Last week, I had the awesome opportunity to speak at a meeting of PRSSA-UD (Public Relations Student Society of America – University of Delaware chapter). It felt a lot like coming full circle.
My junior year, when I was trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to do with my Communication major, I enrolled in a public relations class with Professor Bartoo. She encouraged all her students to check out PRSSA, for which she was the faculty advisor. Always eager to get more involved on campus, I went to a meeting. And I don’t want to think of where I would be today if I hadn’t.
As I only took two other public relations courses in my time at UD, most of what I learned about public relations and social media came from PRSSA meetings. I think it’s also where I first heard the term “personal branding,” a principle that I believe I owe much of my career success to!
Some of my highlights include how much I admired then-president Abby Ecker for accomplishing so much while still a student, hearing Jessica Lawlor speak at one of our meetings, and being able to blog about Charlie Sheen while still learning about PR. I remember figuring out what I wanted to do out in the scary, scary real world.
So, anyway…being asked to speak at one of those meetings that helped me figure my own life out? Being one of those people confused students looked at and thought “they seem to have their life together and seem so smart?” It’s definitely going to go down as a huge milestone in my career, regardless of how much I eventually accomplish.
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I spoke about personal branding, but I knew that such savvy PR students were already familiar with the concept. So instead on focusing on what personal branding is and how to do it, I focused on a few tools that will help anyone take control of their personal brand. Take a look at the presentation:
Personal Branding for PR Professionals
If you’re a regular reader of my content anywhere, or follow me on social media, you know that I’m a big fan of working smarter as an alternative for working done (I like to call it the #GetShitDone philosophy, if you’ll pardon my language).
Personal branding is no exception for that. The best personal brand can still be held back if you don’t know how to elevate or measure it. That’s why I developed this “personal branding toolkit” for the members of PRSSA.
And like I said in the presentation, PR pros are special, and personal branding is even more important for them. So it’s important that they use:
1. HARO – Help a Reporter Out
HARO, a free email digest from Vocus, helps people gain media coverage, whether it’s for their company or themselves. The emails, sent three times a day, are full of writers and media outlets looking for smart people whose words they can reference in their content. Each media query has a unique email address that you send your pitch to by the designated deadline. If your pitch is chosen, the individual or outlet you pitched to will often send you a link once it’s published.
HARO has been my primary way of earning media coverage both as eZanga’s PR specialist (back when that was my job title) and as a young professional building my personal brand. You can see some of the examples of the personal coverage I’ve gained here.
Any current, past, or aspiring PR pro knows the importance of Google Alerts. For personal branding, it’s a great way to see what other people are saying about you and what you (possibly unknowingly) are saying about yourself online. You’ll know what a potential client or employer sees when they Google you (and they will).
However, the current reliability of Google Alerts isn’t great, it doesn’t include content from social networks, and the customization options are limited. Thankfully, there are tons of alternatives. My favorite is a freemium (it has both free and paid packages) tool called Mention.
I like to call Mention “Google Alerts on steroids.” It looks at a lot of properties Google Alerts doesn’t, so you’ll see if your name was mentioned in a tweet or public Facebook post, for example. You can also receive alerts more quickly than using Google Alerts and access them via the website, email notifications, or one of their mobile apps.
Another use for Mention is tracking results of your HARO usage. Not every journalist will email you to let you know they used your pitch. Sometimes, their content will be syndicated to other sites. Stay on top of all this activity by monitoring it in Mention.
Where Mention is a fantastic way to monitor your personal brand, BrandYourself helps you do something about it. It will help you perform SEO on properties that can make or break your brand.
When you first sign up, it will show you the first page of Google results for your name and have you mark which ones are positive links about yourself, which are negative, and which aren’t about you. From there, your digital presence gets a “report card.” On the free plan, you can then submit positive links, and BrandYourself will give you suggestions on how to improve their rankings.
You can also take advantage of the site’s high domain authority by creating a portfolio-style profile on their site, where you can include a biography, resume, and links to other personal profiles.
4. Twitter Chats
Past readers of this blog, or several others that I’ve written for, will know that I love Twitter chats. Actually, anyone who’s ever looked at my Twitter profile will know this, since it won’t take much scrolling to see my most recent participation in one. For me, it’s the most fun way to network online and build my brand.
You can insert yourself into a community of like-minded professionals and become publicly associated with this group of smarties. You can get great advice from them, discuss your careers and industry hot topics, and share your own expertise in return. You can also build connections that may turn into real friendships.
For PR students and practitioners, some recommended Twitter chats I recommend are #PRSSA, #NPPRSA, #pr20chat, #PRstudchat, and #MuckedUp. For more recommendations, Cision put together a great list of over 20 chats.
5. LinkedIn Groups
One of my other favorite social media activities is participating in LinkedIn groups. I’ve written about them more than once, and recently co-hosted a Cision webinar where my focus on the panel was LinkedIn groups for PR pros.
LinkedIn groups have a lot of the same benefits of Twitter chats, such as making connections, sharing and getting advice, and discussing trends and hot topics. However, it lacks the real-time aspect of tweeting for up to an hour straight, which many find daunting.