Category: Blog

EVERYONE CAN WRITE, RIGHT?

Everyone can write, right?

Working in PR can be a challenge. There, I’ve said it. Not only has it been the forgotten relative for years when it comes to budget allocation, there is also the fact that people devalue the specialism because ‘everyone can write, right?’.

No longer is the process of putting pen to paper – or words on a page electronically – considered an art. It’s just a thing that is done and because businesses are increasingly told they need to upload content and to share posts, it makes our service a commodity.

At a recent event with the business community in Wakefield, I got chatting to an associate who asked how you make people believe that PR is worth the investment.

PR is more than words on a page

The truth is, PR will deliver but it takes time, effort, experience and the ability to take a step back and to realise it isn’t words on a page. What we produce is compelling content that engages with an audience and resonates.

PR is an incredibly powerful tool when it is used correctly. Good or bad, it can influence thoughts about a brand that could impact on the reputation of that business or individual forever.

People don’t seem to realise that what they share with the media or online reflects their values, what their business stands for and what they hope to achieve in the future. Thanks to search engines and the ability to copy and save, there is no waste paper bin or fish and chip wrapping, this content lasts a lifetime.

Using PR tactics to have a profound impact on business

The beauty of PR and writing quality content is that when it is managed correctly it can have a profound impact on a business and its success. Agencies and in-house specialists were once reliant on the press release, but we now have so many more tactics we can call upon.

The information we need to draft a press release can be used to craft an interesting thought-leadership article for the website, which can then be used to capture sound bites that are shared on social media.

Creating a content schedule means that you can now get the best from every piece of news that you have to share, if you manage the process correctly.

Investing in PR

I’ve lost count of the number of times people have asked me how I coerce our clients into paying for an agency when they could appoint a graduate or get someone in-house. Firstly, we don’t coerce anyone into anything and secondly, if a company wants to invest in the resource needed to deliver a year-round PR campaign then great!

In my experience, when a company does have a dedicated PR or marketing resource, the remit of that person becomes increasingly diverse leaving them to become a Jack of all trades but a master of none.

Unfortunately, PR is still widely misunderstood and that can leave senior managers considering it to be an extension of the admin function, rather than a specialism that could have a significant impact on the organisation and its performance. It goes back to the heading of this blog, the misguided belief that ‘everyone can write, right?’

PR isn’t easy

This is infuriating to PR practitioners that have worked for years to develop their skills and believe in making a difference to the companies that they deliver a service for. Appreciating the time and effort that goes into finding the story, drafting the story, sharing the story and then further elevating that message is not for the faint hearted.

PR isn’t easy. It requires attention to detail, thought, craftsmanship and passion. It takes someone who wants to tell stories in the right way to grasp hold of the information and then shape it in a way that makes it interesting, informative and educational.

I don’t go to work each day looking forward to writing a press release. I go to work feeling excited by what we can achieve when we consider how we will communicate across various platforms for a client and what campaign reach we can secure, which will then support sales.

Back to where we started

Putting pen to paper is a skill that requires thought, attention and experience. Writing compelling copy isn’t easy and it takes time. Identifying a story and pitching it to the right journalist so that it secures coverage can be a challenge. Learning all about topics you have never heard before and writing content that is shared online as a comment piece from a client can be nerve-wracking.

So, going back to where we started, when people do say that ‘everyone can write, right?’, the answer quite simply is no. People can put pen to paper, but it takes a specialist with knowledge and experience to write content that will deliver results.

For more information about the services that we offer, please visit: www.opencomms.co.uk/whatwedo

BUILDING A SUCCESSFUL BRAND

Every day we count our lucky stars knowing that we work with a host of amazing businesses across diverse industries including automotive, recruitment, digital, food manufacturing, architecture and third sector.

Despite our clients operating in such distinct areas, they all have one thing in common; not only do they know how to build a successful brand, they also understand how to maintain that success.

What’s great is that we get to support these organisations and to celebrate their ongoing achievements.

Establishing values

At the start of any brand journey, it’s vital to sit down and think about the bigger picture.

What inspired you to offer your particular product or service? Is there a passion that drives your organisation forward? What issues are important to your business? Which common traits describe your team?

