LinkedIn’s VP Wants to Make Business ‘More Human.’ Here’s How He Can Succeed.

“We think we can be a platform where corporations become more human.”

No, that wasn’t Mitt Romney. The man who told me this is Penry Price, LinkedIn’s global VP of sales–marketing solutions, in my pre-interview with him before we went on stage at Integrated Marketing Week on Tuesday for his keynote interview. When we confronted the packed crowd at New York City’s Metropolitan Pavilion, he added some more color to his statement:

Last month, he explained, Target CMO Jeff Jones had been named in a Gawker post by a Target employee who slammed the company’s internal culture. This was on the heels of a data breach that had exposed millions of Target customers’ data. The executive team was nigh freaking out. However, instead of rallying a bunch of crisis management publicists for damage control, Jones wrote a very personal blog post on LinkedIn, expressing remorse, admitting faults, and vowing to make things better.

Three hundred thousand people shared it. A bunch of news outlets reported on it. Jones wrote, “The truth hurts,” and the Internet applauded him for his honesty.

“This is one example of how a company using content can actually humanize itself and be really approachable,” Price said. “…when you have executives who are really engaged and writing thoughtful commentary about what they believe.”

(Full disclosure: Contently is a content partner of LinkedIn.)

Price predicts, “We’re going to expect a lot more of that behavior.”

Since they’ve existed, corporations have been spin machines. Our job as business owners has been to convince people that we are impenetrable, infallible, perfect. It’s what we’re educated to do in marketing class. And it’s phony.

People aren’t inclined to believe anything companies say because companies front like they’re perfect—which everyone knows they’re not. The thing that makes Superman likable is Kryptonite. It forces him acknowledge his vulnerability.

The best thing that Ford did for its floundering brand in 2006 was make a documentary series called “Bold Moves,” showing the hard working people on the ground inside of the company—factory workers and engineers who were trying to make things better. The company pulled back the curtain on its own problems, acknowledged its challenges, and kept observers updated on the things it was doing to make things better.

No company is perfect. No product is perfect. And no person is perfect. But we love companies, products, and people anyway. Why?

For start, we’re willing to overlook a lot of flaws if we share values. And even if we don’t, studies show that simply getting to know each other through their stories helps break down barriers. Research from the University of Wisconsin has found that “The activity of storytelling has an impact on participants’ interpersonal relationships, empathy, and sense of connectedness.”

“I want to work with companies that are actually authentic and stand for something,” Price said. Data shows that he’s not alone. Companies with higher purposes than profits tend to beat the market. They have an easier time hiring the best talent, who, like consumers, are willing to make economically irrational decisions when choosing the companies they’ll do business with based on the values that company espouses.

How can a company really convey what it values beyond its value proposition? By having the human beings inside the company speak up, open up the doors, and share the stories about those values. It’s not about a sales or PR pitch; it’s about building a personal connection.

The 300 million of us on LinkedIn all have knowledge and values to share. We all have stories that can make us more human. Says Price, “We have an obligation to do something impactful with that.”

The Content Strategist is our brand’s story. What’s yours? Let us help you find the answer.

Image by Aliza Gans

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