Why You Need an Online Home Base – and How to Get One

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 Profilewww.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.

LinkedInwww.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 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?

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  • http://www.everydaypublicrelations.com/ Kristina Summers

    Really great post today! I have been keeping a running file of relevant info to present to my organization about the importance of having a web presence and your stuff always goes right to the top of the list. What you say is spot on and smart and anyone who wants to grow, expand their reach spread their message should take note. Thanks.

  • http://kevinfentonbiz.wordpress.com Kevin Fenton

    Kellye–Thanks for this post. I am amazed at the people in the communications business who don’t have a web presence. And I hadn’t heard of Google profiles. Thanks!

  • http://ariwriter.com Ari Herzog

    Thanks for the kind words, Kellye, but I’d like to offer a suggested amendment to what you call a home base.

    Rather than viewing it as a “central spot to which all other online presences link,” how about the spot you want your customers to learn about you and buy from you? In most cases, that’s a website–but unless your website IS NOT a static brochure of your services and products, you may want a more dynamic base, be it LinkedIn, Twitter, a Ning community, whatever.

    Every other presence needn’t necessarily be linked off your base, but there should be a way for your customers to find out more information. I don’t link to my Digg profile from my blog; but I do link to my FriendFeed profile which is linked to Digg. For instance.

  • http://www.theprdoc.com Jim Bowman

    Kellye – good information for any PR pro, especially solo practitioners and small shops. Based on conversations with other PR people, it appears the problem goes deeper: many PR pros still don’t know how to write SEO copy for Websites/blogs, press releases and articles. If a person isn’t doing those basic tasks they can’t be serving their clients effectively as they might.

    This is the first time I’ve seen your blog, which I found via a Google alert, but it’s tagged now. Looking forward to following you on Twitter. You can follow me at http://www.twitter.com/ThePRDoc. Thanks, jrb

  • Kellye Crane

    @Kristina and @Kevin- Many thanks for the kind words – glad you found this helpful.

    @Ari- This is great input. To take your phrase a step further, the Home Base should be the *primary* spot for people to learn about you so they can buy your services. Each online presence may help people get to know you by offering certain insights into who you are, but the Home Base is where they all come together. I agree that the Home Base doesn’t need to link out to each Outpost, but each Outpost links in to the hub. You’re someone who certainly knows how to be present online — appreciate the comment.

    @Jim- Thanks, Jim. Happy to have you aboard.

  • http://twitter.com/rockstarjen Jennifer Wilbur

    This is great Kellye! Even though I do have a website, it’s basically a static, outdated brochure, so I use my Twitter and LinkedIn collectively as my “home base.” My goal is to use the website as the base though, with all the other’s flowing from it.

    Another thing to consider (not really a home base, but more of hangout) is to also include a blog or other online presence you have outside of your profession (if appropriate, of course). I don’t have a PR blog, but I do have a photoblog about dogs at the beach. You’d be surprised how many potential clients and media notice the blog URL in my signature and ask about it. There are lots of dog lovers out there! If you have one about kids, I guarantee many business acquaintances are parents as well. And so on…

    @rockstarjen

  • Kellye Crane

    @Jen- You raise an important point about online sites that are not strictly business related. In the social media era, showing other sides of yourself (within reason) is attractive and offers others yet another way to get to know you. If you can show that you understand social networks, blogging, etc. (as you do), that’s only going to be a plus for your business.

  • Bill Free

    Good stuff, Kellye. You offer good advice not only to independent PR and communications practitioners, but also to folks like myself (I’m in corporate PR) who are building their individual online presence as they work to build an understanding of the social media space.

    You make an important point about the value of a robust and comprehensive personal profile. That’s one of the things I’m working on now. I’ll use your post a a reference as I continue to develop my online identity.

  • http://www.waxingunlyrical.com/2009/07/17/the-one-word/ Shonali Burke, ABC

    Nice one, Kell! I think I had a pretty robust digital footprint even before I started on Twitter (even if I say so myself, LOL), but when I started tweeting, I wasn’t blogging (and a website wasn’t even on my radar screen). I did make sure to link to my LinkedIn profile, which I kept updated, and later replaced that with my blog. Even though I now have a “professional” website, I still use my blog as my online home base. Why? I figure if people like reading what I write, they’ll want to learn more about me and the rest will follow. Maybe I’m completely wrong and will change everything on its head at a later point… but for now, it’s working.

    I regularly see folks on Twitter who have no URL at all in their profile. I know it can be tough for folks who are new to the game, but honestly – if I don’t see an URL, and your tweets are uninteresting (as, let’s face it, most “new” tweets are), I’m not going to follow them back. On the other hand, if they do have something like a LinkedIn URL, I check ‘em out and that factors in to my decision as to whether or not to follow them back.

    Another really good resource is VisualCV (www.visualcv.com). Easy to set up, and great to get a feel for someone. Facebook? My jury’s out on that one.

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  • Kellye Crane

    @Bill – Thanks for the comment, and glad to hear that non-Solos are benefiting from this post as well. Good for you for taking you online presence seriously.

  • Jackie Rafferty

    Kellye, I have been working on building an online presence for about a month. I am expanding my Linkedin profile, have a decent beginning following on twitter, allow certain access to FB and working on building a blog (wordpress dot com – very frustrating). All links are referenced on each site.

    Is this enough? Is it effective?

    And how do I maximize these sites for client referral/recommendations/testimonials? Should there be a seperate profile for that?

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  • Kellye Crane

    Hi Jackie- Your questions go beyond the scope of this post, but this is an opportunity to bring up an important point. As you may know, social media is not an arena where “if you build it, they will come.” First, you have to use traditional networking techniques (email, face-to-face, etc.) to make people aware of you and your online presence. In addition, to gain attention from those who didn’t know you previously, it’s critical that you showcase your abilities by demonstrating thought leadership wherever you are online.

    Regarding testimonials, the LinkedIn Recommendations feature is an excellent way to solicit these. You can send a request to your top contacts through the site (be sure to personalize it). Hope this helps!

  • http://wordsforhirellc.com/blog Karen Swim

    Kellye, these are great tips! I would add, have your own name as a domain. I took this for granted but many people have not grabbed their own name. You can point your domain to the site of your choice, even a free wordpress.com blog. Posterus is another nice option, point yourname.com there; posterus allows you to post to multiple locations including facebook, blogs and more.

  • http://www.sheeparcade.com Free Games

    Interesting, I never knew the importance of making online home base before I read this post.. Really useful for me..

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  • http://www.homebasedbusinessmentor.com/ Home Business Ideas

    Thank you for sharing the list of sites. Creating a profile page can increase your company's credibility and exposure.

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