March 2007 Winner Of The Month – Susan Johnston

You Get It Personal Branding AwardI found Susan Johnston’s website and blog just when I was getting a little discouraged – not that there aren’t great things out there, especially great new blogs (like Nadine Turner, who I should have included in yesterday’s post) – but nothing was striking me as this month’s winner! Let me summarize why I do this each month.

I believe in personal branding. I think that the traditional method of looking for a job is painful and not necessarily effective (yes, it works sometimes for some people). I know that networking is also painful for many, and not always done “right.” This award recognizes people who use blogs and/or websites to effectively communicate who they are – what their strengths are, their passions, etc. Done well, it will help someone (a network contact, a hiring manager, a recruiter) get a better idea of their breadth (what different areas/specialties they “know” about) and their depth (how much do they know about each area).

I really, really like blogs as the main tool for passive (?) personal branding. I say “passive (?)” because I don’t think that everyone that blogs thinks they are quantifying their personal brand. Blogs are continuing dialogues – you can move around within your breadth (for example, last week I was on “resumes” and this week I’m on “personal branding” – who knows what I’ll be on next week!), and spend as much time/effort as you want on the depth (with multiple posts).

So there – thats my opinion on personal branding and blogs. Now, let’s get down to business.

Meet Susan JohnstonI came across Susan’s website/portfolio this week after she left a comment on Penelope Trunk’s blog. I usually click on the name if it goes to a website just because I’m curious to see who reads what blogs – and since she had her own domain I could tell she had some buy-in to the concept of establishing her brand online. I was more than pleasantly surprised with what I found.

The first thing that jumps out at me is her short introduction/welcome. Here are some phrases that I pick out as I quickly scan it:

  • As a freelance writer and professional communicator… – right off the bat I know who/what she is
  • I take pride in writing… – she’s in it for the long run
  • My favorite topics for feature articles are… – this is what her specialties are (or have been)
  • I also enjoy writing… – here are other interests, probably not as much experience but she is passionate about them
  • Read about my adventures in writing on my blog… – yahoo! She has a blog so I get more than a static website!

I also get to see her picture on the home page and the portfolio pages. I like this because it makes her more personable (doesn’t she look like a nice person? Really – her first impression is pleasant, fun, happy, etc.). Its taboo in the U.S. to put a picture on a resume but its obvious by her URL that she is a girl, and once she goes into an interview we’ll see her age and all that other potential discrimination stuff. This is NOT a resume – so the same rules don’t apply. Give us something so that we can relate better to you (good job on the pictures, I like how they are different).

Her menu is very concise. She does NOT waste space on banner ads. This format is clean. I’m not a big fan of the all the red and the font for her “logo” but here’s a cool point: YOU CAN DO THIS. You don’t have to be a graphics or layout genius to have an excellent online presence! It didn’t take a lot of time and money to put this together. The formatting is good enough, and allows me to get down to the content – which is what its about for me (unless you are a graphics artist – then your graphics and format is your content!).

I really like Susan’s biography page. In just two paragraphs she gives me insight into her experience, breadth, education and personality. I imagine that she spent some time to wordsmith this just right – and I LOVE it.

I LOVE the portfolio page. This shows me that she has been successful in getting her work in print. She shows her breadth by using categories (and making it easier for me, the reader, to figure out her breadth). She includes links on almost everything (thank you – once again, making it easier for the reader to evaluate your stuff) and dates.

The News page is short but once again, her personality comes out in a professional way. Her entire tone on the website is fun, personable and professional. She is very concise (much more concise than my blog posts :p).

Her contact page has a simple yet effective two sentence pitch. It tells me why I want to contact her, and what she can do for me. Pretty good Susan!

One more thing on the website – I’m usually not a fan of services that provide generic templates – you can see a link to VistaPrint at the bottom of her site. In this case it doesn’t matter at all (not to me). Susan is a professional writer, not an IT person. Her choice makes sense, the pricing is only $4.95 a month (according to their website), and it obviously gives her the ability to put up what she needs. If you are wondering where to go for a website perhaps you should look at VistaPrint (I didn’t even know they offered this service).

