What You’ll Learn

LinkedIn provides utilities and broadband providers with an important audience segment they may not reach elsewhere. How can communicators make the most of that opportunity for their company and their own personal brand?

Guest Speaker

Karrie Carnes

Show Notes

Transcripts have been lightly edited for clarity and readability.


Intro: A production of Pioneer Utility Resources. StoryConnect, helping communicators discover ideas to shape their stories and connect with their customers.

Andy Johns: What are some dos and don’ts for your brand and yourself on LinkedIn? That’s what we’ll be talking about on this episode of StoryConnect: The Podcast. My name is Andy Johns, your host, and I’m joined on this episode by Karrie Carnes, who is the public affairs specialist with the Bonneville Power Administration. Karrie, thanks for joining me.

Karrie Carnes: Hey, Andy, it’s great to be here. Great to hear you again. It’s been a little bit since the NIC.

Andy Johns: So Karrie and I met at the NIC, and I don’t know, this may happen to the listeners too, but if you ever meet somebody, and you realize pretty quick they have more coolness in like their little pinky finger than you do in your whole self, that’s what it was like when I met Karrie. She was a part of three panels at the NIC. She led the yoga in the mornings. I mean, just a cool speaker, a cool person. Glad to meet you and glad that you were able to record with us on this one. We’re going to be talking about LinkedIn, because that was one of the sessions Karrie did. That was her NIC talk. And we’re going to talk about both the brand and the business side and a little bit about the personal side as well. So, Karrie, let’s dive in. What are some things that are some of the very basics if somebody’s organization or their utility is not involved in LinkedIn, where do they start?

Karrie Carnes: Right. Well, I will back up and link this back to the NIC. So one of the things I did when I was talking to people, and imagine, if you will. So I asked the room of attendees, I said, “Raise your hand if you have a personal LinkedIn page.” And every single person in the room raised their hand. And then I said, “Put your hands down.” And then I asked, “How many of you have a business page?” And some hands kind of went up and then some kind of waffled. Because here we are with communicators, and they weren’t even sure if their company had a company profile on LinkedIn. Now, I’d already done my homework, and I found out about maybe two-thirds of the people had company pages or the businesses there, the utilities and organizations had a company page. But that was still a lot of folks that didn’t.

Andy Johns: Yeah.

Karrie Carnes: And some of them had something that I deemed even worse than not having a company page, and that’s having something called an unclaimed page. And what that means is that there’s people on LinkedIn, often usually employees, that are already talking about your company, and you’re not getting credit for that. You’re not even on there, so that if they talk about you, and they try to tag you, it’s going nowhere. And so I really encourage people out of the gate, you know, if they were looking for high level or super deep dive, it’s like you have to crawl before you run. And so really just making sure that you have a LinkedIn company page. And if people are saying, “Oh, I don’t need that. Our audience isn’t on LinkedIn. Our audience is our customers, and that’s not where we would interface with them.” Well, we can either talk about that now or talk about that later why every business should be on LinkedIn. Even if you don’t think you need to be on LinkedIn as a company, you need to be on LinkedIn.

Andy Johns: Yeah, let’s jump in there and talk about the audience. So when the social media stats that we’ve got, when you’re talking about the consumers of either a rural broadband provider or of a utility, Facebook is still, from what we’ve seen, Facebook is still the 800 pound gorilla. You know, it’s still where most of the eyeballs are. But LinkedIn has turned from something that people only look at when they’re looking at a job, to being a pretty, pretty solid professional network. And it sounds like, as you’re saying, a place where businesses need to be.

Karrie Carnes: They do. And so like many things in life, you need to swallow the bitter pill that it’s not all about you. And so you’re – I don’t mean you personally, Andy, but just in general, as communicators –

Andy Johns: You know, if the shoe fits, I’ll wear it.

