Thoughts from our speakers: 1000 Heads’ Molly Flatt on branding and entrepreneurialism

In the final two weeks before news:rewired we’ll be publishing some thoughts from our speakers on the subject of their session. Molly Flatt is word of mouth evangelist for 1000 Heads. She collaborates with consumers and researchers to produce insights into the psychology and behaviour behind word of mouth and social media, and how these can be transformed into effective long-term brand strategies for the likes of Nokia, Mars, STA Travel and P&G. We asked Molly Flatt about branding and entrepreneurialism for journalists working in a digital age.

Molly’s session:

Branding and entrepreneurialism

  • How important is a brand to news organisations and can you teach a journalist to be entrepreneurial? What can journalists and communicators online learn from brands, start-ups and non-media businesses to make their work more successful?

With: Rory Brown, founder, Briefing Media; Alex Wood, digital consultant and founder, notonthewires; Rick Waghorn, founder, MyFootballWriter and Addiply; Molly Flatt, 1000heads

Social media gives people the opportunity to become brands? Ugh indeed. From Perez Hilton to those inexplicably furious serial commenters on newspaper blogs, many of us wish that it was less easy for plebs to become pundits in our citizen-centric age. But there’s a lower key, more meritocratic story also bubbling under here. The thought of branding yourself makes any self-respecting Bill-Hicks-loving media cynic shudder, but for those of us who have forged journalistic careers that would have been impossible five years ago, the ability to showcase your skills – and share them with people who might want to pay you – is genuinely unprecedented and transformational. Like many others, I blogged my way out of the unpublished/invisible deadlock, and I owe my entire tiny journalistic career to WordPress.

I still believe that there are few magic bullets to entrepreneurial success. Social media gave me the platform, but my content has spread or stagnated on its own merit. That dull pair Hard Work and Good Content still drive. But with more and more noise out there, an ability to heighten your social currency by stealing the strategies behind ‘branding’ while retaining an authentic, unbranded feel, is becoming increasingly important. And here we really can learn from the companies who are using word of mouth to engage with their audience in a direct, emotive way, without spam, sycophancy or a million-dollar logo rebrand. As anyone whose boss has seen them in a gimp mask on Facebook knows, our personal and professional lives are merging to an unprecedented degree, so ‘personal branding’ is becoming an instinctive and essential part of communication as we share our lives, our passions and our opinions publicly.

As Chris Brogan and Julien Smith put it in their book Trust Agents, “the whole web is one gigantic lever”, for individuals as much as brands. Whether this means employing ethics (such as transparency, honesty, accountability) social strategies (such as spending time emotionally connecting with the big players in your industry) or simple tactics (such as making everything you do shareable, conversational, and discoverable), there’s no shame in harnessing those details that will make you into – well, a more visible, more engaging version of you.

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