Let’s face it, we’re all tightening our belts a little when it comes to general spend, thanks to you-know-what. Many people I’ve spoken to recently are keen to get their communications back on track but need twice the impact, and they need it yesterday. Of course, everyone is in the same boat, so the chance of making “twice the impact” on the same or lesser budget is, let’s say, a challenge, but there are certain things that leaders can be doing to bolster their personal PR and business’ spend on communications – and many of them are completely free.
The perception of how a business or brand responds to the pandemic is inextricably linked with leaders, how they act and what they say, yet when you look around, not a lot of everyday business leaders are saying much at all.
So let’s dive into what you can be doing as a leader/business owner to help boost your personal PR and business’ communications and raise awareness, shall we?
Get your social media presence in check
This sounds super obvious, doesn’t it? But you’d be surprised just how many business owners and leaders – many of them high-profile – who just don’t bother with social media in a professional capacity.
They have faceless LinkedIn accounts that have never been updated and Twitter accounts with retweeted football scores and their first and only tweet (usually saying something like “Hello, Twitter! Let’s see how this thing works”, yet they still haven’t) from around 9 years ago.
People: it’s just not good enough. I can allow Twitter to slide, but if you’re leading an organisation – especially a B2B one – you need to get your LinkedIn game locked.
Our friend Ellen Forster has recently launched this amazing LinkedIn Toolkit to help you on your way, but if you’re just after a quick-fix bunch of actions, here goes my take on things:
Use a decent (ideally professional) headshot. Clear, open and professional-looking photography is a must. If you’re in need of one and don’t know who to turn to, give us a shout for recommendations – we have lots of photographer friends who can help you.
An up-to-date biography, written in first-person. Ok, the last bit is a personal preference, but please, stop writing about yourself in third-person in your LinkedIn biography. We all know we’re individually managing our personal LinkedIn accounts and this isn’t an episode of “This Is Your Life” (hey, is that still a thing?), so talk like a regular human please, not a Wikipedia page.
Simply cover what you and your organisation do, what you’re passionate about in a professional capacity, a brief overview of your career history and what you can do to help connections. Job done. From there, it’d be a good idea to update your experience appropriately, covering your career journey, qualifications and any other relevant certifications you possess.
Join groups that are relevant to your business and actually engage with them. Another one that sounds obvious, but stop lurking and start talking! General business, local news and sector-specific groups are the way to go here, allowing you to keep abreast of what’s going on and who’s doing it, as well as sharing your own business’ news and updates. Just make sure the dialogue goes both ways.
Share the news posted by your company’s LinkedIn profile. It’s super important as a leader to ensure you’re your organisation’s biggest cheerleader, so sharing news and insights painstakingly composed by your marketing/social media team is a great place to start. It’s really easy to do (click Share at the bottom of the individual post then write a comment to go along with it) and helps a lot when you’re asking other staff members to do the same as you’re leading by example.
If in doubt, follow the handy checklists set out for you by LinkedIn and you’ll be an ‘All-Star’ in no time. LinkedIn is one of the first places we look when searching for someone in a professional capacity, plus let’s not forget that your profile shows up in Search, so it’s not something you can afford to ignore. Especially when it’s free!
Invest in your professional development
Many professions have Chartered Institutes and membership bodies that help foster a community of like-minded professionals through learning and events. They also provide CPD frameworks, so you can keep on top of whatever the industry standard is for your particular trade.
For me, it’s CIPR and PRCA, so I take the responsibility of completing my CPD and other qualifications wherever possible, which is an easy tick in the box and shows up in my professional listings.
For full disclosure, the memberships cost money, but if you’re already a member of something and aren’t using it to its full potential, now’s the time to start.
We speak to a lot of people who are brilliant at what they do, but if you looked at their social media channels and company website, you wouldn’t know it.
Why? Because they’re not too great at telling people. They usually don’t know where to begin with content production and its power, so it’s easier to say nothing at all than to say the wrong thing, even if they know they should be doing it. Thought leadership a key part of personal PR, in my opinion.
That’s usually where I come in, but in the interest of keeping things actionable and free, here are some tips on getting a thought leadership plan in motion:
- Get an idea of your user/customer personas:
Pull together a small team (I always recommend no more than 5 people) to chat about your existing customers and prospects and dive into what challenges they’re facing and how you can help. Think about how they consume information, what device they use to do so, what opportunities they may be looking to seize and the state of the industry they work in right now.
From here, look for common themes in your findings, et voila, these are your thought leadership topics.
- Build your content plan:
You don’t have to jump into this with a fancy PDF downloadable – just focus on what’s achievable for you. If it’s a blog post, fine. If it’s a new page on your website, fine. If it’s a LinkedIn Pulse article, also fine. The key thing is that it’s relevant and accessible to your target audience.
Keep it attainable and you have more chance of actually following through with content production. A simple content schedule template is easy to create and there are examples via the likes of Hubspot, so it’s worth setting one up so you can keep on top of your editorial calendar and hold yourself accountable. Remember, regular content production has numerous SEO benefits, so it’s time well spent.
Now it’s time to release your words out into the world! Use LinkedIn, any membership groups or industry bodies you’re a part of that allow content reposting (like the NECC, for example) and through ‘member news’ on local (NE-based) news sites like NE Connected and Bdaily. You don’t have to be a journalist to submit these pieces (although they come under a membership umbrella, not general news) but a strong story is essential.
If you want to do full PR outreach, that’s a whole other beast entirely and one we recommend hiring a professional for.
On the topic of thought leadership/content, don’t forget the power of general business news as an indicator of your success and authenticity, so things like new starters in the business, accreditations and awards, new client wins or project extensions and CSR are really valuable in painting a brighter picture of you and your business.
Remember, business as we knew it has had one hell of a shuffle thanks to the pandemic, so whatever you can do to keep your business front of mind is of huge value now and in the near future. Your potential customers might not be in the frame of mind to buy from/work with you currently, but they might be in the coming weeks and months as things start to recover.
If you simply don’t have the time, however, it’s worthwhile getting someone experienced onside, and we can help with that part. Feel free to give us a nudge if you and your business need expert communications and digital marketing support.