Beyond a basic byline: Creating a personal brand to earn more work

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Writing headlines used to be an essential part of my job as a newspaper editor. My boss said he could always tell which headlines I wrote and which other editors created. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was creating my brand as a newspaper editor with my headlines.Branding is an activity everyone — especially communicators — should embrace. It can create essential name recognition for us as writers, photographers and broadcasters. That name recognition easily equates to additional sales of our material and our services. Need more convincing? Take a look at some of OWAA’s most successful members such as Lisa Ballard, Peter Schroeder, Bill Vanderford, Colleen Miniuk-Sperry, Mark Freeman, Mark Taylor, Pat Wray and Jim Foster. Each of these are not just talented outdoor communicators, their names conjure up specific expertise.
Take Jim for example. Jim is well-known in OWAA circles as a better-than-average photographer. However, outside of OWAA, he’s branded himself as an outstanding bird photographer, guidebook writer and speaker. People in the birding world know his name.
Bird photography is Jim’s brand. He’s done several things to create that reputation that you can use to create your own brand.
He determined how he wanted to be known. Jim decided the type of photography he wanted to do, and the subjects he wanted to photograph (birds) as well as the stories he wanted to tell (where to go to see various bird species). He melded his passions and expertise with his business.
He created a website and regularly updates it. Every writer who wants to be successful should have a website, blog or preferably both, and update them regularly. Take a look at Jim’s website ( and there is no question what he writes about and takes photos of and how he does it and why. We live and work in a digital world and Jim embraces that concept. You may notice on his website that he has some sponsors. I wonder if branding had anything to do with those sponsorships?
He is consistent with his brand message. He uses the same colors, photos and tag lines throughout his work on his business cards, letterhead and website. He always provides a “link” to get to his website. His consistency extends to his Facebook page and Twitter account, as well as other social media avenues.
Branding is how communicators tie everything they do back to themselves and make others aware of their talents and services. Nina Amir, contributing writer for and the author of “How to Blog A Book,” perhaps said it best when she wrote, “Why bother branding? For the same reasons big box and small box companies bother: It helps sell products. A brand helps potential readers know, like and trust you.
“And remember: Your brand is you. It’s a way to help readers know you — authentically. You aren’t creating some fake ad or new persona. Your brand helps readers understand who you are and what you and your books (writing) stand for …”
Brands are impressions we leave with our readers. Your brand is the simplest, most memorable part of yourself you can give to a reader or listener. Make sure you have one. ♦
— Tony Dolle is an award-winning public relations, marketing and communications professional who has served as president of OWAA, AGLOW and the Tennessee Outdoor Writers Association. He writes two regular blogs, “The View From Saddle Ridge” and “Common Sense @ Any Age,” and an ATV column for Sportsman’s Guide. He manages pro staffs for several outdoor clients along with various other marketing and public relations projects.

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