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Why have PR Professionals been so slow to adopt the art of LinkedIn?

by | Jun 5, 2015 | Public Relations, Social Media

Most journalists check CEOs’ LinkedIn profiles before an interview

I was invited several weeks ago to participate in a panel discussion with eight other public relations leaders. As is my practice, I checked the LinkedIn profiles of my co-panelists in order to learn more about them ahead of time. What I found underwhelmed me—one of them did not even have a LinkedIn profile, and half of the group owned profiles that were “thin,” at best. But I can’t say that I was shocked. A surprising percentage of communications professionals fail to take advantage of one of the most powerful branding platforms available to them and their CEOs.

That failure takes on added significance in light of a recent survey by the Public Relations Global Network that found 80 percent of journalists now check a CEO’s LinkedIn profile before an interview. The survey of 50 North American journalists also found that 70 percent check a CEO’s Twitter account, and 64 percent visit a company’s Facebook page before interviewing a CEO.

Given how broadly social media is being used as a research tool by reporters, why have PR professionals been so slow to adopt best practices when it comes to keeping their—and their CEOs’—LinkedIn profiles fully optimized? Our industry has been quick to embrace Facebook and Twitter, but puzzlingly slow to give LinkedIn the same attention.

A recent study by CEO.com revealed that 68 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs have no social presence on any major network. At the other end of the spectrum, the adoption rate for LinkedIn by CEOs of the Inc. 500 was an impressive 87 percent. But for the vast majority of CEOs at companies that fall somewhere between large, publicly traded entities and fast-growing start-ups—and that’s most of the companies in the country—CEO mastery of LinkedIn still leaves something to be desired.

In my observation, most CEOs fall into one of three categories when it comes to LinkedIn. The first group are executives who have no presence whatsoever on LinkedIn. The second group has a painfully incomplete profile; it may be lacking a photograph or is skimpy on biographical information, suggesting that the leader started—and then abandoned—the process of completing the profile.

The third category are executives who dutifully filled out their profile and even accumulated the magical 500 contacts, but fail to ever update their profile or take advantage of the many opportunities to network, share and develop business from LinkedIn.

CEOs who don’t have a LinkedIn profile, or have one that is underpopulated or underutilized, are missing out. Here’s what a robust and regularly refreshed LinkedIn profile can offer them:

  • The opportunity to have total control of his or her online presence. LinkedIn is virtually the only social media platform over which an executive has 100 percent control.
  • A “living” CV that can (and should) be updated regularly, to reflect new accomplishments and achievements. This is the place to brag. According to LinkedIn, a profile that includes certifications gets double the number of views, so don’t be shy about mentioning an APR accreditation.
  • A place where a CEO can share her vision. With most journalists now checking LinkedIn profiles before an interview, why would you not use the opportunity to showcase your CEO’s brand to the media?
  • The assurance that the first thing that pops up on a search for a CEO’s name will be his or her LinkedIn profile.
  • A news platform from which to publish relevant articles, thought leadership pieces and other content.
  • The opportunity to generate new business. If a prospect searches for “top accountants in Detroit,” don’t you want to be at or near the top of that list?

For public relations executives, LinkedIn is a social media platform that offers us the most controlled environment for sharing an executive’s personal brand. That’s why its under-utilization remains a mystery.

Tips for Strengthening a LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn offers step-by-step instructions on how to populate or strengthen a profile.

Here are the areas that are the most neglected on many executives’ profiles:

  1. Photograph. A surprising number of executive profiles don’t include a photo. Profiles with photos are 11 times more likely to be viewed than those without. Select a photo that is appropriate to your profession, not your pastime.
  2. Take advantage of linking opportunities. Link to previous employers, schools you attended and publications in which you’ve been published. You’ll not only have a more visually appealing profile, but you’ll showcase your accomplishments more, too.
  3. Use LinkedIn like the insiders do. Did you know that you can claim your own URL for your LinkedIn address? Or post “wallpaper” behind your introductory banner? It’s all there, if you spend the time learning how to use it. And LinkedIn will even “coach” you along, telling you how and where you can flesh out your profile.
  4. Publish your material. Last year, LinkedIn quietly introduced Pulse, an online news service where you can publish content and share it with other professionals in your field and network. And because LinkedIn is such a highly trafficked site, content published there is more likely to be indexed by Google than content published on your own blog, for example.
  5. Use it. Once a LinkedIn profile has been posted, be sure to visit LinkedIn regularly and periodically update your profile, publish content on Pulse, and engage with other professionals. Try this experiment: Instead of defaulting to Facebook, make LinkedIn your default page. See if that doesn’t encourage you to become more intentional about it.

One of our clients, a major law firm, believes that LinkedIn is such an integral part of marketing today, that it engaged us to deliver customized LinkedIn training for each of its Partners. But they are the exception.

It baffles me why any professional would not want to take full advantage of the power of LinkedIn to extend his or her digital brand. Of all the social media platforms available to a company and its executives, LinkedIn has the greatest reach into the professional world along with the strongest ability to control the message. With new data confirming that LinkedIn is one of the first and most checked outlets by journalists, PR pros owe it to themselves—and their CEOs and clients—to encourage its use.

Guest contributor Anne A. Buchanan, APR,  is President of Buchanan Public Relations.

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Anne A. Buchanan
Anne Buchanan leads a public relations firm that specializes in media relations, crisis communications and social media. As a communications executive and public relations professional, I have extensive experience in corporate communications, crisis communications, message development, media relations and communications planning for a broad range of clients in the B2B and consumer spaces. 

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