May 26, 2011

Public Relations & Professional Networking: Using LinkedIn for PR

Telecommunications Today - a news page featureing content widely shared by LinkedIn users.

Second in a series: Integrating Social Media and Public Relations

Twitter and Facebook undeniably garner the most attention in discussions about social media and marketing communications.  As a result, many communicators overlook the utility of sites like LinkedIn, ProfNet Connect and Quora.  Today, I’m going to focus on LinkedIn, and in a future post will discuss the other sites.

LinkedIn:

LinkedIn is particularly interesting and unique, combining breaking news and interaction with professional networking.  A good LinkedIn profile is a living resume that can be seen by the networks’ active community.   What makes the site work so well, in my mind, is how well organized it is – users can tag their profiles to indicate industry and professional expertise, participate in industry and subject-specific groups, and follow news and information related to their areas of interest.  If you’ve not checked out what LinkedIn is doing lately, doing so should be high on your list to of things to do.

LinkedIn News & Sharing
I spoke to some of the development team at LinkedIn a few weeks ago, and while a lot is still in flux, one thing was clear – LinkedIn is really focused on acquiring content for their site, and the action of sharing content via the LinkedIn Share button is something they’re stressing.

Content that is widely shared among the people following an industry is featured in the LinkedIn News, a sleek new feature pictured at the top of this page that does a nice job of surfacing the content that on the minds of the people within a specific niche.

Because of the emphasis LinkedIn is placing on the use of their sharing button, having that functionality embedded on your site’s content pages is important.  As soon as I got off the phone with the LinkedIn team, I dashed off a note to our web gurus, asking that we add the button to this blog, and a few other content areas. If your organization has a robust news section on its web site or creates other content or hosts a blog and doesn’t have those buttons embedded, you should take the same course of action I did.  (Note: PR Newswire encourages sharing press releases in social media by embedding LinkedIn share button prominently on all press release pages, along with buttons for Facebook and Twitter. Other sharing and interaction options, such as a variety of blogging tools, are available in the Share It! Section on the right of each page.)

Tactical PR and LinkedIn:

Public relations pros can use LinkedIn a few different ways for tactical PR, including:

  • Researching and networking with journalists and bloggers.  Most people keep their profiles up to date, and provide links to their blogs, Twitter accounts and web sites.   Once you’ve researched someone, you can invite them to connect on the site, which is a nice way to get to know someone, and adds them to the virtual Rolodex that is your group of LinkedIn contacts.
  • Listening to your own audiences.   LinkedIn has scads and scads of professional and special interest groups, as well as active Q&A discussions in the Answers section.  Keeping an eye on the conversations there is a great way to learn what’s on your audience’s mind – useful information for planning your own communications, especially blog posts and other content creation activities. You’ll start to see the same questions popping up over and over again, which means (at least in my opinion) that the market has done a poor job filling the need for that kind of information – which spells opportunity for you.
  • Identifying influentials.  As you become more familiar with the people who participate in the different discussion groups and Q&A forums, you’ll start to spot real influencers among the crowd – folks who are well-connected in your industry, and who have voices that rise above the din.   Often, you’ll find that these people have many “best answers” in the Answers section.   Cultivate them. Build relationships with them.  They can end up being powerful advocates for your brand.
  • Building your own credibility.  I just mentioned the “best answers” feature in the Answers section. LinkedIn allows the person posting a question to select a “best answer” from those received.  Collecting “best answers” builds your expertise and visibility within an industry segment.   More people will want to connect with you, and this is a great way of establishing your bonafides.
  • Honing your social skills.  As with any network, it’s important to listen and observe the group dynamics before you interact.  Notice what kind of questions generate responses in group discussions, and which responses garner ‘best answer’ accolades in the Answers section.  Certain types of messages are almost certain duds – if you pay attention, you can determine what sort of content the audience does and doesn’t like, and plan accordingly.  In addition to making your interactions on LinkedIn more effective, paying attention to what sort of content generates interest and interaction can also inform your future content strategy.

Company pages

In addition to providing powerful personal networking tools, LinkedIn also offers companies the ability to establish company pages.   These pages are an important touch point within LinkedIn for your brand.  You can plug your company’s Twitter feed into your company page, along with an RSS feed from your blog.  Other tabs allow you to highlight key products, and support the addition of video and images related to the products.   Page admins can access analytics, enabling them to see activity on the pages.   All in all, the company pages are a nice tool, and they’re free and easy to set up.

I’m sure the more time you spend with LinkedIn, the more opportunities you’ll find for using this important network in your public relations workflow.  If I’ve overlooked your favorite tips for using LinkedIn in your daily PR practice, let me know in the comments!

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice-president of social media.  You can connect with her on LinkedIn here: http://www.linkedin.com/in/sarahskerik

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