LinkedIn rolls out new features for business pages

LinkedIn has begun rolling out its new website design for business pages, three months after the initial announcement. The face-lift is intended to lure people into spending more time on the social network and includes a host of new features for business pages. For a long time LinkedIn has proudly kept a retro design, in a similar way to Reddit, but it seems modern functionally has required a revamp.

The website design change comes 12 months after LinkedIn overhauled its tablet and smartphone app experience. Now that Microsoft has secured regulatory approval for its $26 billion acquisition of LinkedIn, the design change is no doubt to prepare for better integration with Microsoft services. Thankfully this has not meant adopting the 1980s-esk blocky metro design theme.

What’s new for business pages?

At the centre of the LinkedIn business page change is a clear focus on recruitment. Whilst LinkedIn proves valuable for B2B marketing efforts, this is mostly achieved through personal profiles, leaving LinkedIn business pages struggling to find purpose. The focus on recruitment isn’t just a design tweak, but shows LinkedIn is investing in a clear HR functionality for pages.

LinkedIn new design, overview

One of the biggest changes by LinkedIn is a ‘life’ page that focuses on showcasing the culture of a company. This provides the option of integrating a featured YouTube video, showing images of the workplace, profiling company leaders, and a spotlight section on what it’s like working in the company. In an age where companies are held accountable by their workforce to reviews on websites like Glassdoor, LinkedIn is providing an opportunity for companies to have their own HR voice.

LinkedInLifePage

There is also a separate cultural insights section that uses information from registered employees on LinkedIn to profile seniority, working location, education level, and skills. Hopefully companies choose to profile the diversity of their companies in this section, rather than use higher education as a quality goal in its own right.

Content is still king

The new design change is akin to a Facebook page, as recently published content will appear high on the page. This shows that there is still a big role for content marketing on LinkedIn, beyond publishing content on individual personal profiles. It would be good to see LinkedIn Pulse article integration in the new business page design, but perhaps this is something for later this year.

What is Microsoft’s master plan?

We know that the Microsoft and LinkedIn leadership teams have been in discussions for a few months now and there is no doubt the design change plugs into Microsoft’s plans. Some of the features it has lined up that are useful for businesses are:

  • Extending the reach of sponsored content across Microsoft properties
  • Enterprise LinkedIn Lookup powered by Active Directory and Office 365
  • Redefining social selling through the combination of Sales Navigator and Dynamics 365
  • LinkedIn notifications within the Windows action centre

Read The Verge’s full round-up here.

The new LinkedIn design is being rolled out gradually in the UK and if you are an admin of a business page, you should hopefully be given the option within the next few weeks.

Is your business ready for digital disruption?

thrown away VHS tapes

This is what digital disruption looks like.

One of the misunderstandings about disruption is that it won’t politely knock and wait at your business’ door. It will interrupt your sales conversations and potentially require you to reinvent your entire business model.

This has already happened with HMV who have just re-launched their website for a second time, after digital disruption snatched most of their physical stores from the high street. Now they need to make up for lost time and get their products in the faces of customers on Google Search, before Amazon pop-ups and makes a better offer.

It is why black cab drivers are staging protests about private hire app Uber. People got fed up standing in bad weather attempting to hail a cab. Then also being expected (especially in London) to carry physical cash on them and pay a tip for good measure. With Uber you can hire a taxi from your mobile, set a clear pickup location and the money just comes straight out of the bank account – no physical cash handling needed (in fact, Uber drivers aren’t even allowed to handle cash).

We are also seeing the earthquake of disruption hit the financial services space. Only last week a new digital bank launched called Atom that will let you setup a current account from an app, that will immediately integrate with Apple Pay. What’s more, this is a bank that boasts a personality (just explore their website) – a deadly weapon that will probably make it more appealing to online audiences.

If PR is about managing reputation, then it’s also about managing digital disruption. Over the last five years I’ve worked with a number of organisations who all were facing the challenge of disruption, turning parts or all of their business models upside down. From magazines, construction companies, to financial services. It’s why PR shouldn’t just be a function of marketing, but an integral part of board-level decisions.

Business Startup Tips from BBC Apprentice Star

In 2010 I like to think I became close to becoming one of the business bods on BBC’s The Apprentice. The initial application resulted in an email and phone call for the first stages of interviews, yet I felt conflicted. I was already on a priceless internship with Microsoft, needed to finish the last year of university, plus I didn’t have a BIG business idea; something which I fuddled together on the application form. A brilliant contact of mine put me in touch with the only flack yet to appear on the series who basically advised me to avoid the show. I never met Lord Sugar.

