Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Just curious: Why are you endorsing me for press releases on LinkedIn?

You work hard on a blog to build an audience--in my case, to make sure clients and prospective clients understand what you do and what you can be hired to do. You create an entire series on the blog advocating a press release diet as part of your social media strategy, a series so widely read it's been reprinted on Ragan.com and shared by reporters and communicators around the world. It's even becoming more the norm than the exception at companies and organizations in every sector.

And then you get endorsed for "press releases" on LinkedIn. Not once, but dozens of times.

Don't get me wrong: I love you when you endorse me on LinkedIn. I love you even more if you've actually hired me, used my services or worked alongside me and took the time to write a recommendation of my work, which is what my prospective clients want to see. (Not all of my endorsers actually know my work, but that's for another post.) I really love you if you recommend me and aren't doing it just to get a recommendation out of me in return.

This is a phenomenon I just don't understand. I can see people fishing for return endorsments, even though I don't like the practice. I can see endorsing or recommending someone for something they've actually done when the recommender has direct knowledge about it. But recommending me for something I no longer produce and actively advise against? Emily Culbertson gets points for the tweet above, a wink to let me know she understands how odd this is. And then she did it, anyway.

This wouldn't seem so odd to me if I hadn't decided a decade ago, when I started this consultancy, on the things I would never do again in my communications work. Top of the list? Writing press releases and pitching stories to journalists. For one thing, I wanted to do more of my own writing and publishing. I started out in journalism and have always intended to get back to writing original work instead of pitching the work of others or serving as a source for other writers. Over time, I've also become less and less enamored of the blunt instruments communicators have traditionally used to generate news coverage. That knowledge comes firsthand, having seen it all work up close and behind the scenes. These days, when I advocate getting rid of releases, it's in aid of a service I do provide, helping clients to develop sound social media strategies. Yes, I can write one hell of a press release, better than average and highly effective. But not anymore.

I'm not the first person who's thought that LinkedIn endorsements are a low-energy way to get people interacting with the site, which means it has little to do with the person getting the endorsement. I get that. You can turn off endorsements in LinkedIn, and I've thought about it. Instead, I've settled for deleting lovely endorsements for press releases. This has only worked up to a point. Every month, even though "press releases" are not on my list of skills for endorsement, people still endorse me for it--a choice that involves more effort. And every month, I go in and weed them out. So save me some work, darlings. Endorse me for something else, will ya? Then I can honestly go in and endorse you for "thoughtful observations."

On June 19 in Washington, DC, I'll convene a session of Be an Expert on Working with Experts that's open to the public. Designed for communications pros who work with subject-matter experts, scientists and policy researchers, this is a popular workshop. It's also the workshop I wish I'd had earlier in my career, based on my own effort to understand why the smart folks I work with weren't always willing to cooperate with my communications efforts. Join us!

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