The audience was all a-twitter on January 26, at the Women in Technology lunch as a panel of experts faced off on the subject of how to best promote yourself and your business in 2010, specifically “How to Put Your Best Face Forward.” An audience of about 50 IT experts and others attended the event at Maggiano’s in Tysons’ Corner.

I had the pleasure of moderating the discussion from my perspective of 30 years in the PR business. While the four panelists and members of the audience sometimes agreed and sometimes disagreed on points of strategy, they all agree that it is important to be linked in to your community, both online and off line, to share and to help one another.

Jen Sterling found doing “good works” could show off her good work

Jen Sterling, President and co-founder of Hinge, a Reston branding firm, discussed how to select the boards that will help to boost your career. A walking case study, Sterling is past chair of the both the Loudoun County Chamber and the Greater Reston Chamber and currently serves as chair of Success in the City, the women’s networking group which has been creating buzz since its premier event in April 2004.

Sterling’s first “volunteer step” was joining the Loudoun County Chamber shortly after moving to Loudoun County. With coaching from the Chamber president, Sterling learned about volunteerism, becoming the chamber’s youngest chairman in 2005. She was 37. Volunteerism helped Sterling learn about growing her business and then she shared that learning to help others.Along the way, she did pro bono work for a number of local non-profits, winning awards and recognition in the community.

The Swami’s advice: build your reputation by giving to others

Shashi Bellamkonda, “Social Media Swami for Network Solutions talked about social media tools for small businesses, outlining some “best tactics”:

  • Set up a Google Alert for your name and company name. You need to know who’s talking about you and what they’re saying (good AND bad) and join in the conversation.
  • Build your reputation by giving to others. If you see something online, share it with friends, business associates and if somebody drops your name, thank them.
  • Be savvy about reputation management. Several years ago, Network Solutions realized it had developed a negative reputation online even though it won several customer service awards and had good customer satisfaction scores. Bellamkonda and his social media team got to it, fixed it and analytics proved their success story.

Traditional media is reaching out to “build a community”

Roger Hughlett, Assistant Managing Editor for the Washington Business Journal, talked about how the traditional media is trying to “build a community” through its online operations and its awards programs. Hughlett manages both programs.

“Awards are a great way to build credibility for you and your business,” he said, giving a list of awards along with some pointers about the application process:

  • When you are writing a nomination, don’t use “marketing speak,” do not cut-and-paste from a brochure.
  • Give details – share specific information and achievements in your nomination.
  • If you win, spread the word about your award – through Facebook and print. Link to news about the award and the event where you will receive it.

Visual CV offers free service for job-seekers

Caren DeWitt Merrick, partner with Bibury Partners, a local angel fund that invests in and advises early stage technology companies, spoke about VisualCV, for which she serves on the board of directors. Merrick described VisualCV as a way “to promote the vision we have of ourselves.” It’s a free, online resume service which includes photos and videos, articles and multimedia all in one space. You can control who sees it. You can go sign up for their newsletter. You can turn your “online multi-media resume” into a PDF file and share it.”

Editor’s Note : Guest Contributor Pauline “Polly” Elmore, owner of PR Works, LLC, is a senior public relations professional with an MBA that gives her a strong business sense. For the past two years, Polly has been studying and learning more about online PR and passing on the benefit to her clients. She adds this new Social Media experience to her traditional PR practice. Polly specializes in publicity for small and medium-sized businesses in the metro Washington, D.C. area.

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