Only with these points addressed can a business truly live, breathe and begin to present a cohesive approach which effectively communicates the brand and its values.

Identifying a brand ‘voice’

Once a company has pinpointed its underlying values, it’s a good time to begin forming a brand voice.

Brainstorming a collection of words which feel ‘right’ is a useful way to start the process. With a bank of vocabulary in place, this can be used as a basis for press releases, website copy and a social media schedule.

Adopting a style of communication which is unique to your business is a great way to add some personality and to give a point of difference which will allow a brand to stand out from the crowd.

A catchy, concise positioning statement

If you could use only one sentence to explain your business, what would it be?

Taking the time to craft a crisp positioning statement which encompasses all that your organisation delivers will help consumers and other businesses to quickly become familiar with the product or service that you offer.

Hierarchy of messaging

With your overarching statement perfected, what other key messages would you like to share about your company?

Perhaps what sets your offering apart is the fact that it is organic, eco-friendly or addresses a problem which has yet to be solved.

Identifying three or four main points will ensure that future communications are prioritised correctly, focusing on the elements which are most important about your product or service.

Authenticity

In today’s world, consumers are savvier than ever. With access to a company’s website, social platforms and any news articles at the touch of a button, it’s important that a brand remains authentic in its approach.

For instance, it’s no good positioning a business as caring about the planet and then using unsustainable materials within the manufacturing process. With social media and on pack guidelines someone will notice, and it could spell a make or break situation for your organisation.

Instead, an honest and open approach which is in line with brand values, is a sure way to build up consumer trust and loyalty.

Right message, right place, right time

In short, it all comes down to communicating key messages to the right people, in the right places and at the right time.

Getting this process correct is imperative if your organisation is to reach its full potential. Here at Open Comms, our guidance has helped a range of leading businesses to build a successful brand.

We’d love to chat about our recommendations for your organisation. With the right support, you could be joining our award-winning clients and celebrating your achievements throughout 2020. For further information, simply give us a call on 01924 862477 or browse our website to learn more.

CAPITAL JINGLE BELL BALL

Usually my weekends revolve around Netflix. This weekend however was different.

I was given the opportunity to attend the UK’s biggest Christmas Party. Capital FM’s Jingle Bell Ball. And wow, what an experience! The long journey down to London was definitely worth it!

The event took place at the O2 and while the arena was massive, there was not one empty seat in sight. It was completely packed. A sold-out event indeed.

Harry Styles, Rita Ora and Liam Payne were just some of the stars that put on one amazing show. I thoroughly enjoyed all performances, but the highlight of my night had to be Stormzy’s set. His energy was infectious and left no one in their seats. Everyone was up and dancing.

I can see why Capital call it the UK’s biggest Christmas Party – it certainly is!

Another favourite moment of mine was when Harry Styles performed What Makes You Beautiful. Although completely unexpected, it was the sweetest surprise. You see, like every other teenage girl in 2011, I was utterly obsessed with One Direction. So, hearing their first ever song after so many years left me regressing and reminiscing over childhood memories.

While it was only brief, it was wonderful.

Granted that performances are a huge part of Capital’s Jingle Bell Ball, it’s not the singers that make the event so incredible. It’s the fact that the show can be enjoyed with the entire family. Unlike other concerts, the Jingle Bell Ball is for everyone. It’s an opportunity to bring family and friends together regardless of age.

Thank you Capital, for arranging such a phenomenal event.

I will absolutely be attending next year.

If you missed the show, not to worry, you can view all the amazing performances here: https://www.capitalfm.com/events/jingle-bell-ball/all-a-z-live-2019/

P.S This is NOT a sponsored post; I just had the best time!!!

‘WORKING’ IN A WINTER WONDERLAND

It’s not quite how the Christmas classic is remembered, however here at Open Comms we are less walking and more working in a Winter Wonderland!

Unique workspaces

Companies up and down the country seem obsessed with trying to come up with the latest innovative ideas to create the most unique workspaces.

Whether it’s a ping pong table, bean bags, themed break-out areas or the brightest and boldest colour schemes; the latest office trends are certainly a far cry from the more traditional desk, chair and computer.

