Protect Your Personal Professional Brand

Students need to be aware that future recruiters would leverage social media to learn more about them, and that they should immediately ensure their Facebook accounts were set to private. After all, did they really want their job application rejected because the recruiter was able to see that they behaved inappropriately on Spring Break?

LinkedIn LogosIn early January, I was invited by my alma mater to speak to a group of students and their alumni mentors about building a personal brand. In the presentation, I spoke specifically about how students needed to be aware that future recruiters would leverage social media to learn more about them, and that they should immediately ensure their Facebook accounts were set to private. After all, did they really want their job application rejected because the recruiter was able to see that they behaved inappropriately on Spring Break?

One of the other major social media sites I discussed was LinkedIn – and why they should care about how their professional brand is conveyed to colleagues, employers and future employers. But it seems that lesson is lost on many professionals, as demonstrated by recent commentary on LinkedIn’s news feed with regards to posts by Candice Galek, CEO and founder of Bikini Luxe.

To give Ms. Galek credit, her posts leverage LinkedIn’s social media tools for promoting one’s business or service. In a collection of updates/articles, Ms. Galek posts a somewhat risqué image of a model in a bikini and asks readers the question “Is This Appropriate for LinkedIn?”

Not surprisingly, the original post scored more than 500 comments, both pro and con. But what disturbed me the most was how inappropriate many of the comments were – and NOT from an anonymous user name.

Since LinkedIn requires you to be logged in to comment, any post you make clearly designates who you are, your title and the company that you represent.

I could not believe how immature and unprofessional many of the comments were – and how it altered my view of those who made them.

After reading about two dozen of the more disgusting comments, I sadly realized that our society has not really evolved one iota. But more importantly, those who posted lewd and sexist commentary have forever tarnished their professional brand images. And that’s not just my opinion.

As Ms. Galek herself reported, one senior vice president of business development sent her a LinkedIn mail advising her that one of his prospects had taken note of his bikini post commentary and advised him that he was no longer going to pursue their biz dev conversation.

Since Bikini Luxe is a legitimate business, they have every right to use the media channels at their disposal to further their communications objectives. And, as surprising as it was to see a scantily clad model in my LinkedIn newsfeed, Ms. Galek is entitled to use business-appropriate content to engage prospects (she is, after all, in the swimwear business).

But I might suggest that business professionals think twice before being lured into making a comment (even if you’re thinking it, do you really want your superiors, peers, employees, clients and future employers to know your thoughts?). Or should I just chalk it up to “boys will be boys?”

Your Job Search Is Like a Marketing Plan

The modern-day job search is not like it used to be. Long gone are the days of applying for jobs online and getting calls for interviews. Depending who you ask, there’s only a 2 to 4 percent response rate for posted positions. Yet, so many people start their job search this way because that is what they know. Essentially, what they are doing is marketing without a plan.

Job SearchA client recently came to me frustrated.  He had been applying for jobs for about a month and was not getting any traction/response. In the past he had never had a problem, and he couldn’t figure out what might be going wrong. From my experience, I know he is not alone in his thinking.

The modern-day job search is not like it used to be. Long gone are the days of applying for jobs online and getting calls for interviews. Depending who you ask, there’s only a 2 to 4 percent response rate for posted positions. Yet, so many people start their job search this way because that is what they know. Essentially, what they are doing is marketing without a plan.

When I first got introduced to direct mail 15-plus years ago, I was told, “Direct mail is like the salesman that lands in your mailbox.” Well, this scared the heck out of me, because I was coming from a graphic design job and knew nothing about sales. Yet, those words always resonate with me whenever I plan marketing campaigns. In job search, it’s really no different. Your LinkedIn profile, resume and cover letter are your sales team. And they are going to help your ideal employer find you.

So, you really need to run your job search like a marketing campaign. Let’s walk through the critical components of a campaign. Then I’ll show you how it translates to job search.

1. The Target = Your Ideal Company and Position
You would never go to market without knowing who your target audience is. So why would you launch a job search without knowing where you want to end up? Everyday I see people launch their job searches by updating their resumes and then blasting them everywhere. In reality, it pays to take the time to figure out where you want to be.