Now on to the blog.

Let’s get through all the format/color/image stuff first. I LOVE it. Her colors are nicer here, more pleasant than her website. I LOVE the drawing of her – I think that’s a clever touch. The format is cool too. Notice she uses Blogspot (free).

How about the title: The Urban Muse. says “muse” is “any goddess presiding over a particular art” or “the goddess or the power regarded as inspiring a poet, artist, thinker, or the like.” Definitely fitting for someone branding themself as a writer. (another great title is Mike Schaffner’s title (Mike is an IT Executive): Beyond Blinking Lights and Acronyms – point is – think about your title.
On the right side of her blog I like her popular posts (says that people read the blog), instead of “blogroll” she has “Creative Blogs” and then a “Writer’s Resources” section (think about who her audience is – she is adding value to them). I also like her image to the “Official 2007 Inkthinker Query Challenge Participant” because it shows me that she is actively out there challenging herself and furthering her brand.

Her content is… well, she’s a writer. Of course its great. Its easy and fun to read. Don’t be intimidated by the quality of her writing (same as I mentioned about Jane Greer from yesterday) – that is their profession. Just understand who your audience is, and make sure what you write makes you sound smart and competent to them.

One thing that is really cool about Susan’s blog is her Wednesday 5 Q’s:

Every Wednesday I post an interview with a fellow writer or creative type. It’s worked out really well because it provides exposure for both of us, and people have even emailed me wanting to be part of it. I’ve also had publicist send me galleys, which is way more than I could have imagined!

Anyone trying to break into a new industry or even just a new job should use “virtual informational interviews” like a blog Q & A to make contacts and build their knowledge base!

I love this because she is proactively marketing her blog, and herself, by reaching out to others in the field. She is expanding her network (have I mentioned that blogging is a great way to network?), and doing it very effectively. Remember that “give give give” thing about networking? She is giving exposure to others, and they are sure to reciprocate.

One last note. It looks like Susan is a new blogger. She only had 17 posts in 2006 … while she looks like a veteran blogger there are many things that she is doing right that you can adopt right now (okay, it took me 3 full weeks to put all my ducks in a row before I started my blog)!

Or don’t. It’s your personal brand.

Susan Johnston (who is on a cruise right now – yes, I’m jealous – no, it wasn’t part of the prize package for this award :p), CONGRATULATIONS! You hereby get a cyber-high-five, six additional months of premium JibberJobber access (you can transfer that to someone else if you want), and a coveted link from my blog to yours! And you join a growing circle of some very cool award winners (see the links under You Get It on the left).

15 thoughts on “March 2007 Winner Of The Month – Susan Johnston”

  1. Thanks for the plug. Thank you also to VistaPrint for helping me put together a decent website without having to do any coding (after their one-month free trial, I am now a convert). I will definitely be using the premium access!

  2. I love that more and more people are embracing the portfolio idea. Whether you’re a writer or a financial analyst, showing people what your work product looks like already puts you a step ahead.

    Susan Strayer
    Author, The Right Job, Right Now (2007)

  3. Jason

    Thanks for yet another great post. I think your content is especially relevant and offers top notch advice to all freelance professionals, as personal branding is something we need to keep on top of on a continuous basis.

    On a personal level, you’ve given me some great pointers on what to aim for at my new blog – I’m still working hard to find my “voice” and as I’m only starting out I still feel pretty “exposed” by the whole thing (which is why I’ve not been brave enough to put my name to it yet :))

    Thanks again


  4. Jason, good job on picking another great winner!

    Susan, I like the blog and love the website. Although I think that you would be better served if you could host the blog on your own site. My Confessions of an Executive Restaurant Recruiter blog started out on Blogspot too, but I soon realized that I would not be gaining advantage for the traffic I generated with my blog if it were hosted elsewhere.

    I’d be happy to chat with you more on the subject. You can check out one of my other business enterprises at – Web services for recruiters and small businesses

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