But is designing a weird and wacky office space, which can often be unnecessary and costly, really the best way to create a positive company culture?

Productivity through place

No matter the layout or features, an office is still an office with one main function; a place where we come to work every day.

Also, could it be argued that these ‘unique’ workspaces are a distraction to employees and only likely to get in the way of their daily tasks? Can companies guarantee productivity will improve or at least remain the same?

There has never been such emphasis on the health and wellbeing of the workforce, irrelevant of the company or sector you work in, so it is understandable that these trends will start to top the to-do list for business owners.

With many organisations having undergone such drastic and expensive changes in recent years, it begs the question – are there much simpler ways to create a positive company culture that encourages people to have fun whilst also working?

Deck the halls!

This is something Open Communications does very well!

I walked into the office on Tuesday morning and was starting the day with a smile on my face. Our headquarters in Wakefield had been transformed into a festive winter wonderland.

The impact was immediate as we all embraced the Christmas spirit, gazing at the tinsel, baubles and trees that had brought the office to life and added some festive sparkle and a touch of magic in each room.

With a client list operating across a wide range of industries, daily life at Open Comms can often be fast paced and no two days are the same, so it is fair to say we are a busy bunch. But ever since our office has been immersed by Christmas decorations, there has been a renewed sense of unity and excitement among the team as we are set to finish what has been an extremely productive year.

I really do believe that celebrating occasions such as this can prove to be hugely benefit, not only to individual employees, but also to a company as a whole.

Keeping a good morale among the workplace will mean people enjoy coming to the office every morning and it adds even more anticipation to the Christmas holidays! The happier the employee, the more productive they’ll be.

We will be working hard as ever but enjoying the run up to the Christmas and New Year break surrounded by our decorations and perhaps just a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie or two!

Merry Christmas from all at Open Communications

CHRISTMAS ADVERTS 2019: WHICH FESTIVE OFFERING HAS OUR BELLS JINGLING?

Merry Christmas

With the festive season upon us, it’s no surprise that our television screens have become host to an array of Christmas adverts.

John Lewis, Argos and M&S are amongst the first to share their ad’s, with the hope of igniting that magical feeling that Christmas brings out in us all.

But what makes a great Christmas ad? Well, I conducted a little research to find out what it takes to jingle the bells of those here at Open Comms.

Relatability

Louise’s favourite is the offering from John Lewis.

Featuring Edgar the fire-breathing dragon and his unlikely friend, a little girl, the story showcases the pair’s enduring friendship. Despite Edgar’s many mishaps, which include burning down the community Christmas tree, the duo stick together and eventually impress the villagers by putting Edgar’s fire-breathing talents to good use – lighting the Christmas pudding.

All-in-all an uplifting tale, with a little bit of humour. However, the key, according to Louise, is Edgar’s relatability. He’s far from perfect and gets things wrong from time-to-time, just like the rest of us!

Creativity

This year’s Aldi advert is a Christmas cracker once again – and it’s Lindsey’s favourite!

A little like Robbie Williams, Kevin the Carrot has experienced his yearly revival. If you haven’t seen it yet, think the Greatest Showman but with vegetables, and you won’t go far wrong! Kevin takes on the role of ringmaster while belting out a fantastically festive version of the Robbie Williams classic, Let Meee- eeee Entertain You!

Always a little unexpected, full of fun and creative genius – this year’s offering certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Lindsey also loves the fact that the brand chooses to build on the Kevin the Carrot story year-on-year, successfully bringing in current references to some of the biggest and most successful programmes of the year, while never failing to raise a smile.

But, the icing on the Christmas cake? The advert helps to raise awareness of Aldi’s charity partner, Teenage Cancer Trust. Now that’s real festive spirit in action!

An extra sprinkling of magic

McDonalds perfectly catches the magic of Christmas through a child’s eyes, capturing all of the innocence, imagination and emotion that makes the occasion such a special time of year – and it’s Nick’s advert of choice.

Following the story of a little girl, her ‘reindeer’ and the magic of make-believe, McDonalds has successfully brought to life the elements that make the season so special. Also, depicting realistic family dynamics, the brand has subtly positioned itself as an integral part of the Christmas period.