Karrie Carnes: So LinkedIn is. Yes, it is absolutely about job hunters. And so I do want to talk about that just briefly, because we know as an industry, I think we’ve seen the stats that a lot of our industry is retiring, and how do we attract new talent to public power, to the energy industry as a whole, to the utility industry? And so we should be on LinkedIn for prospective job hunters to attract high quality talent, we need to be on LinkedIn. But the other reason that I believe that all companies should be on LinkedIn is it’s also about your employees. LinkedIn and having a company page, having an identity that that employee can tie themselves to professionally, it’s about pride. It’s about ownership. And so it’s not totally about you; it’s about your employees. And so if you kind of put your employees in the center of this, giving them a place to recognize themselves as an employee of your company, there’s, again, we can talk more about all the opportunities there, but think really about your employees. Not necessarily your ratepayers, your customers, but your employees and your prospective hires. Those are really the audiences. And as with any good communications, you know, segment your audiences. You know, you might use Twitter for one thing, outages. You might use Facebook for outages, plus some feel good stuff. And then LinkedIn, add that to your toolbox and segment your audience further into employees and prospective hires.

Andy Johns: Sure. Let’s dive into your presentation a little bit more. So what are some dos and don’ts or some good examples of what you’ve seen folks doing? You know, let’s dive in a little deeper. Once you decide that it’s where you need to be and you claim your page, then what?

Karrie Carnes: Sure thing. What I’ll call the low hanging fruit, and I know that that is like, so overplayed as a term, just like, put it in the parking lot, put a pin in it. All right, low hanging fruit. Please, if you’re only going to spend a little bit of time on LinkedIn, at the bare minimum, just optimize your page. And what optimizing means is have your logo make sense, right. So there’s always this option. You can think about your personal LinkedIn page. You’ve usually headshot and a banner photo. Well, it’s the same thing for a company page. You put your logo, that’s what I would recommend, your logo in that kind of where your profile photo would go and your banner photo. And don’t just throw any old banner photo up. This is pretty prime real estate. And at the NIC, I took my time in advance – you know, know your audience – and I actually combed through all the the LinkedIn accounts of the companies that were attending the NIC. And I called out Umatilla Electric. I thought that their banner photo spoke volumes. And it wasn’t just a pretty picture. Not that there’s anything wrong with pretty pictures, but it was, what I believe was, a group photo of all of their employees. And to me, I was like, you know what? If I’m an employee, I can see myself in this.

Karrie Carnes: And if I’m a prospective employee, I can also potentially see myself in this. So for their audience and for LinkedIn, I felt like they really nailed the banner photo. It’s also an opportunity as you’re optimizing, just have your website. Have your URL in there. I don’t know if you ever go, think about going to a website and maybe for a restaurant. And you’re trying to find their phone number, their hours of operation, you know, the really basic stuff. So think of it that way. If somebody stumbles upon your page, what do you need to give them? Is it your website, your outage? Again, I wouldn’t say, like don’t mix the audiences, but at a minimum maybe have it linked to if you have a careers page. Like you know company .org, .com /careers. That would be a great one to put in that website section, that field. And then you’re about section. So at a bare minimum, the about section can be where you put other information like your phone number, your lobby hours, but also maybe your values. So this is your snapshot. Think of it almost like your dating profile. And so if you’re not going to do anything, if you’re like, you know, Karrie, this is great, but I don’t really have a whole lot of time.

Karrie Carnes: Like, I’m not only wearing the communications kind of marketing hat, customer relations, legislative affairs, I’m wearing so many hats. Then do yourself and your company a favor and just logo, banner photo, website, about section, done. But if you want to dive a little deeper, I just want to throw out a couple of stats. I know stats are kind of hard on podcast, but I’ll just share one. Engaged employees. So again, if we’re segmenting our audience and we’re realizing that LinkedIn is about our employees, engaged employees are 14 times more likely to share their organization’s LinkedIn content. So I don’t have the comparison of, let’s say, Facebook, but I’m pretty darn sure that it’s a lot higher. Because you have to think about it. Your employees are going there for a particular reason. You know, maybe they’re job hunting, maybe they’re not. Maybe they’re teeing themselves up to look like an expert or a thought leader. And they’re going to want to curate their own content, and they’re going to want to share it from reputable sources that include their own company. So if you do have the bandwidth, like maybe you’re like, “Hey, Karrie. I wear all those hats, but I do have the bandwidth to actually start putting stuff out on LinkedIn. Maybe, what should I put out?”

