Finding Your Social Media Voice — Robin J. Phillips


People have an image of you, whether you like it or not, said Robin J. Phillips, digital director at The Reynolds Center for Business Journalism and co-founder of #wjchat, a weekly Twitter-based community of web journalists.

“ (Your brand) is not just about telling people what you’ve done and how great you are. It’s about anticipating what you can do for them and sharing that,” she said.

Phillips sees value in having a strong online presence and developing a positive reputation, both of which can be done using social media.

Two goals to remember when developing a brand online are to “differentiate yourself” and “know yourself,” Phillips said. Journalists should discover what is valuable to their career and to themselves personally, and use that knowledge to showcase themselves.

One way to determine your current online persona is to ask friends, mentors and strangers what they think and what they see, Phillips said. She demonstrated this by showing various KipCamp fellows their own Internet personas, displaying their Twitter and Facebook pages, websites and results of online searches. “I just Googled,” she said.

Philips’ tips for extending the Fellows’ brands include:

  • Secure your own domain name; this makes finding your work much easier. A website for checking available domain names is
  • Google searches for common names can result in many individuals, so determine how to make yours unique. Phillips goes by Robin J. Phillips to differentiate herself.
  • Try to maintain just one account for each social media platform: It’s easier for the public to locate a journalist’s work.
  • Balance your personal and professional lives, excluding private information. The private can include personal relationships and opinions on almost any matter, which should not be shared because this compromises objectivity.
  • Look at other journalists online. Many have already developed their brand. A few that Phillips considers to have a strong presence:
    Twitter: Mark S. Luckie, @marksluckie
    LinkedIn: Yumi Wilson
  • Do not rely on links, which are owned by other sites and could disappear. When sharing work online, use PDF files to ensure they are easily accessible.
  • Look for individuals who have portfolio websites and model something similar. Portfolio sites allow a journalist to bring together various media outlets into one portfolio.

Phillips reminded attendees to be themselves, to be interesting and to be focused. When developing your brand, she said, the first and last question you ask yourself should be the same.

“Who are you?”

Follow Robin J. Phillips on Twitter @RobinJP.


Tips To Best Use Social Media – Jeff Cutler


Social media trainer and journalist Jeff Cutler taught Kiplinger Fellows how to leverage the latest social tools to research stories and engage audiences at Monday’s session of 2014 KipCamp.

“Social tools are not here forever,” he said. “Don’t fall in love with the tools.”

Search engines

The most basic tools are search engines. Google is one of the best tools a journalist can use, Cutler said, in today’s technology-driven society. He suggested setting up Google Alerts to get notifications from news outlets and sources.

“Google is king/queen,” he said. “It’s free, accurate mostly, comprehensive . . . Alerts do the work for you. You must be smart about choosing phrasing but you get better at it over time.”

He doesn’t recommend Bing, which he said means “Bing Is Not Google.” It is more commercial in nature.

He also suggested using several search engine aggregators, including Addict-o-matic and DuckDuckGo. A synopsis of search engines is at

Keeping your ear to the ground

Find your audience and interact with them, Culter said.

“Conversations are happening all around,” he said. “Push for hyper-local” sources such as NPR member stations, Gatehouse and affiliate TV stations for newer topics, smaller focus and bigger stories.

“Don’t produce content just for the small percentage of consumers that actually appear and participate in your effort,” he said.

Verification is Key

People use the term “citizen journalist” too loosely, Cutler said. Verification is what sets true journalists apart.

“I can put a webcam around the neck of my cat and call it a citizen reporter but not a citizen journalist because I am not getting the perspective and the analysis of a journalist from the cat,” he said.

Don’t take tweets and Facebook posts at face value.

“People do this circular verification that makes it difficult for all of us to do our jobs because . . . one references the other,” he said. “Everyone loses.”

Find out who is behind the Twitter handles and Facebook accounts so you can know what to use and who to trust. Vet every story by finding other sources and whenever possible put social media sources on camera.

Twitter best practices

Twitter is good for getting crowd-sourced questions answered and finding involved sources who are passionate about their interests.

Before using them, Cutler suggests reading the bio and clicking on the links of sources, reading many of their tweets, seeing who their followers are and vetting those sources. Start a conversation with them, and ask colleagues and competitors if they are reliable.

Know the rules of your media outlet, Cutler said. Can you quote a tweet? Should you set up interviews by tweeting? He recommends, a list of all professional journalists on Twitter that also covers the news based on what members are tweeting and sharing.

Facebook best practices

Cutler likes Facebook because it is more efficient, effective, you can share all your photos and it’s not limited in the number of characters you can type. He dislikes its convoluted structure and the fact that administrators don’t listen to feedback.

Cutler suggests that reporters “friend” their sources so they can have full access to verify them. Read their updates. Research their information, affiliations, networks and photos.


Video is powerful, Cutler said: “The elephant in the room.”

“Most people are less intelligent and lazier than you would ever believe,” he said. “Video and photos make it easier . . . pull people in.”

Other helpful tools

Cutler also recommends:
• Mashable: “They cover the social landscape better than anyone else.”
• LinkedIn: “It’s more verified.” LinkedIn For Journalists also offers a year’s worth of free premium service that allows you to contact anyone on LinkedIn without friending them.
• KnowEm: Very helpful for establishing your own brand.
• WordPress, Blogger, PlaceBlogger, Tumblr: Blogging websites that can be searched for information, topics and sources.
• Quora: Great for finding experts.

Check out more by Jeff Cutler at and on Twitter @jeffcutler.

See Jeff Cutler’s PowerPoint:

Social Media Trends for Journalists – Robert Hernandez



Robert Hernandez is a web-based journalist who says his whole professional career has been “nerding out in the name of journalism.”

The assistant professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism spoke at Monday’s KipCamp, a short-term fellowship designed to help journalists make better use of online tools.

Although technology trends shift with society, journalism will survive, he said. “Journalism will outlive Facebook.”

Hernandez outlined his five rules of engagement in social media.

Rule 1: Journalism first, technology second.

Journalists’ primary job is to collect information, distribute it and inform their community.

“If you believe content is king, like I do, it’s not about the device, it’s about the content — but the content optimized for the user of the device.

“You’re a lazy journalist if you only rely on social media. You’re a lazy journalist if you don’t use it,” he said.

Rule 2: If your mom tweets that she loves you, check it out.

Social media has created a huge increase of information and voices; you have to fact check before sharing the information. Passing on inaccurate information through social media tools is easy, especially when Twitter allows you to Retweet with just one click. Confirm information before risking your credibility.

Rule 3: Social media does not replace the phone or in-person interviews,

An active journalist must not rely solely on social media: Phone and in-person interviews provide much greater insight into your subject.

At the same time, an active journalist also must use social media. Ignoring the advantages that come from these tools can hinder your story from reaching the optimal audience.

Rule 4: Citizen, Brand, Journalist.
Your brand is your credibility. It is important to recognize that the stories you write and information you share are your brand — who you are — and what you will be known for as a journalist. Account for both sides to ensure credibility and objectivity.

Rule 5: Be open.

New social media outlets are being developed regularly. Though they may seem inapplicable in the field of journalism, reporters must be open to trying them and acknowledge possible benefits. Being open to new possibilities will turn the possibilities into opportunities.

“Don’t dismiss things you don’t understand. Embrace the change . . . and hijack it in the name of journalism,” Hernandez said.

More about Robert Hernandez on Twitter: @webjournalist.

See a video that Robert Hernandez showed at KipCamp: