LinkedIn is the most popular social networking platform for professionals. The platform offers an excellent way to expand your PR network, make connections, and pitch stories. To make the most of the professional networking opportunities on LinkedIn, though, you need a strategy.
This guide will discuss how to use LinkedIn to grow your professional PR network, regardless of your industry. I’ll break the strategy down into easy-to-follow chunks. With a bit of luck, you’ll be able to leverage some of the new connections you make by applying this strategy to your next PR campaign.
1. Optimize your LinkedIn profile
If you’re going to use LinkedIn for networking, you should spend a bit of time on your profile. Add a bit of background information about yourself, along with a nice professional photo. The screenshot below is from my LinkedIn profile.
You want your profile to present a professional image. It’s also handy if you look approachable.
The goal of your LinkedIn marketing campaign is to engage with PR professionals. Your bio copy should reflect this goal.
If you’re stuck about what you should say about yourself, review the profiles of some people in your network. Alternatively, look at the profile of a thought leader in your field. Spend a bit of time checking out your peers’ LinkedIn profiles, and I guarantee you’ll come across some nice examples of copy you could imitate.
2. Prepare a publication list
Once you’ve optimized your bio, it’s time to prepare for your networking campaign. The first part of the process is to define the type of publications for a PR campaign. There are two broad groupings:
- Niche-specific publications
- Mainstream media publications
You should know the type of publications that would be most important for your industry or a client. There are some easy ways to find opportunities. For example, a quick search on Google of the most important mining sector publications pulled up this list post.
Once you have a publication name, you can use a tool like Ahrefs to identify other sector publications you might want to target. It is a relatively straightforward process.
Assuming you have an Ahrefs account, simply click “competing domains” from the menu.
You can see a list of sites that a mining company might want to target for a PR campaign. The tool is not perfect. For example, AngloAmerican is a mining company and not an industry publication.
Still, you can use this technique to build a database of suitable publications for your industry quickly.
3. Select your journalists
With the database created, it’s time to identify who you should target at a publication. Pick the first publication from the database and visit the website. The type of publication you are targeting will define your approach.
If you’re targeting a publication with a small team of writers, I recommend you do one of the following two things:
- Go to the “Contact Us” page. Many sites will list the writers and editors working at the publication.
- Click through on the articles and check the author byline. Most publications include the name of the author under an article.
Continuing the example from the mining sector, here is the “about us” page for one of the top publications. They share the email addresses of the editor on the page. I’ve blacked it out for privacy, but you could easily visit the page and collect their details.
Another way to collect the details of writers is to do a thematic search on Google around the story you are looking to promote. In the search field, do the following:
Replace the website URL with the name of the site, and add the relevant keyword. This search phrase will reveal all of the content published that includes the keyword you chose.
You can see how to do this in the screenshot below.
At the end of this process, you should have a list of journalists you want to connect with on LinkedIn. I recommend you note down the relevant details on a Google Sheet.
Some of the journalists you identify won’t be active on LinkedIn. It’s a good idea to collect their email contact details. You can use a tool like Voila Norbert or Find Emails to get their contact information.
4. Send your connection request
Once you’ve created and populated your PR database, you need to send out your LinkedIn connection requests and grow your network. LinkedIn makes it easy to grow your network.
Do the following:
- Search for the company name
- Search for the name of the person
- Send a connection request
Another way to approach it is to search for the person’s name and the publication on Google. Often, the first result in the search results will be a LinkedIn profile. You can click through to the profile to send the connection request.
Searching for a person using Google will help you sidestep the caps that LinkedIn put in place on organic searches. After all, their business model revolves around getting people to upgrade to a paid account or run paid advertising through the platform.
6. Engage with your connections
LinkedIn is a social network. As you grow your network, start engaging with your new connections. Engage with the content people post, and leave comments as relevant. Reply to comments on your posts.
Share content and insights that are relevant to your industry.
When you have an interesting story to share, pitch the content to your new connections. Your pitch should be direct. Explain what you have to share and why it would interest them.
The USP is really important for an effective PR pitch. The better you can explain why a story would be of interest, the higher the chance you will get a positive response. I cover this topic with attendees in my social media courses.
Secondly, only pitch journalists when you have a great story. First impressions count. Journalists remember contacts who have great stories to share. The opposite is also true, of course.