Just like you have buyer personas for your company’s products, you need a company persona for your job search. With your company persona in mind, it will be easier to write your career marketing materials. Answer questions like these when creating your company persona:

  • What industry?
  • What size company (staff and revenue)?
  • Agency or Corporate?
  • B-to-B or B-to-C?
  • What type of culture are you looking for?

Once you have your company persona, start researching companies that fit your description. Find out what their pains are and how you can solve those pains.

If you want to go a step further, write out your ideal job description. It can serve as a guide when you’re wondering if you should apply for a posted position.

  • What title do you want?
  • Who do you want to report to?
  • What type of projects do you want to work on?
  • Do you want to manage or be an individual contributor?

Now, you truly have your target defined. Then instead of searching for a job, you’ll search for companies with specific challenges you know you can solve!

Your Secret Weapon for Amplification: Employees!

There are sales enablement programs, partner and channel enablement programs and even influencer enablement programs. Why are there then, so few employee enablement programs—especially when both the knowledge of the company and the CRM/integrated marketing technology is already in use?

There are sales enablement programs, partner and channel enablement programs and even influencer enablement programs. Why are there then, so few employee enablement programs—especially when both the knowledge of the company and the CRM/integrated marketing technology is already in use?

Very few companies fully engage employees in the work of connecting with customers, prospects and new markets, according to a 2014 Altimeter Group survey of HR and marketing executives. Only 41 percent of respondents reported having a strategic approach for employee engagement, and just 43 percent say they have a culture of trust and empowerment. Yet, Altimer finds that company who do engage employees in a purposeful digital outreach enjoy measurable business impact, greater reach and improved customer satisfaction.

One of the biggest factors in this untapped opportunity, according to the report, is that most employees don’t have a clear understanding of what they can or should share on behalf of the brand. As a result, most stay quiet.

A quick way to measure the impact on your business is to assess the variance between the collective reach of your employees on LinkedIn, Twitter or Pinterest and the number of fans and followers on your branded corporate pages. That delta is your opportunity-every professional post or pin by an employee is an opportunity to connect people back to your corporate properties.

Of course a purposeful approach to empowering employees must be respectful of everyone’s personal brand and voice. Forcing people to stiffly spout the company line will not only backfire in terms of employee loyalty, it will be a turn off for readers. The engagement has to be authentic in order to resonate.

The technology is here-in the past decade there has been a plethora of new digital tools for helping employees connect with each other and with their professional communities. Many tools are embedded in the CRM and sales enablement tools already in use for outside engagement. Why aren’t people using them internally? Perhaps because the presence of a tool itself is not enough-to create business value the tools must be accessible, helpful and aligned with the business culture.

Marketers who want employee engagement must develop a repeatable and respectful plan for advocacy:

  • Cross-Functional Reach:
    While sales, marketing and service teams often advocate for the business as part of their job descriptions, employees across the organization can also be incentivized to participate. Making these activities a win-win for the employee and the employer is key to participation.
  • Training:
    Most employees would be happy to support a respectful program, but truly do not know what to say. Setting clear boundaries and sharing sample messaging is a start, but also be explicit about the “how to” aspects. Encourage employees to make the message personal-and thus of higher impact-by translating the corporate message into their own voice.
  • Culture of Mutual Respect:
    Employees who cannot be trusted with confidential information also can’t be expected to fully engage in any innovation or forward-thinking programs. If this is the case for your organization, then your culture may not be a fit for employee engagement.
  • Content:
    Most businesses are publishers today-from blogs to social media to customer service scripts. These are rich sources for content that can be easily shared and amplified through employee engagement.

Creating active and visible employees may give some managers pause. Altimer recommends encouraging personal brand building anyway, claiming the risk is low that top talent will be poached. The opposite is usually true, the report says. Employees build a sense of pride and connectedness, and become invested in the company success.

Beyond email signatures and call center scripts, how is your company tapping the rich network of your employees to build the brand, amplify messaging and generate leads? Are your employees already active participants in sharing your company brand story? If so, how can you bring that forward into a more purposeful program? Share your challenges and ideas in the comments section.