Nick Holzherr
Nick Holzherr

So when I heard one of the stars from the 2012 series of The Apprentice, Nick Holzherr, speak last week at the eCommerce Expo in London about his company Whisk, I began to wonder what I missed out on. He too had questions about taking part in the 2012 series. All it takes is one tiny slip up to get filmed, then you’ll be known as that person who “Is completely clueless when it comes to maths, creative planning…”, the list goes on.

You know what? The Apprentice went really well for him. The commercial value of primetime exposure on BBC One was worth the 12 weeks of nonstop tasks. Of which the BBC allegedly fork out £1m per episode! Astronomical, but that’s exactly what buys all the resources behind the tasks and locations.

Lord_Sugar_announces_air_date_for_The_Apprentice
No!

Despite Nick waking up each morning with a microphone hanging over his head, when it came to the crunch hardware-centric Sugar said “no” to his company. Inevitably it has grown massively. Despite not getting any PR around winning, today Whisk has support from the major supermarkets and is simply revolutionising how people are ordering their groceries online.

What is Whisk?

Whisk creates smart grocery lists from recipes, helping you buy ingredients easily and use them efficiently.

Where I’m interested in Whisk is from the technological point of view. Just how do you take masses of unstructured data from recipe websites and build a platform that deciphers this into coherent information. Well, the process has a lot to do with semantic analysis (which I’ve written a dissertation on); building an algorithm that allows a computer to understand written language. In the case of Whisk, understanding which product is which and what are the quantities. Only then can this information make enough sense to be relayed to online supermarket shopping baskets.

Here are the key takeaways I got from his talk:

  1. People have a perceived lack of time on the internet. Whilst you may spend over an hour walking around a supermarket, in the online space a minute can seem like an hour. Think accordingly.
  2. Don’t be afraid to share ideas with others or use other people’s ideas. We all need to learn from each other.
  3. Beware of the project plateau. At first you will get a real buzz about a project and when times get tough, don’t switch to a new idea straight away. Stick at it.

Nick Holzherr is an inspirational guy. He is clearly passionate about running his own business and happy to help others do the same. Even being incredibly open about his own weaknesses, something few can admit to. It’s fascinating hearing stories from startup founders. It’s not a path suitable for everyone but if you’re considering starting up a tech company, it’s the best time to do it.

5 Things to Remember when Blogging this Year

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This time last year I wrote an article for ProBlogger entitled “8 Reasons Why Students Should Blog”. The post is still well received to this day with over 600 re-tweets! The post set out why students should blog but could actually apply to anyone considering taking up the reigns of blogging.  Now that we are the start of another year I have taken the effort to revise a few of the reasons here.

If you are thinking about getting into the swing of blogging this year, here are a few things you should remember.

1)      Your blog shapes the professional internet
Your personal internet is shrinking. Once signed into Google all your results will be personalised based from previous searches and what your network of contacts have recommended. The purpose of this functionality is to make search results more relevant for everyone but at the same time, much content is being censored, being pushed back through the search results.

Think of your chosen industry as a spider’s web, each strand connected to a professional who could have that dream job for you. Blogging enables you to become one of those stands on the web and stand among your industry’s thought leaders.

2)      Mobile is BIG
With the number of smartphone users in the UK to double between 2012 and 2016, from 19.2 million to 41.9 million, it’s essential to be creating compatible content. Blogging is one of the few channels which can easily adapt its content across a whole range of platforms. I know that this blog can be read on my PC, smartphone, tablet, even my Xbox. All it takes is a few free WordPress plugins and you have compatibility which many companies still pay thousands for. The challenge for blogging is to create diverse content which can still hit a number of platforms.

This year I am probably going to write an estimated 25,000 words on this blog of which 12,500 are probably going to be read on mobile devices (judging from this site’s stats).

3)      Blogging takes a lot of stamina
This point remains relatively unchanged from last year because blogging is still tough. The whole public relations industry produces but still struggles with content. The blogging sphere is so crowded that getting your voice heard above others can be really difficult. To tackle this effective blogging requires the support of social networks and, for public relations students, it’s worth adding yourself to the CIPR Conversation.

If you believe that rather tongue-in-cheek point from CEO of Econsultancy, Ashley Friedlein, then 2013 will be the year of the long blog post.

