Like fluffy yellow chicks marching in line after their mama, many companies are stuck in push marketing tactics of the past, favoring carefully crafted, conservative external messaging and expecting their executives to rigidly follow corporate directives when it comes to having (or not having) a digital voice.
“It’s too risky!” “We don’t know how to manage or monitor it!” “DESIGNATED SPOKESPERSONS ONLY” might as well be a sign slapped on every monitor.
Perhaps they don’t have an internal brand ambassador program of any kind (a what?), and they are terrified at the very THOUGHT of giving employees online freedom and autonomy. Their content marketing and brand journalism has not yet evolved to a place where they are comfortable letting employees take the spotlight, allowing independent voices to ring out with options, truth and expertise.
For some companies, it’s by choice; some lack internal vision and progressive marketing expertise; and for others, it’s the result of compliance issues and legal directives.
So what’s a PR pro to do?
Consider ways to expand editorial placements with personal branding campaigns for c-suite leadership and your subject matter experts! It’s easier than you think, it bulks up your editorial placements, leaving clients thrilled with you, AND you earn bragging rights for launching their very first brand ambassador program.
Building Personal Brands As Part of Your Digital PR Strategy
As PR professionals, we all tend to focus on corporate news, churning out those press releases and madly pitching….. but how often are we focusing on individuals within the company and building their personal brands? It’s a valuable piece of overall corporate trust and visibility? It’s easily overlooked – especially for companies that don’t focus on brand journalism or content marketing as a critical part of their online strategy – yet topic experts and leadership within a company are wonderful source of coverage opportunities. They are also a rich source of knowledge that far too few leverage – and the single biggest company asset feeding into its ability to be successful… so let’s get to it!
I have a few fast ideas to share on tactics that work well – but they require consistency, and someone to herd the cats into something manageable. If you are the type of PR pro that focuses largely on media relations, the first two ideas can easily mirror skills and processes you already know: byline articles.
Plus, it’s a great launch point into digital PR tactics, if online visibility is something new to you.
Three Essential Ways to Help Corporate Leadership Build a Personal Brand Online
1. Take advantage of the LinkedIn blogging platform – called long-form posts. This is one of my favorite tactics to build a personal brand for business purposes and it’s actively rolling out to everyone. It’s not part of the invitational-only Influencer Program, but your post will show up on the Pulse news stream, and on the wall of those who follow you. It is SEO-friendly and appropriate to be then shared on the LinkedIn Company Page and other corporate social assets.
There isn’t much fanfare when it shows up on your profile – you’ll just see a pencil icon suddenly appear in your “share an update” field on the right side, just below the paperclip icon for adding an image.
When you click on the pencil, it launches the blogging platform on LinkedIn, where you can upload your article.
If the executive is comfortable with giving you access to their LinkedIn profile, you can follow the same processes you use to interview, write, edit and gain approval of a byline article to fuel your LinkedIn post. Once approved as final, you would then log in (as them) and post it. If they are not comfortable with giving you approval, you would work with them to understand the internal process the article must go through before being published. You would still own the process of getting to the final draft, but rely on them to do the actual posting. If they aren’t familiar with LinkedIn, you can walk them through how to do it until they have mastered the process.
How can you measure success of the long-form posts? LinkedIn provides information on page views (reach) and engagement. You can also measure the number of clickthroughs to your website using the area of Google Analytics that shows referral link traffic – just be sure to include that link at the end of every the article, along with a disclaimer (if required by the company).
If you really want to juice up your tracking and conversion, you can set up a tailored landing page on your website and include the link at the end of every article, along with a strong call-to-action.
One thing to keep in mind with this tactic is this: just like any social media platform, content you publish is earned, not owned. It’s subject to the whims of LinkedIn and can be removed at any time. I prefer to re-post and re-purpose content on LinkedIn, using content originally published on my website (or my clients’). This way, if the publisher platform suddenly disappears, along with all of the content you created, minimal damage is caused. You still have your content.
