Even though public relations can be one of the most cost-efficient functions of marketing, it’s still a huge investment in your brand. Throughout my career, I’ve talked to a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs who were hungry for media attention, but hadn’t prepared for the onslaught of business that can follow a fruitful public relations campaign.
These days, pretty much every business needs to have an online presence in order to run a successful PR program. For most companies, that means having a website and a strong presence on a minimum of one social network (you can always build up more when you have more bandwidth).
If you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, before you hire a public relations agency or internal public relations staff, do an online audit of your brand. Most PR professionals will want to conduct their own, but because you know your brand better than anyone you’ll save yourself a lot of money (and your PR team a lot of time) if you check off some of the basics before you get started.
Review Your Website
First things first, make sure your website domain name matches your business name as closely as possible. Because there are hundreds of not-com domain name endings, like ‘dot-style’ (.style), ‘dot-marketing’ (.marketing) and ‘dot-photography’ (.photography), you can be as creative as you want with your business name, and as specific as you want with your domain name ending.
Gone are the days of hyphens, replacing letters with numbers and other tricks to squeeze your business name onto that dot-com address, and as an added bonus, your domain will be short and to the point without all of those extra letters.
For example, for years my food blog was www.ingoodtasteblog.net, which was long, clunky and hard for people to remember. Now I have simply, www.ingoodtaste.kitchen, which is not only concise and descriptive, but represents that the kitchen is the gathering place in a home -- exactly what I want my blog to be.
Update Your Graphics
If you’re using stock photos from 1998 and you had to crop your significant other or kids out of your professional headshot, it’s time to upgrade your imagery. Your website should be a reflection of your brand and you want it to be as polished and professional as you are yourself.
Invest in a set of professional headshots and sign up for Stocksy, a stock photography company that describes itself as a “highly curated collection of royalty free stock photography.” As in, it’s good stuff that will look like you had commissioned a professional photographer just for you.
Then, replace the cheesy images of a bunch of men in suits gathered around the boardroom with images that reflect the values of your business -- and be creative! You want the images on your website to set you apart from everyone else’s.
Streamline Your Social Media Presence
In 2016, you could be managing social media full-time for a brand and still not have enough hours in the day to be on every social network out there. From mainstays like Facebook and LinkedIn to relative newcomers like Periscope and Snapchat, there are practically more social networks out there than there are hours in a day.
Instead of spreading yourself too thin and devoting too little time to each one, pick the social networks that best align with your business values and goals. If your goal is thought leadership, a public-facing network like Twitter might be a good place to share information. If your company is highly visual, Instagram is the place for you.
If your brand is fun and edgy, Snapchat is where you want to be. If you’re looking to cultivate a sense of community, Facebook with its opt-in page likes is a good way to get your message in front of people who really and truly want to see it.
Wherever you decide to be, make sure your presence is sharp: use a service like ManageFlitter to weed out spambots and fake followers and spend an hour per day engaging with the people who follow you, be it commenting and liking their content or responding to their comments on your properties. Social media is not just a megaphone for information about your company -- be social!
Check for Broken Links
If you have a lot of content on your site -- like a blog, recipe index or product catalogue, you should periodically check to make sure the links work. I use a broken link check tool (Google will lead you to a few different free services, but I use brokenlinkcheck.com), which runs a search on your domain name and tells you which links that your site links out to are no longer working. These dead links can impact your SEO and deter people from coming back to visit your site again.
Originally published on LinkedIn on July 17, 2016.
Thoughts on new and traditional media, current events, life in Chicago and the occasional small Chihuahua photo.