Time to Surf the Wave of the Personal Brand

Politico’s version of the negotiations describes how NYT executive editor Jill Abramson and Washington bureau chief David Leonhardt fought hard to keep Silver at the paper because they saw his “brand within a brand as a wave of the future,”

Mathew Ingram’s recounting today of blogger Nate Silver’s leap from the New York Times into the welcoming arms of ESPN underscores a trend B2B journalists and editors ignore at their peril.

For the moment at least, editorial personal brands are growing more powerful primarily—or most obviously—in big media.

My sense is that most B2B journos are largely unaware of the trend, or largely unwilling to hop onto it. Sooner or later that will change, but whether most of the journalists who have the experience to take advantage of the trend will actually do so is an open question. Being an expert in your field is a requirement for a robust personal brand, but not the only one. If you don’t consciously cultivate your brand, it won’t take root in the new media age.

That means blogging, using social media, and—you may shudder to think of it—promoting your brand. And need I add, you must do this with enthusiasm?

And lest I seem to be piling it onto editors unduly, I should note that B2B media brands need to be as cognizant of this trend as individuals. As Jeff Jarvis said in a tweet Ingram quoted, they need to be thinking of themselves as platforms for building individual brands—something I see few B2B publishing companies doing.

Time is running out. The wave of individual branding will overtake B2B media soon, and the only question is whether you’re going to be surfing the wave or struggling in the wake.

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