Want to write for the same publication as Richard Branson, Jack Welch, and Arianna Huffington? Good news, you can.
LinkedIn launched its publishing platform in 2012 by inviting 150 of the most influential thought leaders to write original content. Today, all members can use LinkedIn Pulse to share their unique knowledge and professional insights with the 500+ million members who interact there.
At the same time that it’s exciting, it’s also a bit intimidating—especially for non-writers. While you might see the potential to strengthen your brand and build out your profile, you also want to go about it the right way. The last thing you want is for people to roll their eyes when they see the subject you chose or approach you took.
Well, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to write an effective article, even if writing’s not “your thing.”
Step 1: Consider Your Overall Message
The first thing you should do is consider the big picture (i.e., why you want to start publishing articles). Do you want to share your professional expertise, expand your network, strengthen your company’s talent brand, interest recruiters who view your profile, or establish yourself as a thought leader?
Once you’ve nailed down the why, you can focus on the who. Does your potential audience consist of colleagues or prospective clients? Or are you trying to engage professionals in a specific niche or industry?
To attract followers and be memorable, you’ll want to have a clear message. Pick a coherent thread that runs through the majority of your posts so you’ll become “known” for something (like struggles for new engineers, or tips for freelancing, or best practices for hiring).
Step 2: Just Start Writing
In my experience, writing a first draft is by far the hardest part of the process. I have three words of advice: Just start writing. I wish there were a silver bullet. (There isn’t.) Set aside a specific time period—maybe an hour—when you can write without interruption. Schedule it on your calendar and don’t let anything else get in the way.
Have a case of writer’s block? Here are several questions to help you start brainstorming:
- What’s the best career lesson you’ve learned?
- What advice would you give to someone hoping to enter your field?
- What are the current trends in your industry?
- What will your industry look like in the future?
- What’s going on in the news? Is there a story or event where you can provide insight?
- What experience has most impacted your career?
When you first get started, don’t worry about whether the sentences flow or whether the pieces all fit. No one will ever read your first draft. (It’s OK if it totally sucks—that’s the reason it’s called a rough draft.) What you’re trying to say will get clearer as you go back through a second (and third) time to revise.
Once you think it’s solid, identify someone who’ll give you an honest and constructive evaluation. Ask her what resonated, what didn’t, and what suggestions she’s willing to offer.
Writers are often given cliché advice to write about what they know. While I agree that sharing personal experiences can strengthen a post, I think better advice is to write something that helps people in some way. It doesn’t matter if you’re helping someone become a better marketer, or learn about a new app, or feel less alone because you shared a common experience—the key is asking yourself if this article will make someone else’s day better in any way.
Step 3: Choose Your Headline and Image Wisely
Last year I spoke with a LinkedIn Influencer and asked how she reaches such a large audience with her posts. I learned that she spends more time perfecting an article’s headline and image than she spends actually writing the article. That’s because it’s the photo and headline that’ll entice someone to click and read the post—if you choose something generic and bland, he or she may never get to all of your great insights.
Your headline should be concise, clear, and give people a reason to click. Readers have a short attention span. (Would you be more likely to check out “5 Things I Learned from Applying to 30 Jobs in 30 Days” or “Job Application Lessons?”)
After you’ve got the headline down, consider the image that’ll show at the top next to it. While you can include media and photos throughout your post, LinkedIn allows you to select one featured image. Search sites like Unsplash and StockSnap.io for free, high-resolution photos (just be sure to source them correctly).
Step 4: Finalize Your Post
With your headline, image, and content complete, you’re ready to finalize your article. Open the LinkedIn homepage and select “Publish a post.” This takes you to the publishing platform where you can paste in your content.
Double check to make sure the formatting looks right. You can include block quotes, headers, bullet points, videos, and additional images to enhance your article.
If you include links, make sure they direct readers to the appropriate sites. At the bottom of your post, you can include up to three tags to help others find your content. These tags will influence the specific Pulse channels your article will be considered for.
And always do a final check on spelling and grammar. Nothing will sink your otherwise perfect article faster than typos.
Step 5: Hit “Publish”
Once you hit publish on your article, here’s what you can expect:
- Your original content becomes part of your profile. It is displayed on the Posts section of your profile.
- It's shared with your connections and followers. Your article will be shown in their feed, as a notification, or via email if they subscribe to daily Pulse emails.
- Members not in your network can now follow you from your long-form post to receive updates when you publish next.
- Your long-form post is searchable both on and off of LinkedIn.
A small percentage of articles will get featured in Pulse channels. There are dozens of channels based on geography and industry, and a combination of algorithms and editors determine which articles get featured. To reach a larger audience, share your article on other sites and send it directly to colleagues. You spent significant time and effort writing your article, show it off!
Writing quality content on LinkedIn Pulse will both strengthen your brand and add more dimension to your profile. It’s a great place to connect your thoughts with your resume—particularly if you don’t have a website or regular platform to do this. So use the platform to display what you know and grow your network.