When I taught the senior level PR classes at Champlain College two years ago I gave the students their first assignment which I called internet spying. They looked at me blankly and I further explained this was a project for them to use the internet to spy on their crushes, themselves, ex-lovers, long lost friends, etc. They then looked at me like I was a mad professor. This was a semester long assignment and I sort of left it at that. Every now and then I would ask how the spying was coming and they would giggle and that was that. Until one day a girl came in and was all excited to share that she had met a guy at Red Square and wanted to learn more about him so she did some internet spying and Google searching and found all sorts of information (nothing bad, just info).
Now, I was not giving a lesson in safe dating (although this is a good dating practice), I was giving a lesson in having the skills to make it as a PR professional. You have to know your audience, who you are contacting, where to find people, what someone is involved in, etc. I one had a huge hit in the Los Angeles Times simply because I remembered that the writer had a cat for an office manager and he was so amused when I followed up on a pitch and inquired about the office cat (which I learned about from internet spying) that he happily worked on the story with me. Internet spying can make you look very on-the-ball which is a good thing. And it's not at all just for media contacting - it's for everyone - new business opportunities especially.
A few years ago I had to leave my students in the hands of Google, but now there are several sites which help speed up the spying process a great deal and I thought it would be helpful for my faithful readers to share them with you today:
Site to track buzz on yourself and find places you also might want to be listed on, etc. through searching keywords instrumental to your business
A very detailed web search for people – good to search for yourself and see what’s out there and how finding you might need some work. Good tracking tool to search for yourself before you do internet marketing and then to do again several months later and see what's changed
Great site for spying on others and yourself to see what might be out there in the social networking scene on yourself and where you might want to make alterations or create profiles
Free place to post both a personal and company profile as well as be able to search for what other work might be online connected to you