The trend towards personal branding in journalism is a development that touches at least three central lines of discussion in journalism research. These include the tensions between journalism’s societal responsibilities and its economic goals, between journalists and their audience, as well as between the individual journalist and media organisations or the social system of journalism in total. Against this background, the project starts with analysing how the following developments in technology, culture, and the business of journalism promote, or even necessitate, a shift from the branding of media organisations towards the brands of individual journalists:
- the disintermediation between journalists and their target groups (audiences, employers, sources) through social networks and search engines that turn journalists and their online presence into digital hubs for the dissemination of information and attention;
- the trend towards more (actor-)transparency in (online-)journalism that makes journalists themselves, as well as their working processes, output, expertise, specialisations etc. visible (e.g., through the presentation of editorial staff, including photos, biographies and lists of previous contributions);
- the fragmentation of audiences, their interests and requirements, that is similarly promoted by networked digital media and prompts media brands to diversify their services, using well-known journalists and their channels as sub-brands; as well
- the increasingly precarious working conditions in journalism, within which a strong personal brand can be a competitive advantage.
Subsequently, journalists’ brands, as well as the strategies for constructing and managing them, are conceptualised theoretically. The result is a comprehensive model based on differentiation theory and combining business scholars’ work on brands and branding with theories of journalism and its societal functions. The concept will relate, among other aspects, forms of specialisation or of broadening one’s competence with the dimensions of a journalist’s brand – i.e. preferred topics, expert knowledge, distribution media, templates for reporting, forms of presentation, political orientation, special and management competencies etc., but also networking with other journalistic actors and organisations, sources, potential protagonists of reporting, audience members etc. – as well as with the practices by which journalists display and communicate these facets of their brand. The developed theoretic dimensions brand will be substantiated and differentiated empirically by means of an analysis of the rich journalistic discourse on personal branding in blogs, social networks, media-journalistic publications, guidebooks, seminars for journalists, etc.
The PhD project is being supervised by Prof. Dr. Klaus Meier from the Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt (Katholische Universität Eichstätt-Ingolstadt).
Julius Reimer talked about personal branding in episode 10 of the BredowCast.