A surprising but truly endearing angle, this is certainly a top contender!

A touch of nostalgia

Sky is taking many of us back to our childhoods, and Fareeha is particularly impressed with the return of everyone’s favourite alien, ET.

With an especially mysterious start, this ad is definitely a departure from the usual Yuletide brand offerings. Re-visiting ‘Elliot’, who has now grown into a man with a family of his own, ET is introduced to modern life and festive traditions.

Appreciating the nostalgia and the opportunity to reflect on times gone by, Fareeha has placed the Sky advert at the top of her nice list this year.

A sobering message

I have to agree with Lindsey and Nick’s choices this year, Aldi and McDonalds have successfully delivered both entertainment and magic, capturing key elements that make Christmas an extra special time of year.

However, to add a further recommendation to the line-up, The Dogs Trust have put in place a fun creative but with a very serious message. Drawing attention to the fact ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas’, it makes an adorably cute but also incredibly touching contender for Open’s own, Christmas ad of the year 2019.

So, what makes a cracking Christmas advert?

Well, according to the Open team: relatability, creativity, an extra sprinkling of magic, a touch of nostalgia and an important message are the key components for our favourite festive adverts.

Which is your favourite this year?

To hear more of our opinions about his year’s winners and losers in the Christmas advert stakes, check out Lindsey’s review of retailer Argos and why she thinks it has missed the mark here.

THE HUMBLE CATALOGUE AND CHRISTMAS

Argos Christmas Advert

There are few things that say Christmas past like the humble catalogue. Like many families, when we were deciding on our list for Santa Claus, we would reach for the Argos catalogue. It was an annual ritual that signalled the countdown to the arrival of a stocking full of presents.

Pages of toys lay before us as we chose one thing only to replace it by another. We never got bored and would crease the pages to mark the gifts that we finally decided upon.

I hadn’t thought about our Christmas routine for years. Then, out of the blue, I read an article which announced that Argos would be putting the catalogue centre stage. It was to become the focus of their festive advert.

Capturing the magic of Christmas

Thoughts filled my head about how the brand would capture the magic and have us all regressing back to our childhoods. Memories flooded back and I got a warm and fuzzy feeling that made me smile and remember how excited we used to get.

When the advert was posted online, I eagerly clicked and waited for the story to appear before me.

Unfortunately, my excitement was short lived. The advert shows a man looking through the catalogue and finding that his daughter had circled a drum kit. The toy kit comes to life and he is seen playing it before his child joins in.

Missing the mark

The advert isn’t bad per se, but I just feel it has missed the mark. Rather than capturing the feeling that many of us had when we were looking through the catalogue as children, it focuses on the drum kit, and a bear. I’ve since found out the bear is a favourite this year.

The concept for this advert is a stroke of genius and really simple – but the execution just doesn’t do it justice.

Hearing that Amazon has brought out a catalogue makes it clear that Argos has competition. It puts further spotlight on the importance of printed materials. People like to flick through and see pictures. They like to open a humble catalogue and make notes or fold over the corner of pages to mark content of interest.

Owning an experience

Argos has owned this experience for years and could have used this creative as an opportunity to reiterate that it belongs to the brand. Instead it has tried to be all things to all people.

The message should have been simple: the Argos catalogue creates an experience that all children, of all ages can access and enjoy. It’s such a shame that this doesn’t come across in the final piece. Without the narrative, I’m not sure that people would see the significance of the humble catalogue in this advert.

A festive silver lining

While the final piece didn’t blow me away, it has encouraged conversation in the office and perhaps this is all the attention that Argos needs.

I suspect that those that do make the link between the countdown to Christmas and the Argos catalogue will go and pick one up. The truth is that only time will tell if the creative is strong enough to translate into sales.

If you would like to see the advert, then click on the YouTube link below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJNPINhJuJo

HELP JOURNALISTS HELP YOU! A STRUCTURED GUIDE TO FORMATTING PRESS RELEASES

At Open Communications we thrive on delivering result for our clients. The impact of the PR and content marketing campaigns we produce for different brands and businesses can be measured in many ways, but none more so effectively than securing press coverage.

