Recently we featured a guest post from Sean Williams, where he discussed the value of holding memberships and participating in formal organizations (“Why join?”). Sean also touched upon the many no-cost, online options available. During this interview with the PR-smart and social media-savvy, respected and much-loved (not to mention, fun) Kellye Crane, we find out more about one such targeted, alternative option: the Solo PR community.
What inspired you to introduce the Solo PR undertaking, including its increasingly well-known (and beloved) dedicated Twitter chat?
Everything I’ve done is an extension of the Solo PR Pro blog, and that platform continues to be the “hub.” Other channels have evolved as a way to provide additional resources and outlets for the community that built up around the blog and my personal Twitter stream. (I very recently introduced a dedicated Twitter account for @solopr.)
Often, members from this community I initiated suggested the additional activities they want to see – that was the case with our weekly #solopr Twitter chats. I’d been pondering starting a chat, but before I could get around to it, a few commenters on the blog requested it.
For that reason, though I founded the blog independently, I’ve never considered this community a solo effort. I may be the leader of the tribe, but the participants provide so much of the value.
Did you do much research prior to launching Solo PR, such as examining similar endeavours and/or potential competitors?
Since I’ve been solo since 1995, colleagues often asked me for advice about what it was like to “go out” on your own. When friends kept asking for blog recommendations to read on this topic – and there really weren’t any – I realized it was time for me to start such a blog.
Before launching the Solo PR blog in 2008, I did do a lot of research. Believe it or not, at that time there wasn’t really a dominant term for independent PR professionals, so deciding on the name/domain was a challenge in and of itself. It’s gratifying for me to now see so many colleagues refer to themselves as “Solo PR” practitioners.
When considering competitors, I didn’t see currently established industry associations as competition. I still don’t. Local networking groups of independent PR practitioners are very helpful, and Solo PR doesn’t replace such groups. Also, Solo PR tends to be quite broad and unlimited in the topics and areas we can cover, so there’s plenty of room for more specialized information from other groups.
Detail the history of Solo PR in terms of your rollout and timeline in implementing the various platforms.
The #solopr Twitter chat and hashtag (which is used non-stop for information sharing, not just during its one-hour Wednesday dedicated chat time) was launched in September 2, 2009 – approximately one year after I started the Solo PR blog.
The Solo PR Pros LinkedIn group was added just two weeks later; it offers a place for the community to ask more intricate questions and receive more detailed answers from the community in response. The Linked In Group has proven quite popular and, just this week, we’re launching the following regional subgroups:
• Middle East/Africa
As is often the case, the sub-groups sprang from a suggestion from an existing Solo PR community member.
There’s a Solo PR YouTube channel, which currently houses the video interviews I’ve conducted for the Solo PR blog. It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these and I haven’t fully exploited the channel, but it’s not because they haven’t been well-received.
The Solo PR Pros Facebook page has only been around since March 2010; it’s a nice addition to the community.
Have the #solopr chats and various supporting platforms evolved as you anticipated?
Basically yes, although I had hoped that the Facebook page would be more interactive, with Solo PR community members posting their own photos and success stories to the page without any prompting. This tends to happens only if I ask a question – or cajole friends into posting pictures! I suspect this is the nature of the beast, because I’ve seen a similar level of interaction on other blog-related Facebook pages. Still, a fair number of people interact with the blog posts from the Facebook platform, so it continues to be worth doing.
It’s all about offering your content on multiple platforms, so participants can access it in the ways that are the most convenient to them.
What kind of quantitative data can you provide about Solo PR?
To date, measurement of Solo PR has not been my strong suit – but it’s on the “to-do” list! Soon, we’ll be conducting a poll of the Solo PR community to gain more hard data. I also plan to cross-reference the lists of participants on the various channels to determine how much overlap we have. So stay tuned on this front.
Regarding demographics, those who “Like” the Facebook page (formerly known as Fans) are 75 percent female and 25 percent male, and I deduce this gender breakdown holds true for the real-time #solopr chats. Interestingly, men participate much more in the LinkedIn group.
The age range is all over the map, which I think is great. I estimate 20 percent of the Solo PR community across the board is based outside the U.S.A. One goal is to see that last percentage number increase.
In any given week, how much time would you estimate you spend on Solo PR and where is the majority of that time devoted?
In a week when my time is especially limited, I probably spend a minimum of four hours on Solo PR activities. The blog is definitely the biggest time commitment – and no matter how much you give to it, there’s always more that could be done.