Karrie Carnes: I wouldn’t recommend outage. I would keep kind of like that clearly delineated, like let’s keep outage communications separate. But this would be, if you’re doing, if you’re out in the community if your member meetings, like maybe those the photos of people whether it’s they’re handing out LED light bulbs or maybe you’ve got great events that you do in the community during the holidays or, you know, these type of giveback or donation drives or whatever you do. Or people in the field, if you’ve got your line crews or the people at the front desk who are your front line customer service reps, this is also an opportunity to even consider creating new content, which I know nobody wants to have more work added to their plate. But for example, at BPA, we do employee profiles and team profiles, and we really want to humanize the work that we do. And the best way to do that is to put a face with, in our instance, a federal agency, but to put a face with your company. So be thinking about your audiences when you post to LinkedIn, because obviously if you post photos of your customer service reps on LinkedIn and you know, you say something great about them, they’re most likely to share that.

Andy Johns: True. I’ve always said one of my basic tenets of marketing and communications is that your website can tell people what you do, but your social media feeds is where you tell them who you are. And so a lot of that on, like you’re saying, share employees, even down to the pictures, all that makes a lot of sense. So we’ve talked a lot about the brand and kind of the business and utility side. Are there some things that folks could do, whether they are looking for a job or not? What are some of the things that you’ve seen folks do on the personal side of their their profile that you would consider either best practices or some things to do and potentially some not to do?

Karrie Carnes: Right. So for your personal brand, very similarly, you want to kind of just optimize your page, ideally because, eventually, someday you might be job hunting, even if you’re not actively job hunting. Think about the photos that represent you. You know, skew to something professional, you know, maybe not you in sunglasses with a beer in your hand, I’ll just say it.

Andy Johns: Right.

Karrie Carnes: But I feel like when LinkedIn first came about, which fun fact it actually predated Facebook. It is a little bit older than Facebook. It is.

Andy Johns: That would have been a trivia question that I lost. That’s a good one.

Karrie Carnes: Yes. But, you know, people were like, oh, I need connections. I need connections. I would still say that’s true. Like, go through. There was I’m guilty. I would say, don’t go to my LinkedIn page. Do as I say, not as I do. It’s one of those things where I follow a lot of social media best practices, and I know them, and I learn them, and I absorb them, and I share them, but I don’t always put them in practice. Confession. But think about an attention grabbing description. For example, how your title, your current title kind of that above the fold about section I can’t remember. So okay my title with the government. I could be with the government 100 years and my title may never change because that’s the way it works. It’s public affairs specialist. That doesn’t tell you anything about what I do, but I think I have something along the lines of digital storyteller and dot connector or people connector. That tells you something. So get creative with the way you brand yourself on LinkedIn. And then I would say. Absolutely, make those connections. Don’t shy away because I no longer think that when people requested, “Oh, I want to connect with someone,” people immediately thought like, “Oh gosh, what do they want from me? Are they job hunting? Am I going to have to write a reference like, what is this?” And now I see it a lot more socially.

Karrie Carnes: And in fact what I’m loving about LinkedIn and what I’ve heard, not only heard from people, but also kind of read in the social media best practices, is that because I’ll be blunt, discourse on Facebook and other channels has gotten so political and so divisive. LinkedIn is kind of this, I don’t want to say neutral. I don’t, you know, because there can still definitely be very timely, very difficult conversations that are had because it is also still news driven and industry driven. But I’m seeing those social connections and those accolades and a lot of positivity on LinkedIn, that’s just different. I think people maybe bring a different version of themselves when they log on to LinkedIn. They’re there for a different purpose. They’re there with purpose. And yeah, so continue to make those connections. Join groups. So one of the things that if you join groups like, for example, it could be an alumni group. Then when jobs do pop up, it will tell you like if you have a connection based on maybe your alumni group or what university you went to, things like that, it’s kind of gets a little bit more granular. Groups. So actually speaking of groups, if we can kind of backtrack just a little bit to the company side. So not talking kind of personal, but talking company.

