Executive Secretary, which describes itself as the “global training resource for senior & aspiring administrative professionals” began life as a quarterly newsletter. Lucy Brazier acquired it, by chance, in 2003 and ran it alongside her day job, until 2010 when, looking for a better work / life balance after a period of frenetic work activity, decided to turn it into a bi-monthly magazine and make it her sole focus, something she could do from home.
It is debatable whether the better work / life balance ever materialised, because Executive Secretary has morphed into a global events, training and consultancy business. Its Executive Secretary Live events run in Johannesburg, London, Seattle and Wellington, it runs training courses around the world and Lucy is heavily in demand as a conference speaker. They have also recently launched a speaker bureau.
Much of this growth and success is due to the power and reach of social media, which Lucy and her team have used intelligently from the start.
Driven initially out of necessity – they had no marketing budget – social media, and in particular LinkedIn, has become the beating heart of their business.
Initially, recounts Lucy, they set about joining every relevant LinkedIn group and, of course, set up their own, which now has over 45k members. The key thing with a LinkedIn group is not so much the numbers, but how you interact with them.
Many publishers fall into the trap of broadcasting to their followers or group members rather than entering into a dialogue. For Lucy, the “money is in the conversation”. If you see social media as a one way street and solely as a means to increase sales / sign-ups or drive traffic to your own content, then you are not using it optimally.
Social media dos and don’ts
Too many publishers pre-set their social media activity, adopt a templated de-personalised broadcast approach, often delegating the work to a junior member of staff, who is not experienced enough to enter into a meaningful dialogue with your audience. Group members soon cotton on to the fact that they are simply being sold to, nothing more, nothing less, and disengage.
Lucy’s approach is more “here is a great article, what do you think of it”, as opposed to “here is a great article, go away and read it”. She is forever asking questions, seeking out her community’s thoughts on trends, topics, training and tech.
This has enabled her to establish herself as a trusted thought leader, which makes it more likely that when she does want them to sign up to one of their training courses, subscribe to the magazine or attend their events, they are more likely to do. “Interaction is what built my business,” says Lucy.
One nice example of the transformative effect of LinkedIn came a few years ago when one of Lucy’s contacts advised her to change her profile description, to highlight the fact that she was a ‘speaker’ and an ‘influencer’. As a result, Lucy went from speaking at 20 conferences to 170 in the space of twelve months.
Executive Secretary is also active on Facebook (8k followers) and Twitter (12k followers), but it is LinkedIn where the real action is.
Now, it obviously helps if you have a sizeable market to aim at and if that market craves guidance and community interaction. The Executive Secretary universe is made up of people who work in administration, which Lucy estimates at being one fifth of the world’s working population, which equates to half a billion women, because it is 98% women.
Now, obviously, not all of those will be executive assistants, but it still points to a huge number of people working in a role that is commonly misconceived as being one of fetching cups of coffee and typing up notes. The reality is that many are now taking on more strategic roles within their businesses, but still suffer from a lack of training, career definition and progression and at the hands of bosses who do not know how to get the best out of them. The role is crying out for recognition, progression and professionalisation and Lucy is passionate about meeting those needs.
Many publishers fall into the trap of broadcasting to their followers or group members rather than entering into a dialogue.
To build a successful group on LinkedIn, you should:
- Nurture a community. Your primary aim is the establishment of a vibrant community made up of your target market. Keep their needs in mind every time you post.
- Interact, not broadcast. Just pumping out links is counterproductive. Join discussions, ask questions, offer opinions. Don’t leave people hanging – if someone comments on one of your posts, or asks you a question, then respond.
- Be generous; it’s not just about you: share other people’s stuff and credit them.
- Build trust by being sincere, authoritative, objective and helpful.
- Not go AWOL. If you want to create a vibrant group, then you’ve got to be there.
- Enjoy it! If it’s a chore, then you’re not going to be able to give it your best shot, and group members can spot insincerity a mile off.
Now, obviously, this is a means to an end. As a business, your end goal is to grow revenue and sales, but a vibrant LinkedIn community is a great way of doing that; you just need to pace yourself.
The good news is that the above is not rocket science; the less good news is that it takes time and effort, but if your market is big enough and hungry for guidance, then it’s worth it.
This article was first published in InPublishing magazine. If you would like to be added to the free mailing list, please register here.