It’s frustrating to have so many ideas and not enough time to implement them, but I guess that’s better than the alternative!
The July 28, 2010, #solopr chat asked participants [Q3] to indicate what they got out of Solo PR that they didn’t get from any other organization or group. Did you anticipate any answers that didn’t materialize? Alternatively, were any answers particularly gratifying?
I wasn’t surprised the fact that Solo PR is “free” wasn’t among the more prominent answers, because for solo PR pros time is their most valuable asset. I believe the fact that this community of people spends their precious time to share and learn from each other is part of the magic of the weekly #solopr chat. [Editor’s note: each week ends with numerous tweets of thanks and testimonials as to how much the #solopr chat is valued.]
However, a few participants answered Q3 by mentioning that their budgets didn’t allow them to purchase a variety of books, seminars, etc. that were solo-PR related, and indicated that #solopr fills that void for them. I was thrilled to read those responses, especially as I know many PR pros out there are “lurking” during the chats as they contemplate their move to independence.
The most re-tweeted response to Q3 was also my favorite; it came from Jenny Schmitt (@cloudspark), who wrote:
At times the #soloPR chat is an online classroom, a coffeehouse, a debate hall or a much-needed recess break.
For more Solo PR community members’ feedback on this question, refer to the Q3 answers from the transcript of the July 28th #solopr chat.
How have you benefited, professionally and personally, leading this endeavour?
When I started Solo PR, I sort of felt called to do it – like the universe aligned all the planets and I had no choice but to jump in! I can say that it’s the most gratifying experience of my career, and I love getting to interact with so many wise and amazing people.
Professionally, I’ve received a number of business referrals, new partnerships and other opportunities as a result.
Moving forward, I plan to offer some paid ebooks and coaching on the Solo PR Pro blog, which will provide me with the resources and time to do more for the community.
How do you separate or differentiate the Solo PR brand from that of Kellye Crane’s?
The question on how much I should, personally, be front and center in the Solo PR efforts is one with which I continue to grapple. Many bloggers have their photo displayed prominently on the home page, but at this point, I’ve chosen not to do that because I feel (as stated earlier) that the Solo PR “movement” is much bigger than me.
On the downside, I’ve had some people say they didn’t realize the blog is my personal one and that they might have paid more attention to it had they realized that fact. I’m planning a redesign of the blog to launch this fall, so we’ll see how it all plays out!
Outside of the independent PR practitioner sphere, how many noteworthy people or organizations in your life know about Solo PR? Additionally, have any industry groups or media outlets profiled Solo PR (or you) in the past?
I don’t know if other bloggers have this experience, but I was kind of surprised that no one in my family ever reads my blog! Ever. I think it’s pretty funny.
However, the response from the general (non-independent) PR community, as well as non-PR consultants, has been terrific. I think it’s because so many of the issues we address are applicable to others.
Solo PR hasn’t been the subject of a full profile like this one on PR Conversations, but we’ve been mentioned or linked to in many top, non-PR blogs (e.g., Web Worker Daily) and in industry publications like PR Week and PR Daily.
Any recommendations for others thinking of blazing their own social media trail through Twitter chats and supporting platforms?
Make sure you have a passion for your subject matter and a willingness to listen to suggestions from your community. Then go for it!
Finally, for individuals who are unable to participate in the weekly #solopr Twitter chats, how can they benefit from and contribute to Solo PR?
Other than the Twitter chat, every other channel we’ve discussed adapts very easily to other time zones.
In fact, even those who can’t participate in the chats live can take part, because the chat transcripts are posted each week in places like the Solo PR blog. Anyone is free to submit a discussion question to me (@kellyecrane or send me a Direct Message on Twitter), and then read the transcript for the answers.
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The weekly #solopr chat is scheduled from 1-2 p.m. ET (North America) most Wednesdays. There is no requirement to register in advance – simply get online, follow the Solo PR Twitter account and/or #solopr hashtag and participate or lurk, depending on your comfort level.
For other Twitter chats, check out the Twitter Chat Schedule (a spreadsheet on Google Documents that is constantly being updated). It is maintained by Robert Swanwick and can be accessed via the @twchat account. Yes, #solopr is on the list!
Kellye Crane, a 20-year public relations and communication veteran, has been operating independently as Crane Communications, LLC since 1995. She is a member of the Public Relations Society of America. Kellye teaches others how to be a PR consultant on her blog, Solo PR Pro. You can also connect with Kellye on Twitter, LinkedIn or by email.