I'm afraid the time has come – some PR pros need a dose of tough love. I know you’re out there: PR and MarCom consultants with no presence online whatsoever. Many of you may have a Web presence, but perhaps it's anemic and a cohesive strategy is lacking.
Now let me scare you straight. We’ve reached a point where your online footprint – or lack thereof – says a lot about you. Beyond the obvious promotional benefits, clients are increasingly interested in non-traditional media and want to feel comfortable that you know more about the online/social space than they do.
Now the good news: the days of having to spend thousands of dollars and countless hours on a standalone Web site are over. In fact, in the Web 2.0 world there are endless ways to have a presence online for free – many with minimal effort. The key is to start with a Home Base.
The Hub – Your Home Base
A future post will go into the many varied extensions of your hub that are available, but first let’s look at the most important part of your online presence. As a bonus, it also can be the easiest and least time consuming. You need a Home Base.
A Home Base is your central spot to which all other online presences link. It is the URL you include in your email signature and use when registering for new social networks. You can slowly build upon this base (via a technique called Outposts) and extend your reach, but the Home Base is the foundation.
For many people, a Web site or blog is their Home Base. But if you don’t have one, the following are the easiest ways to get an online presence in no time.
Google Profile – www.google.com/profiles/me
This new offering allows you to create your own Web presence in 5 minutes. Google profiles are well indexed by Google (obviously), and can include links to your additional Outposts as you build them for increased visibility and SEO. If this is your Home Base, be sure to include extensive details of your skills, experience and qualifications (hint: pull your established descriptions from your new business proposals or resume). Another benefit: a Google profile allows you to include “other names” – great for those with easily misspelled names (like me) or if you want to include a maiden name.
LinkedIn – www.linkedin.com
Entire books have been written about LinkedIn, and Solo PR Pro will continue to cover this online vehicle more down the road. But for the purpose of a get-online-quickly,10-minute Home Base development approach, your LinkedIn profile should include the following at a minimum:
- A “vanity” URL – – Easy to create with this link, a URL that actually includes your name – like http://www.linkedin.com/in/kellyecrane – will look much better in your email signature.
- A list of all of your past jobs, not just the most recent. You never know when someone will remember you from long ago and search for you based on a former position you held. The same holds true for your Education.
- A detailed Summary of your skills, experience and qualifications (as with Google profiles above). Include information about your Specialties with a mind toward including key words that people may use to find you.
- A detailed description of your Solo PR Pro practice in the Experience section. Think of the Summary as the section that captures you professionally as a whole, while the Experience area outlines what you offer via your business. This is important real estate, so don’t neglect it.
- A list of Connections. After following the steps above, people will see your professional profile and be eager to connect with you. LinkedIn makes this easy by allowing you to import your email address book and send invitations to those with whom you’d like to connect.When contacting people out of the blue, don’t use the canned LinkedIn invite: “I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.” You can, however, develop your own standard invite wording to make it easier when inviting a crowd to connect with you. For your key contacts, try to make it more personal whenever possible.
Other extremely useful features of LinkedIn include Status Updates, Recommendations, Groups, Answers, Applications, and more. First focus on the quick-start approach above, and you may find yourself expanding into the other areas sooner than you think. For additional information, there are good tips in 12 Ways to Use LinkedIn Today.
Adding to the Home Base
If you have another already-established Home Base, the above sites should still be part of your overall strategy – with their key links going to your main hub. Some Solo PR Pros have told me they have an online profile on a different site (for example, a local listing on the PRSA Web site) – just add a Google Profile and a professional LinkedIn page with links to your existing Home Base to make yourself easy to find. You can always change your Home Base as well, if at a later date you choose to develop a different online presence, like a blog or a Web site, as your central hub.
For those of you who use this approach, what tips would you offer those getting started? What questions do you have about forming a Home Base strategy?