the audience is theirs. They can take their followers with them wherever they go. Since people are becoming more loyal to their individual journalists they follow than the organization that happens to employ them, the playing field has shifted.

In that sense, then, we’re seeing more personality-driven news. I don’t know what it says about journalism in general but I think news organizations will begin to look at who a reporter brings with them when making hiring decisions.

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About David Erickson

David Erickson is principal of e-Strategy Media, a digital marketing consultancy based in Minnesota. David has extensive experience in digital marketing and is often used as an expert source by media and asked to speak on the topic before organizations and to sit on panel discussions.

2 Comments

  1. Jason DeRusha on May 21, 2009 at 4:07 00 am CDT

    What’s remarkable about John’s leadership at WCCO is how he’s allowed us to develop our personal brands. It’s somewhat risky for a television station or a newspaper to do this, because you acknowledge that one person may be able to create an identity that’s separate or survivable outside of the media outlet’s brand.

    It’s safer to clamp down on this stuff, and own all your people. WCCO knows that letting me create my own brand makes me more desirable/employable to other TV stations. That has potential costs.

    But I think the dividends for the station of fostering strong personalities and then letting them go out and evangelize for the brand makes a lot of sense. The lesson is true for any organization.

    The key is making sure that people aren’t creating their own brands at the expense of the larger station brand. Of course, if you hire smart people and let them do their thing, I think things usually fall into place.



  2. Jason DeRusha on May 20, 2009 at 11:07 23 pm CDT

    What’s remarkable about John’s leadership at WCCO is how he’s allowed us to develop our personal brands. It’s somewhat risky for a television station or a newspaper to do this, because you acknowledge that one person may be able to create an identity that’s separate or survivable outside of the media outlet’s brand.

    It’s safer to clamp down on this stuff, and own all your people. WCCO knows that letting me create my own brand makes me more desirable/employable to other TV stations. That has potential costs.

    But I think the dividends for the station of fostering strong personalities and then letting them go out and evangelize for the brand makes a lot of sense. The lesson is true for any organization.

    The key is making sure that people aren’t creating their own brands at the expense of the larger station brand. Of course, if you hire smart people and let them do their thing, I think things usually fall into place.