4)      Consider other forms of advertising
There is nothing wrong with trying to make some money blogging. However, using banners ads can be a painfully long process to pay off. Instead consider other forms of advertising such as sponsored posts, anchored links (although this is gradually being killed off due to search changes) or selling premium content. With the growth of eBook readers consider self-publishing short books – the online space is full of money making options.

5)      Your fellow bloggers
It’s all very well learning the latest bit of public relations theory, how to build effective campaigns and having conversations with the experts but go back to the basics. Remember to follow, recommend and comment on other blogs. Blogging is a community activity and in all likelihood your traffic levels will be partly reliant on the recommendations of others.

And remember, blogging is a marathon and not a sprint.

 

Now, what have I missed?

Research into Latent Semantic Analytics

Over the last year the internet has evolved, a transition which we now all abide by although may not have acknowledged. Content is no longer king, context is.

The sheer volume of data being created each minute is staggering (check out this infographic) and techniques are constantly being developed in order to search and organise this data. In the PR industry it is critical to keep an eye on all data relating to clients, surrounding topics and key influencers. The vast amount of content avaliable makes this task easy but only if easy search solutions exist.

For my dissertation I researched a very new area of online analytics called Latent Semantic Analytics. The process has existed for decades but only a handful of organisations have managed to use the mathmatical technique for business means. Within my dissertation I explore the benefits of Latent Semantic Analytics by how the process can create relationships between words depending upon their frequency and contexts.

I managed to gain a First for this piece of research and I am pleased to be able to share it with you all online today. Not only do I hope you find the content of my dissertation interesting but current PR students may find it useful to read in terms of the structure I used.

 

Feel free to share this post with anybody you think would be relevant and if you have any questions I will try my best to answer them!

Google+ Local Launches

A stark contrast exists between a ‘social network’ and a ‘community’. Whilst I may exist on Twitter, it would be impossible for anyone to say that this is a community. The users I communicate with are rarely the same and the network is constructed on the notion of following strangers based upon interest. In comparison a forum system builds relationships between users – that emotional connection is essential for community.

Over the last few days Google has replaced Google Places with its newly launched Google+ Local. Not only is this a drive to incorporate Google+ into its location based services but it is expected to attract business owners to Google’s Places service.

Google+ Local, according to the search giant helps improve how people discover and share local businesses inside Google+. Below is an excerpt from Google’s blog post.

“With the release of Google+ Local, rolling out today, we are bringing the community of Google+ to local business owners around the world. We aim to improve the way people discover new businesses, rediscover places they love, and share them with their friends across the web.”

At the end of May news appeared of Google’s partnership with review service Zagat. Gound breaking in many respects as this previously, exclusively premium service, is now being offered through Google+ Local for free. A quick visit to Google+ Local this morning revealed a list of local restaurants, heavily focused on consumer reviews, appearing near my current location near Gloucester.

There is no doubt that, coupled with review functionality, Google has started to heavily tread on the toes of Foursquare and Facebook Places. It offers a more convinient service that having to ‘check in’ constantly and delivers premium review content from Zagat.

The quick development of Google+ just goes to show how influential social networks are in this current age and puts other networks, such as Microsoft’s so.cl, to shame. Whilst the majority of users (in my experience) still use Facebook frequently, Google+ will begin to gain new users thanks to its updates. Whether Google+ is the ideal network for real world friends to connect with each other is a different matter altogether. Currently Google+ appears to be the perfect place for mutual contacts to share and discuss – I may be wrong though.

At the beginning of 2012 my PR class were debating to write a book on Google+ but it never went ahead. I’m glad. The network is developing so quickly and for PR purposes constantly changes. When a business gets involved with Google+ the main benefit is SEO. However every local business (especially retail) cannot afford to miss out on Google+ Local. Consumers are already talking openly about you online, digital PR has never been more important.

How I landed myself a Graduate PR Role

It is my aim in this blog post to provide an honest overview of my graduate scheme search and how I landed my upcoming graduate role at Red. This is an extremely “transparent” post which covers my experiences precisely.

 

It would be dishonest for me to say that the only graduate scheme I applied for was Red. Such an act would be lunacy in an economic environment drowned in talented graduates. For the last 3 to 4 years it has been necessary for upcoming University leavers to apply for as many job roles as possible. Graduate unemployment has hit its highest level since 1995; members of my class were not able to leave all their eggs in one basket.

The approach I took when applying for graduate schemes was to ask myself if they filled the below criteria:

  1. Would the role suit my interests?
  2. Does the organisation “feel” right for me?
  3. Will I be able to live on the salary?

