Tuesday, September 1, 2009

30-Day Branding Challenge Profile: Jen Miller

If you're a writer looking to figure out how branding fits in with your work, you could do much, much worse than to take Jen Miller's example. The 20-something freelancer has written a book, regularly contributes to the New York Times and writes two blogs: Down the Shore with Jen and Book a Week with Jen. It turns out her high profile is no coincidence. Jen is a writer who knows how to work a brand. Consider her approach below.

For many freelancers I know, branding seems like an alien concept. Did it seem that way to you when you started? How so?

It didn't. I'd worked in medical PR before, so I had some idea of what it took to get something noticed. I also review books and write frequently about authors, so I knew how many books are published every year. I go to Book Expo America every spring and probably see less than 1 percent of all new titles! I feel that pitching articles, too, is a form of branding and marketing, so I applied all of that knowledge to attach myself to the Jersey Shore.

Why did you decide to create a brand for yourself? Or was it something you fell into?

I didn't set out for the Jersey Shore to be my "thing." I just wanted to sell books. So I started a blog, Down the Shore with Jen, while writing my book. I started my PR campaign two months after I turned the book in. Even though I didn't have galleys to send, I started reaching out to bloggers to see if they were interested in the book. I also interviewed people with shore ties on my blog, and they told their friends, which helped get word out there. When the book came out, I continued to write articles about the Jersey Shore. I started a twitter account as @jerseyshorejen. My editors realized that I was an expert, so they kept assigning. By November of last year, I was ready to take a shore break when the magazine editors came calling, wanting to secure my services for Shore 2009 writing.

I never expected the brand to work so well, or translate to more article assignments. I was shocked when the New York Times reached out to me with their Jersey Shore idea, even though I'd written about one of the shore towns for them before.

Describe for me your brand: Any catchphrase you have, and what its components are.

Down the Shore with Jen -- follow along with the adventures and misadventures of one gal down the shore, and her writings along the way.

What steps did you take to create your brand?

I took Sandra Beckwith's Book Buzz online book publicity course. That gave me an idea of how to get my book out there. I didn't realize that it would also build my brand. Once I garnered coverage of the book, I used that expertise as author and then clips of shore writings to pitch more shore articles. I share links of shore articles on my blog. I update people on facebook of what I'm working on. I have a high Google ranking for shore related search terms. The twitter account and a good facebook presence has helped, too.

What do you find to be the advantages of having a brand?

Editors know me or are referred to me sometimes when they have an idea but no writer.

What are branding's disadvantages for you?

Sometimes I'm seen as just a shore writer. I do a lot of work in health, fitness, home & garden, and personal finance, too!

How did you know it was working?

My bottom line. Each year, I am assigned more articles about the shore than the year before.

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions of branding among freelance writers?

That it's not necessary. I still consider myself a generalist, but being known for one thing can be a big boost to your income.

Anything else I didn't ask that you'd like to add?

This is hard work!

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