Twitter handles: learn from Sanchez

stand out in a crowdAs I travel around working with clients and newspeople everywhere, I preach the message of personal branding as a future (actually, current) necessity. As a journalist, whether big time or small, your personal brand means everything. Build it. Protect it. It will take care of you downstream.

We live in a hyperconnected world now, and while institutions, including news brands, would love to be a part of the connectivity, the truth is that people want to be friends with people, not institutions.

Moreover, as businesses, we must come to understand that when core competencies are disrupted, it’s wise to look to edge competencies, and with media, one huge edge competency is the people who work for us. It’s good business to promote the personal brands of our employees.

When Twitter first came into the marketing sights of news organizations, they wanted to make sure they used it to promote their brands. Employees who wanted to tweet were often required to attach the big brand to theirs, which is how CNN’s Rick Sanchez ended up with the Twitter handle “ricksanchezcnn.” Dumb. In addition, a lot of people felt it would “help” grow followers by associating their name with their employer’s brand. Dumber.

So now Sanchez is out on his ear for making outrageous statements about Jews running media and Jon Stewart being a bigot, and he’s on the beach with a big ol’ Twitter problem. He’s going to have to come up with a way to recruit 146, 000 Twitter followers from his branded ID to something else.

It’s a great chance to learn a lesson at Sanchez’s expense. Don’t tie your Twitter account to your employer’s brand. It’s your career, and the only person who really cares about it is you.


  1. josh classen says

    this is one of the first things i wondered about when i heard sanchez had been dumped…
    however…it appears you can change your twitter handle and keep all your followers.
    not sure if it only applies to verified twitter accounts, but it CAN and has apparently been done with Octavia Nasr when she was fired from CNN.

  2. It is true, you can change your twitter name at any time (even if you’re not verified) without upsetting your account. Twitter added this feature within the past year (Brilliant move by Twitter)

    Glenn Greenwald shortened his name (to GGreenwald, no doubt to give himself a few extra characters to tweet with.) and Melissa Harris-Lacewell is now Melissa Harris-Perry (for obvious reasons).

    I completely agree with Terry points, but in the case of Rick Sanchez, appending CNN to his name just seemed like a way to identify himself (because Rick Sanchez is such a common name) With verified accounts, this is no longer really necessary.

  3. I hear you guys, but the issue is more complicated. Media companies insist on setting those up for people, so they “own” the account. I’m sure it can be changed, but it’s a question of how much will it cost an already disenfranchised journalist?


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