When I started applying for schemes in January I made sure that I could answer ‘yes’ to each of these points. Thanks to a superb list of 2012 graduate schemes by Ben Cotton I had somewhere to start. Yet I only applied to organisations who appealed in some way to me. Each scheme I applied for provided me with different processes, different experiences and I am going to share some of what I learn’t within this post today.

Firstly it is important to note that the majority of public relations graduate schemes are not exclusively open to graduate public relations students. Indeed a graduate from any discipline can apply for a PR role. This doesn’t undervalue the worth of a PR degree (we are at an advantage with the skills taught to us) but instead makes the process a lot harder.

Edelman
I was one of the lucky thirty to make it through to the Edelman assessment day. Their process involved the initial application, telephone interview and finally the assessment day. Needless to say making it through to the assessment day alone was a an experience which I was thankful for. On the day I was interview by three individuals within the company, took part in a written assessment and did a presentation to a panel of eight employees. On the whole it went well, especially for my interview as I was rated in the top five.

Edelman was tricky though. Even though most of my assessment day was ranked highly I was considered to be ‘too good’ for their apprenticeship scheme. To this day I disagree with this observation as an experience in a multinational agency such as Edelman would have been extremely valuable. Yet it may not have pushed me considering my already in-depth experiences at Microsoft due to the structure of their scheme.

They clearly value their potential employees as HR assigned me to be interview by their Digital Team – a role which would have put my 9 months ahead of the apprenticeship scheme. Whilst my interview with them went really well I did not get the role with them – competition was too high and another individual (not necessarily a graduate) with more experience obtained the role.

Instead saw my skills to be better aligned in analytics (I did try and convince them that my maths aren’t that good!) so asked me for another interview but with the analytics team. Due to my experience at Microsoft doing Online Advertising I knew that an analytics based role was not quite right for me, after much thought I graciously declined the interview.

Edelman are a forward thinking agency who tried to find a part of their business to plug me into but at this time it did not work. Everyone I met at the agency in London were delightful, very bright but what they could offer me was not quite right in the end.

An undisclosed smaller agency
Out of all the agencies I applied for my most confusing experience was with a smaller agency based in London. Their assessment day involved a group task and presentation, successful candidates were then invited back for a final interview. In particular I found the group assessment nerve racking as one of the candidates (who studies law) recognised me from my blog. Whilst this gave me a push to perform to prove my ‘real world value’ to this follower, it did cause me to worry. Living up to people’s expectations can, at times, be worrisome.

Nevertheless I managed to obtain a final interview with this agency which went incredibly well. By chance I had already seen clients of theirs in the media and could rehearse the media impact of them in 2011 without strain. It is remarkable what stress, focus and the desire to please will do to the mind.

I left the interview almost certain that I would get a job offer from them within the next week. Whilst this delighted me I knew that I was still waiting back from Edelman and had yet started Red’s graduate scheme processes. I’ve never been one to settle for the easy option if a better choice existed and at this stage I was not certain this small agency was right for me – despite the friendliness of its staff.

After a couple of weeks though the agency didn’t get in contact – rather confusing as after a final interview the decision is usually quite quick. I then found out from the manager that the agency had already done some hiring and had yet to make a decision about me, to help make their decision I agreed to do two days work experience for them. Those two days seemed to go well although obviously, being a work experience student, most of the time you tend to feel like a spare part.

After the two days were up a few days passed and the agency revealed uncertainty about my position due to client movements, eventually they were going to award me a role which would start in August.

To be honest my interest in them was dying at this point, not due to their business approach but because obtaining a graduate role with them was really drawn out. Even though I had spent in the region of £80 going to their various days (National Express Coaches and Oyster purchases) they seemed to find it difficult to make their decisions. Whilst everyone in the company was a pleasure to work with and meet I couldn’t commit any more time to processes and start dates were far too late.

Red
Red’s campaigns frequently receive attention in the PR industry; creativity is their weapon and their approach should be inspiring for smaller upcoming agencies. All of their employees were pleasant to speak with, their flat structure even meant speaking with managers to be easy and they were honest throughout the whole procedure. I left the Red assessment day and final interview with nerves and high hopes I wished to suppress. Somehow I knew that they were the agency for me and if they decided against my application it would have dealt a heavy blow.

Thankfully I got the job and cannot wait to start.

I did get rejections
I’m aware that I have only listed three agencies who I managed to get into the final stages for. In reality I also got rejected from a handful of agencies in either the first stages or after telephone interview. The fact I eventually obtained a graduate role in the end shows that every agency is looking for somebody different for their organisation. Whilst you may not make it through one scheme, another organisation may find you suitable for an assessment day and may even offer you a role.

