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Howard Bragman on the PR Value of the New LinkedIn ‘Influencers’

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One of this week’s more intriguing stories is LinkedIn’s decision to allow more writers and thinkers to self-publish long-form pieces and follow others who aren’t in their networks. As part of this update, the network will also expand the ranks of its “Influencers.”

In a post on the announcement, head of content products Ryan Roslansky went so far as to call the new LinkedIn “The Definitive Professional Publishing Platform“, and the forum’s PR team has some stats to back up that claim:

  • There are more than 277 million LinkedIn members worldwide—and they work in more than 149 different fields
  • On average, an Influencer post is viewed by 31,000 professionals, gets more than 250 likes and 80 comments

To get some perspective on what this move means for the industry, we spoke to top PR “Influencer” Howard Bragman of Fifteen Minutes, who’s been in the news quite a bit lately thanks, in part, to his work with a certain football player.

The most important question: how does one become an “Influencer”, and how does the position work?

“They reached out to me and said, ‘Do you want to be an influencer? We have people like Barack Obama, Richard Branson and Deepak Chopra.’ I was like ‘You want me?’ I certainly have visibility; I’m on TV a lot and I’m sure they noticed that.

It’s been a great experience. I’ve been an ‘Influencer’ for about a year, I do a post every couple of months, and they don’t rush me or anything.”

What about the editorial process? 

“I send each draft to them ahead of time and get comments, but most of the time it’s relatively minor. Sometimes they’ll suggest ‘how about post on this’, and if it interests me I will, but the posts are what I want to talk about.”

Have you scored media placements or otherwise expanded your reach thanks to your Influencer pieces?

“I get more followers on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook; it’s the social media circle.

Some of my posts on hot topics like Paula Deen and Michael Sam have been picked up by other publications, but honestly I’m happy if it stays on LinkedIn, because I don’t have many forums to write longer pieces. I love HuffPo, but they’re so content rich that sometimes your posts don’t get the visibility. At LinkedIn they’re very aggressive about supporting you.

They get it; they offer my posts to media outlets, etc. When I proposed a Michael Sam post, the email back read ‘Absolutely.’

The value is greater for my clients, though. So many times on Facebook and Twitter it’s hard to find a person, but on LinkedIn it’s the opposite—these are real people and real communicators.”

As an Influencer, though, you have a guaranteed forum.

“Exactly. That’s the new world, where you don’t necessarily need a journalist to share your point of view. I’m one of those guys who straddles the line between journalism and PR anyway.”

What suggestions do you have for posting content on LinkedIn?

“I try to consider my audience and offer broader lessons for business. In the case of Michael Sam, it was a more ‘business-y’ story, and it worked well.”

It’s true that most LinkedIn posters won’t have the reach or influence of a Howard Bragman, but that’s the very reason they chose him as an Influencer in the first place. At the same time, the new self-publishing and follow features do allow less prominent personalities to become their own mini-Influencers.

You’ll probably have to contact LinkedIn PR if you’d like your client to be the next Suze Orman. (And you might want to start with DKC.)

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