Imagine the shock of waking up in the morning and discovering your 3200 Twitter followers have dwindled down to one. That’s exactly what happened last month to a local TV personality in Phoenix.
Tara Hitchcock was the popular morning anchor of Good Morning Arizona, which airs on KTVK in Phoenix. Late in September, I read an article in the Arizona Republic that detailed how she was no longer with the TV station.
As a former investigative producer with KTVK, I couldn’t believe she was let go, but I was even more shocked when I read this in the article: “She has started up a new Twitter account — twitter.com/taratv1 — in place of her old one, which is owned by Channel 3.”
Tara spent her entire time on TV promoting that Twitter handle only to lose it overnight because she didn’t own it. Unfortunately, she is not alone.
I spent 15 years in television news, so as you can imagine, I have lots of close friends who are still in the TV business. Many of these former colleagues are still associating their Twitter accounts with their current news networks. Of course, ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC love the exposure, but these reporters and anchors are harming their ability to brand themselves by giving away so much power to the networks. Likewise, if you are trying to promote yourself as a brand, regardless of your industry, you need to be aware of this power trap as well.
I recently had this conversation with several former close colleagues — producers at Fox and CBS and a reporter at WNBC. I asked them all why they were associating their brand with a TV network that could let them go without much notice. They risked losing control of their brand entirely by taking that approach, which was a strategic marketing mistake.
They all said the same thing: “Management has asked us to promote our Twitter account with our TV network.”
It’s good they drank the Kool-Aid, but no personality should ever neglect their own personal brand at the expense of their employer. Unfortunately, two of those three journalists are no longer with their networks, so that branding opportunity is lost, but the lesson is still here for you.
I have done publicity for several personalities, including reality TV cast members and politicians. One of the first elements of advice I gave the reality cast members was to make sure their entire identity didn't revolve around their TV show; otherwise, that perceived fame would fizzle out as soon as the show ended. But this advice applies to other industries as well — lawyers, doctors, dating coaches, writers. If you are a nutritionist with a hospital, I’m sure your employer lends credibility to your name, but don’t gamble your entire brand on one hospital because you never know what will happen.
It's also easier to promote a brand that is established than one that is starting from scratch.
So if you are about to promote your brand on the Web, make sure you credit your employer (since they are paying your mortgage), but don’t forget to give yourself a little credit along the way. Use a Facebook and Twitter name that you can take with you. I’m glad I did that during my time with NBC and CBS, which is why you can follow me on Twitter @MarkMacias