Get Some Branding Mileage Out of Your LinkedIn Headline

I grabbed a few LinkedIn headlines (real ones, from people I'm not connected to) in order to rewrite them. Here are the old headlines, and my suggested replacements:

Old LinkedIn Headline:

Wile E. Coyote
Innovative, customer-focused business professional

Wile E. has forgotten that when a LinkedIn user searches the 100+million-member LinkedIn database, the search results show up in the form of names and headlines. The only things that LinkedIn user -- the one who conducted the search -- is going to learn about Wile E. (or any LinkedIn user) are the user's name and his or her LinkedIn headline. Wile E.'s old headline ("Innovative, customer-focused business professional") isn't doing Wile E. any favors. Anyone could say he or she is innovative and customer-focused. That's pretty much like saying "I breathe oxygen."

We can do better.

New LinkedIn Headline:

Wile E. Coyote
Marketing Manager (50/50 mix of traditional and social) taking consulting projects & exploring startup assignments

You get 120 characters, including spaces, for your LinkedIn headline. Wile E.'s new headline squeaks in under the wire, character-count-wise. Now, when somebody performs a search on the LinkedIn user database and comes up with Wile E.'s name, he or she will learn something useful -- namely, that Wile is a Marketing guy and a startup-focused one, at that -- from the headline, and have an incentive to click through the list of search results to Wile E.'s full LinkedIn profile.

What's the lesson? Don't make empty boasts (Resourceful! Innovative!) in your branding, and don't use the term "business professional" -- it's dreck. It means nothing. Here's another headline:

Old LinkedIn Headline:

Ziggy Stardust
Nonprofit professional with expertise in communications, health, grantmaking, program development and planning

Yikes! "Nonprofit professional" isn't much of an improvement over "business professional," and this LinkedIn user gives us a tedious list of tasks he's performed. That is unfortunate branding. We could go one step down in granularity and say "I get up, I go to work, I drive a car, I use the microwave. I take showers." We can't tell what this person is about, or why he or she does the work s/he does. We get no sense of the person behind the profile.

We want to know what you do for your employers or clients from a business standpoint -- what sorts of pain you solve for them, in other words. We want to know what impact you;ve had on their businesses. Otherwise, you look like someone who does what he or she is told, and performs tasks as some manager (or a written job description) dictates. That's not you standing in your power, not by a long stretch. Let's rewrite Ziggy's headline:

Ziggy Stardust
Not-for-profit Program Manager passionate about building buzz and participation for important causes and securing the grant and donor funding to carry them out

Now we get a sense of Ziggy's personal mission, and how he views his work. There's more heft coming through the words when Zig frames up his experience (and future direction) rather than breaking down his amazing background into task-y sub-functions and duties.

Lesson: don't minimize your accomplishments by taking the context out of the story. Even in a brief LinkedIn headline, you can get across more power than you think.

Take a look at your own LinkedIn headline. Is it doing the heavy lifting for you that it should be? If not, leave your current headline in a comment below, and I'll give you suggestions for strengthening it.