The One Thing LinkedIn Experts Won’t Tell You That Always Nets Sales and Interviews

Making LinkedIn generate more job interviews (sell your personal brand) or leads for your business is all about how you think about what you already know-not new information about social media. Contrary to what “the experts” say, knowing how to set up an engaging LinkedIn group or rock solid profile isn’t the end game. Nor is pushing content marketing (blogs, webinars, etc.) out onto LinkedIn going to create results. The key to success is actually rooted in creative thinking-something most of us have accidentally shoved aside.

Making LinkedIn generate more job interviews (sell your personal brand) or leads for your business is all about how you think about what you already know-not new information about social media. Contrary to what “the experts” say, knowing how to set up an engaging LinkedIn group or rock solid profile isn’t the end game. Nor is pushing content marketing (blogs, webinars, etc.) out onto LinkedIn going to create results. The key to success is actually rooted in creative thinking-something most of us have accidentally shoved aside.

The Excuse
I know, I know … “Jeff, I don’t have time to get creative with social media. I’m being deluged with information about social media. I can hardly come up for air between getting it done (blogging, posting, updating, monitoring) and keeping up with what’s new … it’s taking up all of my time.”

I hear you. I felt the same way. That is until I met people who think about this challenge differently. People who are successfully generating leads and sales on platforms like LinkedIn using an unusual strategy: Taking a breath and getting creative. This approach even helped me recently recover my stolen wallet!

The Proof

If you read me regularly you know of the success stories-B-to-C and B-to-B companies like Logan Services, AnchorBank and others. I often present their success principles in the form of specific strategies. You’ve heard me say things like, “The best next step to getting the most out of LinkedIn is to surround yourself with what you already know about customers and find ways to leverage what you are already doing (outside of social media) that effectively creates and nurtures leads.” And some of you have written to me saying, in essence, “Great, I’m sold… what’s the next step?”

The Next Step: Simple, Fun & Empowering
Ignore the din of LinkedIn experts and start valuing fundamental marketing principles that you already know work. This is the path toward tapping into your own, personal creativity. Yes, for many this is a leap of faith. Yet faith is the starting point for accumulation of all riches (thank you Napoleon Hill!).

We marketers are too reliant on short-cuts and quick fixes when it comes to strategies like content marketing on LinkedIn. We don’t trust our instincts and end up taking the half-baked advice of experts pitching juvenile ideas like being “more human” or “likeable.”

How I Generated Sales on LinkedIn Last Week
I recently posted a handful of stories and interviews on my website discussing how home improvement businesses are using social media to create leads and sales. I then joined related LinkedIn groups. Within a few days I spotted a discussion on a Kitchen Cabinet industry group where I could answer a question in a way that demonstrated the specific valuable answers I was offering … in a way that tempted Group members to both email me for more details and click onward to my site to acquire the knowledge. The results rolled in: Lots of industry-specific leads and a handful of sales!

I got creative. I created valuable content (answers), then looked for people demonstrating need for it and finally provided answers in ways that created cravings for more of what I had to share (encouraged interaction).

How I Found My Stolen Wallet
I recently had my wallet stolen out of a gym locker-the guy stole my pants while I was in the shower! Gym management didn’t care or help. So I started thinking creatively-like a criminal! I immediately realized that my adversary would unload those jeans first. Hence, my trip to the dumpster alongside the building produced my jeans-sans wallet. But I wasn’t done. I wanted my wallet and was sure the thief was after my cash (only). A trip to the local train stop (my thief’s mode of transportation, I wagered) and a glance in a trash can revealed my wallet. All of its contents with the exception of my cash, which I had already kissed-off anyway, were intact.

What did creative thinking get me? I found my charge cards, debit card, drivers license and even a train pass intact! All because I stopped reacting and started thinking about what I already knew was likely true. This guy didn’t want to get caught with my stuff!

Rise Above the Drones
It’s worth mentioning that my local police department was of little help during this upsetting event. In fact they didn’t think my dumpster-diving ideas were worth pursuing! Again, lack of creative thinking. How has creative thinking spurred success in your business life? How can you start using your ability to think creatively right now to create results in LinkedIn or on other social platforms?