If you re-post the same exact content you have already used elsewhere, instead of repurposing it, BE SURE to give Google a head’s up to avoid duplicate content penalties. I typically include a sentence at the end of my posts saying something like, “This post originally ran on <name of site or blog>,” with a hyperlink back to the original post. This tells LinkedIN and Google to treat it like syndicated content.
When a long-form post is published on LinkedIn, it is connected to the author of the post and their profile, not the company page, because it’s published under their name as the author. To make it appear on the Company Page, be sure t share their post(s) on the LinkedIn Company Page as an update to get the most reach possible.
It can also be posted on the news page of the company website as a hyperlink back to the LinkedIn post.
2. Publish employee posts on the corporate blog. A corporate blog doesn’t only have to include branded posts by administrator of the blog – it can become a rich multi-author resource, especially if you incentivise employees to participate.
(Click here for some GREAT articles on the subject!)
Not only does this boost the volume of content you can produce, but it shares internal expertise in a way that builds corporate credibility and value. WordPress has many plug-ins to help manage the edit/approval process, to be sure the right eyes see a post before it goes live.
You can also write the blog post using Word, push it through your normal approval processes, then post it to the blog yourself. If you create a new user for each person and upload it using their password, it will show the executive’s name as the author, automatically making your blog a multi-author system.
Helping launch an internal communications program to incentivize and manage employee blog posts is also a FANTASTIC program for an agency to initiate and manage. It keeps the agency front-and-center with the company, bumps up visibility in a very quantifiable, measurable way AND takes the burden of original content production off the agency’s shoulders. Instead of creating it, they now own the process to create it – something that is MUCH LESS time consuming.
If the client has a stagnant blog, it helps move it from blah to fantastic, selling them on the value of why they are blogging in the first place and helping it become a larger priority.
It also provides a constant source of original content to share on the company social media platforms – something key to social media success for brands. (Don’t forget to publish a link to each corporate blog post on the authoring employee’s LinkedIn page and the company LinkedIn page!)
I’d also suggest creating Pinterest pinboards around each participating employee – especially members of the leadership team that need to be externally visible. As LinkedIn long-form posts, corporate blog posts, guest blog posts and bylines are published, they can be added to the appropriate pinboard – becoming a rich source of story ideas for media, in addition to the other Pinterest benefits.
What’s the biggest challenge of this tactic? Getting already-busy employees to see the value and write posts. The benefit to them is that it builds their own personal brand, enhancing their value as they move along their career path – on their current employee’s dime. It’s a win-win for everyone. Finding the time depends on how important it is to the employee, the incentive or reward program that helps make it become a priority to employees you want to participate, and how easy you make it for them. If it is too complicated and/or they don’t understand the value of the program, it won’t get off the ground. As a PR pro, I’ve found doing interviews, writing the post then getting their edits and approval is the fastest way to a successful program. It bypasses the issue of writing skills and ensures the right internal editing and approval processes are followed. (Plus, the agency gets bragging rights for making it happen. Gotta love that!)
If you are with a large or enterprise-sized business and need a GREAT resource for building internal and external ambassador programs, Mack Collier is one of the best consultants in the business for this speciality. His guidance creating the program would be worth every single penny.
3. Help them identify and participate in a few relevant Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups and/or Google communities. Groups can be a fantastic way to learn while sharing expertise and building credibility. This is something a PR professional can assist with by identifying the most relevant ones that fit corporate audience needs, and helping educate staff on how to grow engagement and visibility.
If social media isn’t a core competency for you, then you have two options. (1) Learn to do it by using your own personal brand within the PR community before you offer it to clients. (2) Log in to various social media platforms and Google, and use their search tools – then email links to the ones you feel are a good fit to the client.
This post is a bit longer than I meant to do, so I’m signing off… but for those of you not sure how to find these groups and communities, I’ll post detail on how to find relevant groups another day. Until then, cheers! <clink> Time to get some client work done.