Steve Bauer
Senior Vice President & Partner
(This post originally appeared as an article on Steve Bauer’s LinkedIn profile)

Recently I worked with my PR industry colleagues to host an intimate “Fireside Chat” with Blair Decembrele, Director of Editorial Marketing and Consumer Communications at LinkedIn exclusively for members of the PR Council. More than 40 industry professionals from agencies of all sizes came together to discuss how social media is changing and the implications for the communications industry.

As co-chair of the PR Council’s Digital Community, it was a welcome opportunity to meet with other PR agency leaders (including many old friends) and connect for a common goal of elevating the role of the PR industry overall.

Blair Decembrele, Director of Editorial Marketing and Consumer Communications and Gregg Greenberg of the C-Suite Network speak at the PR Council’s Fireside Chat on Oct. 16.

The chat, moderated by Gregg Greenberg of the C-Suite Network, reminded me that as PR professionals we’re at the forefront of the ever-evolving communications landscape and we are in a unique leadership position to help companies and their executives cultivate meaningful relationships with key stakeholders on platforms like LinkedIn.

Social media is certainly not new, but despite its widespread use, many business professionals are still missing out on the opportunity to build their personal brand and demonstrate thought leadership on LinkedIn.

Blair’s advice to the industry leaders was particularly validating as it reinforced a lot of the key principles I regularly share with my clients about the common mistakes to avoid on LinkedIn:

Mistake #1: NOT having a professional LinkedIn profile. This applies to all business professionals but especially to executives. According to a recent Forbes article, 61% of Fortune 500 CEOs have no presence on social media at all. Before meeting a new client, partner or prospect, I typically do a quick Google search to learn more about them (knowing they’re probably doing the same to learn more about me). LinkedIn is usually one of the top links that appear above the fold. (Go ahead, Google yourself. What shows up in the top 5 links?). A high quality, up to date LinkedIn profile is a must-have for any business professional. When someone has an incomplete or outdated profile it’s is a poor reflection on the individual as well as the company.

Mistake #2: NOT focusing on business objectives. LinkedIn has evolved from an online resume and rolodex (still true) to become a powerful content engine. In the last few years LinkedIn opened its platform up to allow all users to share both long and short form content. Many professionals have an updated profile, but they fail to take advantage of this opportunity to build deeper connections with their community and drive business results through content and engagement. But publishing content that isn’t tied to specific and measurable business goals can be a waste of limited time and resources. Don’t just create content for the sake of filling an editorial calendar. Define your goals and then create stories that are mutually beneficial to both you and your audience.

Mistake #3: NOT knowing (and growing) your audience. Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Instead, hone in on a very specific audience and find ways to deliver value to them. Building relationships and trust with a small but powerful and influential audience is way more impactful than generating massive reach with people who could care less about your company or your story. Actively look for ways to grow your network and cultivate relationships with people that matter to you and your business.

Mistake #4: NOT having a point of view. Sharing links to articles from third party sources may be helpful to your audience but if you don’t add your own perspective then it does nothing to position you as a thought leader. When sharing content from other sources, find ways to bring value to your community by letting them know what you think about the articles you share.

Mistake #5: NOT discussing trending topics/issues for fear of criticism. In the age of CEO activism, audiences are hungry for more transparency and they feel a stronger connection with organizations and their leaders that take a stand on issues that matter to them. According to our recent FleishmanHillard “Navigating Zero Gravity” report, 61% of people believe it’s important for companies to express their views (on topics beyond their core business) — even when consumers disagree with their position. And as Blair pointed out in the Fireside chat, “unlike other social networks, LinkedIn is a self-regulating community.” Because people’s comments are tied to their professional profile, disagreements on LinkedIn tend to be more sophisticated and civilized.

Mistake #6: NOT creating content that’s custom for the platform. Unlike hosting your own blog, there’s no pressure to publish on LinkedIn. Take advantage of LinkedIn’s native video capabilities. Experiment with long-form articles. But only post when the content is relevant for your audience. Blair’s advice for the PR pros in the room was to “focus on quality over quantity. Do fewer things better. Save the cat pictures and ‘click to buy’ messages for other social networks.”

Mistake #7: NOT engaging LinkedIn’s editorial board. LinkedIn’s editor-in-chief, Dan Roth, oversees the platform’s editorial board of 50 journalists around the globe. Dan and his team are creating, curating and cultivating original stories about timely and relevant topics that matter to business professionals. Find ways to connect with them and help tell a new side to the story that isn’t being told.

While the platforms and the technology continue to evolve, social media is ultimately about two things: relationships and storytelling. These are the core of what PR and communications is all about. The After hearing Blair and Gregg talk about the changing landscape and the direction that LinkedIn is heading, I’m more confident than ever that PR and communications professionals will continue to lead the way in the future.