By Benét J. Wilson, DJTF co-chair, Online Managing Editor-Business Aviation, Aviation Week Group
Editor’s Note: please join DJTF for a FREE webinar: “Some Multimedia With That Story?” on Friday, March 11 from 11:30 to 1:00 EST. Moderated by DJYF Treasurer and USA Today rewrite editor Melanie Eversley, the webinar will help you conceive of and present your work using the range of technological and interactive tools available to journalists today. Three journalists at the tops of their games will offer practical, hands-on tips and share resources for reporting and presenting news stories digitally. I hope you can join us!
Eric Deggans is the well-respected media critic for the St. Petersburg Times, where he writes about TV critic, writing reviews, news stories and long-range trend pieces on the state of the TV industry locally and nationally. He has been featured on media outlets including NPR, PBS’ NewsHour, CNN, MSNBC, Fox News Channel and the Tom Joyner Morning Show, among others. A few weeks ago, he sent out a Tweet (@deggans) announcing the creation of his new website, designed to help get him more speaking appearances. Below we talk about the creation of the website and the importance of journalist branding.
NABJDigital: Why did you decide you needed this website?
Eric Deggans: Somebody from an agency that represents speakers called me, because I’m involved with the National Association of Black Journalists chapter in Tampa, and we book people for our events. I started to engage that person on what takes to get jobs as a speaker. That person suggested I create a website to show my qualifications as a speaker so if an agency asks, they can see why you get money to speak.
I have an Apple computer and I used iWeb to create my Eric C. Deggans website. It was very easy to create. I wanted to create a quick website to house audio and video of me speaking and showcase some of the high-profile work I’ve done. Even if I don’t get one speech from the website, I still created a site that gathered all my work for anyone to see.
ND: How long did it take for you to develop?
ED: I did it in about 4-5 hours. I just wanted to do it myself, not pay anyone. I wanted to get it up as soon as possible. I had a friend who could do it, but I wanted to see if I could do it myself. I gained a lot of knowledge on putting art online, embedding video and adding audio links. What took most time was getting the best version of my appearances on CNN. I did some Google searches and looked at sites of other speakers. That gave me a sense of what people are looking for in a speaker.
ND: Journalists are still reluctant to toot their own horn. Why do you think that persists?
ED: It’s hard to be a traditional journalist, where you don’t express an opinion and put yourself out on some of these [news] platforms. It’s easier for me, because I’m an opinion columnist. If I blog, it’s an extension of what I do for the St. Petersburg Times. I also think that traditional journalists from the old school are not used to making themselves part of the story.
Platforms like Twitter, Facebook and blogs make you an element. It doesn’t work if you’re not attached to a brand and that brand has to be you. Columnists and certain kinds of journalists embrace that. What’s happened with the social media revolution is there are many who don’t have a problem with using the platforms.
People who are uncomfortable need to decide what to do. With all the media platforms out there, a brand becomes much more important. If you’re uncomfortable putting your brand out there, you will have harder time.
ND: What advice would you give to journalists, especially those with a defined beat like yours, on creating their own brands and websites?
ED: Be clear on why you’re doing it, and what’s your point and focus. Make sure you know how far you want to go with putting your information and take on things out there. Are you like Bob Woodward, purely a commentator? Or are you just a reporter that focuses on the facts at hand? Know what type of journalist you are and stick to that.
You need to make your audience aware of your brand. Woodward has personal brand, but that doesn’t mean he’s less of an investigative journalist. No one feels that because he goes on TV or has a strong personal brand that he’s biased. And make sure your employers know what you’re doing. You don’t want to blind side your bosses or have them find out on their own. Once y become involved in online things, you become an ambassador of your company’s brand, so be aware of that.