Throughout my graduate job search I have placed a large focus on my emotional reactions towards agencies. This is the first step into my career and so I must take every job offer seriously but at the same time I must make sure that I will grow.

In summary my graduate job search revealed these lessons to me:

1# Check that you keep your top button on your shirt done up. When I attended the Edelman assessment day it was warm so I had my top button undone. Unfortunately I forgot to do it up before the interview. Despite this I was rated in the top five who were interviewed that day but pictures taken on the day revealed the unsightly undone button. Thankfully they didn’t mind too much (some graduates on the day were not even wearing proper suits!) but it is worth remembering the top button.

2# Finding a graduate job is important but make sure the agency is right for you. Some agencies may do fantastic traditional PR but their digital approaches may be lacking. Everyone in the PR industry has to take digital seriously. Think of your CV – do you really want to work for an agency whose approaches are still set in the noughties? No.

3# Don’t take rejections personally. I was rejected in the early stages of Blue Rubicon and Hotwire – yet Edelman, the world’s largest PR agency, accepted me for interview. Agencies look for different sorts of candidates and sometimes we are not the perfect match. Keep applying.

4# When applying for graduate schemes it is important to only apply for those organisations you are actually interested working for. On that note don’t just apply for one or two schemes. Apply for every scheme which takes your fancy. Some applications are deliberately made long to cut down the amount of applicants. Each PR graduate scheme receives between 300 – 700 applications, play the numbers game and don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

5# Understand your role, contract length and salary before applying. Someone I know from my class was offered a job at a salary of £16,000 a year. Man cannot live away from home with bills, food and travel on this sort of pay. The minimum salary for a PR graduate these days is £18,000.

6# The chances are that members of your class will probably be applying for the same jobs as you. Your class mates are the competition but don’t let this deter you.

7# During group interviews (which usually involve a task) always remain the courteous person you are. On one assessment day a graduate on my team was incredibly rude, overly competitive and a pain to worth with. He didn’t get the role because no agency wishes to have someone like that in one of their teams.

8# If you have a chance after an assessment day spend time talking with other graduates. Everyone is usually very friendly and talking allows you to gauge your competition. Competition for new talent in the PR industry at the moment is very high!

9# Don’t forget the skills you have learnt at University. Those who do not come from a PR degree tend to forget the basics such as objectives, strategy, tactics and evaluation in campaign planning. Use structures like this to really make your ideas stand out. Make sure you use a mix between traditional and digital PR.

10# The final and most important point of all – RELAX. You have nothing to be nervous about. Nerves can hinder your performance so remain relaxed at all times, enjoy assessment days for the attention you get and before not too long you will land yourself a job.

 

I hope that this blog post has proved to be useful and that I haven’t upset any PR agencies in its publication! Let me know if you have any questions. I would also love to know your best and worst experiences of job hunting.

Now an Assistant Account Executive at Red

I am pleased to announce that I have accepted a position at Red as an Assistant Account Executive in the technology team! I believe this role will compliment my existing skills and will allow me to develop further as I make the transition from student to a fully fledged PR Professional. I shall be beginning my new role mid-June where I shall be located in London full-time.

Red has always been one of the PR agencies which has stood out in the PR industry due to its highly creative approaches to fulfilling client objectives, which has led to a number of different awards. In 2011 it was awarded “PR Agency of the Year” by Marketing Week and this year it was awarded “UK Consultancy of the Year” by The Holmes Report.

After the initial graduate application and assessment day I was interviewed at Red by two of the agencies’ Managing Directors. An ordeal which should have been nerve racking but the agencies’ flat structure soon shone through as I was eased into a job interview which was a conversation rather than an interrogation. I quickly became aware that the job being offered, the clients available and the sort of work they do would be perfect.

Deciding which company I should work for is heart over mind decision for me. My initial emotional reaction to a workplace will invariably be a large contributing factor to my final decision.

I am gracious and fortunate to have found a graduate job before I have even left University. However it did take a lot of work. Through the final few months of University I applied to roughly twelve different agencies (all graduate schemes); job applications, telephone interviews, assessment days, real world interviews, work experience – I did the lot. I got a few rejections, some interest but my final decision would have always been Red.

My days as a student have come to a close. University is over and a new job awaits. I cannot wait to start working for Red and I am delighted that they want me to be a member of their talented team.

Its time for me to prove my worth in the PR industry.