There was a time when a byline in print was sufficient. It was the way you built a name, a reputation, and a reason for others to employ you. Now, the media landscape is so fragmented that it’s important to get your name across several platforms, to achieve a presence through a portfolio of work.
Or as one alumnus working in the media put it to me, “It's a horribly wanky thing to say but I'm going to say it anyway: to some extent, a media career now is about brand building.”
The personal brand of Christian Ward (Trinity, 1995) has built up nicely. Starting as a music journalist, he became Reviews Editor for the NME, as well as writing freelance for magazines and newspapers. “I'm a writer first,” he explains, “and learned to be a hack (not a disparaging term) at the NME.”
Then he went into PR, as PR Manager at Last.fm. “I learned a different kind of storytelling as a PR – how to tell a brand story, rather than an arts/culture story,” he explains. “And as time went on, and digital became ever more embedded at the heart of what brands do, that role expanded into content creation: I was writing blog posts and social media strategies as much as press releases.”
He went on to become Head of Digital Strategy at Clarity, then Digital Publicist for the BBC Future Media, and is now Media & Marketing Editor for Stylus. It’s a subscription-only service, whose original articles provide research and advice to creative consumer companies, in order to keep them one step ahead of their competition. Not quite journalism, but not brand storytelling either. “At Stylus, I'm combining those two worlds,” he says, “Exploring contemporary pop culture to identify opportunities for brands to better engage with their audiences.”
It’s fascinating – but, as a business-to-business media hidden behind a paywall, not the kind of public profile many would aim for in the media.
“Stylus is a subscription site,” he agrees. “But I think what's satisfying for me is that Stylus clients have very specific needs, and I'm totally focused on meeting those needs. Being less public is an advantage in that respect, because there isn't the pressure to be timely, SEO-led, and constantly over-delivering new content to try and keep readers' attention from wandering.”
And he keeps up his media profile beyond Stylus. His blog, [WardWords http://www.wardwords.co.uk/blog/], promotes his ideas and his writing. “I see it as all one platform, to a certain extent. Blog posts can feed into Stylus, or into guest posts for traditional media, and vice versa,” he explains. He’s also self-published his first novel for children, Death’s Daughter, as a Kindle e-book, and has been promoting through the web. It’s [on Amazon here http://www.amazon.co.uk/Deaths-Daughter-ebook/dp/B00892KRHC/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1].
It’s not a question of spreading yourself thin, but of putting yourself about. And despite the way media has fragmented, Christian remains convinced that quality will find its way through. “There's a lot of content out there. There aren't a lot of distinctive voices. If you have one, it doesn't really matter if you're publishing on a blog, on Twitter, on Kindle or in the Guardian, or even if you're writing branded content for Red Bull – your audience will follow you,” he explains. “So publish everywhere!”