Karrie Carnes: LinkedIn continues to add – I don’t want to say bells and whistles – but functionality. They’ve they’ve really grown. They’re even doing like LinkedIn learning and trainings. I don’t know anything about that, but they have. So for utilities of a certain size, for organizations, I believe it’s over 200 employees, which I know is a lot, and I know that might not be a lot of our listeners, but they do have these options for, it’s a whole section called “My Companies.” And so you can think of it like an intranet, and it would complement your internal communications effort. So speaking with your employees. It’s also a way, and I think this is really cool, we don’t use it at BPA, but again, I think this could be cool. Employees who identify themselves as working for your company. If you set up this whole “My Company” section, it will aggregate and pull in the content that your employees share. So I don’t know if this ever happens to folks who are listening, but I happen to. So I work in communications. I work in a lot of external facing communications, but I also happen to be friendly and friends with a lot of my peers. And so I will always, I’ll be looking for photos. I’m like, “Oh my gosh, we need photos from the field. Oh my gosh, we need photos.”

Karrie Carnes: And it’s like pulling teeth to get photos. But yet then I go over to my Facebook, and I’m like, “Wait, I’m friends with that person in the field, and they’re sharing photos from the field.” Now, this is kind of like an answer to that. So you’re able to see without connecting on Facebook or anything like that, any employee that self identifies as working for your company, any content they share can be aggregated or kind of curated. And then as a like a marketing or a PR person, you can comb through that and be like, “Oh my gosh. You know, John Jane Smith just shared this. Now I can email her and say, ‘Hey, this is a great story. Could we use this externally? And then we’re going to share it.'” So I think a lot of, I think there’s benefits to that. But again, that’s kind of part of the “My Company” tab. So that’s not always accessible to everyone. But I do think one of the reasons people don’t, you know, they’re a little nervous to go on LinkedIn is they’re like, “Oh, I don’t know how to feed the beast. Like, that’s that’s a new channel, and it needs new content. And I don’t know where to go to get content.”

Andy Johns: Excellent. I was not familiar with that tab, but that’s what I’m going to go check out. Make sure that we’ve got it set up and everything. I like that. Well, I appreciate you taking the time to talk. Was there anything, any other advice or anything else that we didn’t get to maybe that you wanted to cover or any questions that I didn’t ask before we wrap up here?

Karrie Carnes: No, I think the last thing that at the NIC I put up kind of this silly slide. You know, quoting people, but I was quoting myself. And but the truth is, people seek out your LinkedIn company page because they actually want to know more about you. And that doesn’t always happen. I mean, in an outage, yes, people will go because they want to know about an outage. But when you really think about it, people find your page on purpose. They don’t usually stumble on it. They might stumble on it. So they’re literally knocking on your door and saying, “I want to know about you. I care enough about you that I go to your page, and I want information.” So at a bare minimum, get give them what they want. Tell them a little bit about you. Put your best foot forward and toot your own horn, because that’s really what LinkedIn is about. Toot your own horn as a company and as a personal brand as well.

Andy Johns: Perfect. Well said. That’s a good way to think about it. She is Karrie Carnes. She is public affairs specialist for the Bonneville Power Administration. Thanks, Karrie, for joining us.

Karrie Carnes: Thank you, Andy.

Andy Johns: I’m your host, Andy Johns with Pioneer. And until we talk again, keep telling your story.

Outro: StoryConnect is produced by Pioneer Utility Resources, a communications cooperative that is built to share your story. StoryConnect is engineered by Lucas Smith of Lucky Sound Studio.