This is the bread and butter of PR!

There is no better way of enhancing an organisations reputation than going straight to the media. And the modest press release still remains an essential tool to make this happen!

The process behind the press release

Although press releases may appear to be straightforward documents, creating a finished article can require a lot of time and work, whether it’s producing a snappy headline; writing the perfect quote for a CEO or seeking final approval from all parties involved. It’s not as easy as it looks.

But once this is all complete, the exciting part begins.

There is no better feeling in PR than sending out a press release to the media, waiting in anticipation to see your hard work shared across multiple news outlets. Conversely, there is no worse feeling than when it doesn’t get any coverage at all.

Creating compelling content   

As journalists are inundated with dozens of press releases every day, you must give them a reason to open your email and then actually read the content inside.

Before you begin writing the press release, you must identify what the most ‘newsworthy’ angle is. This will help you form the headline and introduction to the story and, most importantly, it is what will help the journalist when deciding whether to publish the article or not.

In order to create a news ‘hook’, you need to determine why people would want to read the press release in the first place and then try to make it relevant to as many people as possible. It’s important to remember that you are not just trying to appeal to journalists, but to those who read the publication that they work for.

Newsworthy or not newsworthy that is the question

If a client was completing a significant investment into their business, we’d identify what would appeal to people and encourage them to take time out of their day to click on the article whilst also fulfilling the client’s brief.

Although it may seem obvious to lead with the value of an investment, the impact that this will have on the business may also create an appealing angle and so should not be dismissed.

Hitting the headlines

For instance, a business will want to have a press release written regarding a six-figure investment programme over a 12-month period. Instead of going with a generic investment-led press release, it is worth digging a bit deeper to ask further questions; what are they investing in? How much will the investment be? Will this lead to new job creation?

After initially starting with a story focusing on ‘business announces major investment’, the finished article will have a more enhanced angle, such as ‘x number of IT jobs created following £200,000 investment’.

When a journalist is sent the final email, they will know the story is about job creation in a growing sector following a £200,000 investment. These three aspects will have greater appeal to more media titles than before.

The regional media will be interested in covering it due to the impact the new jobs will have on the local economy; trade media will be attracted to the IT element of the story and the business media will also be pulled in the direction of the investment.

So, not only is more detail revealed about the story just in the headline, but the number of media publications interesting in publishing it will have significantly increased. Ultimately, the final piece should leave you with a newsworthy article that meets with the objectives of all concerned; agency, client and journalist.

Final thoughts

When you manage a press office for a client you can be working on multiple releases at any given time. It’s not just about the content, but as mentioned above, it’s the audience too. Writing with the reader in mind will make all the difference.

A simple tip would be to remember the basics; who, what, when, where and why? If you answer these questions within your first two paragraphs, you should be providing all the information that a journalist needs.

Putting the headline in the subject of the email and making the angle clear will signpost the journalist to exactly what you have to offer. And finally, whenever possible, send an image! The less correspondence a journalist needs to have with you the better your chances are of securing coverage.

CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT HOW OPEN COMMUNICATIONS APPROACHES MEDIA RELATIONS

WAR OF THE WAGS AND A PR CRISIS IN THE MAKING

It’s the debacle that’s had many of us glued to our devices. When Coleen Rooney waged war on Rebekah Vardy for allegedly selling stories about her to The Sun newspaper, people grabbed the popcorn and settled down to enjoy the latest celeb showdown.

Providing the nation with a welcome distraction from Brexit, this comparably light-hearted performance offered a break from the doom and gloom which has dominated the headlines of late.

While I’m not entirely sure what to tell you about Brexit, we can certainly share a lesson or two about public statements, crises and dealing with the media.

Timing is everything

Considering the timing of a statement, press release or media product drop is essential if the message is to be interpreted as intended.

In Coleen’s case, the statement was posted the day before World Mental Health Day. An extremely risky move to say the least. Notable dates have a significant influence on the media agenda and will determine content, so it’s prudent to be mindful.

With mental health in the headlines, the topic was bound to be front of mind with both journalists and their readers. As a result, the timing and nature of Coleen’s statement offered the perfect angle for a journalist to discuss the potential impacts on Vardy’s mental health.

