Manage Your Brand! Lessons Learned from the PRSA North Pacific District Conference

Prioritizing Your Personal PR

by Mary Ann Albright

We devote so much time and energy to building and protecting our employer’s reputation that our own personal brand can risk becoming the proverbial cobbler’s children with no shoes.

At the recent PRSA North Pacific District conference in Seattle, Nicole Leverich made the case for why it’s so essential to actively manage your personal brand. Nicole, who serves as senior director of corporate communications for LinkedIn, offered practical tips on how to strategically maximize your LinkedIn profile.

A current, carefully curated LinkedIn profile is practically a necessity at this point, whether you’re just beginning your career or are already established.

Nicole’s presentation opened the conference, and it came full circle on the last day during a breakout session led by Kelly Guenther and Chad Lakin of the video company Shootsta. Kelly is a video specialist, and Chad is Shootsta’s vice president for North America.

How to Maximize Your LinkedIn Presence:

1. Photo. Choose a professional-looking profile photo to help bring your page to life. Don’t forget to choose a custom background photo as well. If nothing springs to mind, a cityscape is always a nice option. A unique background photo shows that you’re being thoughtful with your image and aren’t passively settling for LinkedIn’s default blue photo.

2. Location. According to LinkedIn’s tips guide, including the city where you’re based makes you stand out up to 23 times more in searches.

3. Industry. Choose the appropriate industry category (e.g., “Public Relations and Communications” or “Marketing and Advertising”), so that people can easily identify your primary field of interest.

4. Summary. Think of your summary as your elevator pitch. It’s how you want to be positioned in the minds of prospective employers/clients/contacts. It should be at least 40 words in length.

5. Experience. You don’t want your LinkedIn profile to read like a résumé. Make the descriptions of your various roles more conversational vs. a bulleted list copied and pasted directly from your résumé.

6. Media. Upload photos, videos, presentations, and other non-proprietary work samples to showcase what you bring to the table. As Nicole noted, don’t feel like you need to have been the sole contributor to a project to share it on your profile. Most complex projects take a village, which people understand.

Finding impactful work samples to share when your primary focus is internal communications can be challenging. But as Nicole pointed out, most major internal campaigns have some external-facing element that can be representative of the project.

7. Education. Fill in your degree type, areas of study, and alma mater. LinkedIn members who list educational information on their profile receive up to 11 times more views, according to a company tips sheet.

8. Skills. You can pin up to three skills to highlight as top skills that appear prominently on your profile. Be thoughtful about which skills you choose, and how you order them. This will likely change throughout your career, so revisit this section regularly to make sure the emphasis is where you want it to be right now.

9. Endorsements. Skill endorsements are votes of confidence from other LinkedIn members. They lend credibility to your profile.

If your endorsements aren’t for the skills you want to highlight, ask people you’ve had positive working experiences with if they’d feel comfortable endorsing you for specific skills. You can offer to do the same for them.

Endorsement are quick and easy to give with the click of a button.

10. Recommendations. These are written statements from LinkedIn members endorsing you. They provide detail and context that skill endorsements do not. You can ask contacts for recommendations through LinkedIn, and you can also proactively give recommendations to others.

11. Volunteering. Employers like to see that candidates give back and make a contribution to their community. Be sure to add a section listing your volunteer experience. The causes you support help paint a picture of what you value.

12. Connecting and following. Best practice is to only connect on LinkedIn with people you actually know. But for people (or companies) you admire or want to get to know, following them is a great option. Following your organization’s competitors can also yield useful insights.

Nicole recommended following these influencers:
a. Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and co-founder of Microsoft
b. Jack Welch, executive chairman of the Jack Welch Management Institute
c. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group
d. Priyanka Chopra, actress and philanthropist
e. Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn

13. Updates and publishing. Nicole likens LinkedIn updates to Tweets, and the publishing platform to blogging.

Updates (which can be photo or video as well as text) are a quick way to build your brand while sharing things you find interesting and hope others will too.

Publishing is long-form (4+ paragraphs) and should be reserved for deeper explorations of topics about which you’re passionate.

Anything you publish becomes part of your profile and is shared with your network, unlike updates. So that content should be workshopped and fine-tuned.

Nicole recommends setting as a goal 1-3 updates per week, and 1 published post per month.

In the Shootsta presentation, Kelly discussed the power of video – and how it’s easy to capture quality video on your smartphone using a few tips and tricks like the AE/AF lock, shooting horizontally, and investing in a tripod or gimbal for stabilization.

He encourages people to share video updates on LinkedIn. You can either record video directly through the LinkedIn app, or you can save it to your phone then upload it to LinkedIn.

14. Integrating with personal websites. Gone are the days of going to a job interview with a physical portfolio. More and more, companies want and expect to see a digital portfolio.

If you have one, integrate it with your LinkedIn profile. You can list your personal website’s URL in your LinkedIn profile, and you can link to your LinkedIn profile from your website. This creates a loop of information showcasing you and your work.

There are many different content management platforms, and each is different. With Squarespace, for example, you can add a social links block to your website that will display the LinkedIn icon and hyperlink to your profile. You can also choose to automatically push content you add to Squarespace to LinkedIn.

15. Check your settings. Check your LinkedIn account settings and adjust as desired. For example, you might not want your profile edits broadcast to your whole network. There’s also a feature you can enable that will discreetly let recruiters know that you’re open.

Additionally, you can customize your profile’s URL, so it’s something clean like www.linkedin.com/in/yourname.