Building an Online PR Network

My social Network on Flickr, Facebook, Twitter and MyblogLog
This is a guest post by Alison Kenney.

Whether you’re looking for a job in PR or just interested in expanding your professional network in the industry, you’ve surely explored social media and online networking.

Social media differs from traditional media in a number of ways.  It can be professionally produced (e.g. by paid journalists) or can come from anyone with access to internet connection; it can appear instantly and you can interact with the author and other viewers (e.g. by leaving comments or simply sharing/voting on it).  Participating in social media, including blogs, wikis, podcasts, Internet forums and more, is a good way to keep up-to-date on developments in the industry and to share industry knowledge.  Social networking is a way to connect and network with other professionals using online tools, the most popular being LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

Following are a few tips for taking advantage of the wealth of public relations knowledge and connections that exist on some of the most popular sites:

LinkedIn – have you ever wondered what to do after you connect with someone on LinkedIn?  The site has evolved over the last year, with new features that allow you to interact more with your connections.  Like Facebook, you can now update your status on LinkedIn, and there are other things you can do to start a discussion with your network, such as list the events you’ll be attending and share your opinion on books you’ve read.  There are also groups to join such as “Network of PR Professionals” “Marketing and PR Innovators” and “MarketingProfs” where you can start questions, respond to questions, see job postings and receive regular summaries of the group’s activities.

Blogs – I’m sure you know what a blog is by now, but can you fully grasp how many PR-related blogs there are?  Pretty much every agency has their own blog and many of the firm’s principals have their own blogs too – most can be accessed from the agency’s home page.  If you don’t already do this, set up a blog reader, such as Google Reader, or Bloglines, so that the blogs you want to follow regularly are streamed to your reader via RSS each time they’re updated.  Looking for new content or to ensure you’re on top of the top blogs?  Check out Alltop, Guy Kawasaki’s site for aggregating blog content by topic.  Do you blog?  If so, what kind of response to you get from your posts?  Sharing feedback, either in the comments section on the blog or by tweeting about the post, is a great way to strengthen a connection and share insight.  Make sure your blog is getting all the exposure it can by tweeting about new posts and using SEO to make it more searchable.

Twitter – the most basic way to build a PR network on Twitter is to identify industry thought-leaders and follow their tweets.  One easy-to-use list of PR pros on Twitter is here, but there are tons of other subjective lists, too.  Another way to make connections and contribute to professional development is to participate in chats on Twitter, which are designated by the hashtag (#) symbol.  For example, Chicago PR pro Sarah Evans (@prsarahevans) started #journchat, a weekly live chat that takes place every Monday at 8 pm EST on Twitter and features feedback from journalists, PR pros, bloggers and marketing professionals about industry topics.  And every Tuesday at 12 pm EST there is a #socialmedia chat on Twitter.

Facebook – I’ve heard it said that companies view their Facebook Fan page as the property of their HR department — meaning that it’s a great place to find basic information on the company and promote internal developments.  Typically you’ll find photos of company outings, links to company blogs, media coverage and other information, activities and events that are more casual than what appears on the company web site.  Many PRSA regional chapters have their own Group or Fan page on Facebook too.

Got other tips or links to share?  Leave your comments below.

Alison Kenney is an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience.  She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries.  She can be reached at alisonkenney at comcast dot net.

Image credit: luc legay

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