While Coleen appears to have avoided such an issue on this occasion, this could very easily have been a PR crisis in the making.

Consider the wider impact

Whether intentional or not, the behaviour of celebrities influences the actions of others. This kind of public ‘performance’ brings with it a certain level of responsibility and if people are not careful, accountability too.

As prolific users of social media, it’s no surprise that young people are amongst those particularly engrossed in the activities of those in the public eye.  Being followers of the latest trends, children take cues about how to behave from those that they idolise. As a result, there’s no doubt that this method of ‘public shaming’ will be replicated in schools, with potentially disastrous consequences.

What’s more, although it’s entirely understandable that Coleen would feel betrayed – assuming the allegations are true, taking revenge so publicly is precarious territory.

After all, Coleen’s family have endured their fair share of hurtful headlines. The fact is, however guilty Rebekah may or may not be, the implications of exposing a story such as this not only has repercussions for the alleged perpetrator, but also for their family too.

Fact check, and check again

Though Coleen’s investigative techniques have impressed her fans, there are some obvious flaws. Narrowing the possible leak down to just one account, may be rather damning, but what about the people, other than reporters, that Rebekah may have shared the news with?

The truth is, she could just be guilty of being a gossip, who has naively divulged information about Coleen to her friends. And, let’s face it, she wouldn’t be the first person to share a screen shot of someone’s story in a group chat!

For her friends, who may not be in the public eye or have the salary of a football player at their disposal, the lure of a quick buck from a willing red top tabloid may have proved too much.

Of course, there’s also the question of whether Coleen herself has shared her plans with others. A trusted friend or family member could quite easily be the culprit. However unlikely that seems, I’m sure she wouldn’t be the first person to be betrayed in such a way.

Should Coleen’s conclusions turn out to be incorrect, there are bound to be some very red faces and incredibly serious repercussions for her own reputation. Ensuring, without a shadow of a doubt, that any statement is factually correct is absolutely essential.

Plan ahead

Every good PR plan should incorporate an element of crisis planning.

By exploring and identifying areas that could become stumbling blocks, a pro-active PR plan can be put in place to address issues in a timely manner, should they ever arise.

However, it’s always worth remembering that no matter how well prepared you are, it isn’t always possible to see a crisis coming, which is why having professionals on hand to manage a crisis situation can be invaluable.

Navigating unfamiliar territory without professional support is extremely unwise and could have lasting repercussions for your brand or business.

Summary

Reputation takes a long time to build and only a short time to ruin, which is why leaving this important aspect to chance is a perilous strategy.

Making statements to the media is a serious business. Unfortunately, once something has been said so publicly, it is very difficult to take back. That’s why it is important to get it right the first time.

Working in PR involves being cautious, taking time to plan and having a wider understanding of issues that impact upon a brand or business.

Utilising the skills of those who are qualified to advise on issuing statements, press releases or managing a PR crisis is essential if your number one asset, your hard-earned reputation, is to remain intact.

LOVING LINKEDIN

Lindsey Davies LinkedIn

I have to admit I’m loving LinkedIn. I’ve had a bit of crush on the platform for some time now. I like the fact that it is a social channel that has a definitive audience with a clear purpose.

There have been some fall outs over the years, as people have posted personal updates and others have made it their mission to ‘police’ the professional platform. However, I still feel it is a positive space to connect with others.

It is now very much a ‘go to’ for recruiters and individuals to showcase their talents, achievements and expertise.

Leaving the trolls behind

The conversations on LinkedIn focus on finding new contacts and sharing work-based content with a network that you have pre-approved. In order to share with someone, you first must make them a connection. This limits the amount of spam and unsolicited messages you receive.

As well as ensuring the information you access is interesting and relevant, this approach also leaves the trolls at the door. Twitter has become a breeding ground for bad behaviour, which requires governance and endless monitoring. In contrast, LinkedIn is able to build its credibility as a platform of choice for business.

Simple and effective

One of the first things I do each morning is scan through my LinkedIn feed. There is always an abundance of content and it varies depending on who has posted. Given the industry I work in, there is no consistency about who I follow; if I find a person or brand interesting then I will follow or connect.

It’s not unusual for me to wake up to someone posting an amazing view from a run or a report that looks at category insight about a given market. Both give me a reason to read, consider and reflect.

Posting to LinkedIn is simple and accessing a profile from the app has improved over the years. Reiterating it as a tool of choice for companies, at most events there is an option to scan a name badge and connect with someone through a QR code.

Not only does this reiterate the importance of LinkedIn for individuals and organisations but it also showcases how easy it is to use.

Posts and articles

What I like most about LinkedIn is the articles. As someone that writes for a living this will come as no surprise. What appeals to me most is that I can share my thoughts and opinions while also receiving clear analytics.

Unlike some social media channels, LinkedIn has the credibility that comes from relying on people to input their own professional information. This leads to fewer dormant or ‘fake’ accounts and more people that genuinely want to connect and converse.

Knowing those that I am connected with means that when someone leaves a comment or likes my article I will respond. This then leads to genuine and meaningful discussion. There is no harm in having a point of view and I find LinkedIn a more balanced place to do this.

I try to share an article at least once a month and have mixed them up a bit recently. Some focus on business and others are more personal. I don’t feel there is any harm in this as the objective is the same; people get to learn more about me and the way that I work.

Making the most of company pages

As an agency we manage company pages for our clients and provide advice and guidance on personal profiles. For me, once your profile is updated, it’s all about posting regular updates and spending five to ten minutes liking other information you have found useful.

I have met lots of people that have explained how they ‘don’t know how to do LinkedIn’ but the truth is that you don’t have to. The platform does much of it for you and will guide you through the steps to becoming an ‘All Star’.

You can then take your time working out the rest and can pay to become a premium member if you choose.

As well as updating your status, it is important to remember your company page. This is a reflection of your business to the outside world and gives employees a chance to share their thoughts and feelings about an organisation.

With this comes an authenticity that is rarely found elsewhere. Although company pages can be monitored and posts can be removed, they are often a true indication of the culture at a company. This is reflective of employees and what they share.

It is also a fantastic tool for building an employer brand and encouraging the best talent to your organisation. After all, if you employees are sharing the positives about your business, you don’t have to.

Grouping together

You can also join groups on LinkedIn, comment on articles and share links to external web pages that could add some value for those that are following you.

Again, the beauty about LinkedIn for me is that it is simple, effective and professional.

As someone that isn’t looking for a change of career or a new job, some people may ask why I bother with the platform. The truth is I know that many of my contacts visit the site and access the content that I share. As such, like any social channel, it is a valuable way for me to share news from the business.

Engaging with groups isn’t something I do as often as I should. I am a member of some groups but prefer to use them to read articles or links that are shared as opposed to creating relationships that are exclusively online.

One group I have been a member of for years is the Yorkshire Mafia. I joined because I thought it sounded interesting and slightly controversial. More importantly, the philosophy of the group that we are ‘stronger together’ also stood out for me.

With 22,000 pre-approved members it has a strong following and has been commended as one of the most productive groups on LinkedIn. I would recommend that anyone who just wants to join a positive and informative community of people takes the time to join.

Making the time

As with everything, updating LinkedIn takes time and any post that you share will be potentially available to world. So, while it may be easy to update your status, the same rules apply as to any channel.

My recommendation would be to set aside five or ten minutes a day and to review the content on your feed before liking, sharing and then updating your own status.

It doesn’t have to take hours and shouldn’t become a chore. If you set out with the mindset that it is part of your business processes, and a way to access information you may otherwise never have come across, then you lead with the benefits.

Looking to the future

I’m not sure what the future holds for LinkedIn. It is certainly a recruiters’ dream, and I can see why. Some of the updates I have had access to from the company, such as insights, have been developed with this audience in mind but there will be others in the pipeline.

Given I started this by saying I’m loving LinkedIn, I urge people to use the space to listen, learn and share. Given the updates that have been made to the functionality over the last year, I would expect further exciting features and updates are yet to come.

Only time will tell, but I believe LinkedIn has a great opportunity to take ownership and become the social channel for business. Whether a competitor comes along is to be debated, but it will take something special to catch my eye.