Ep 19: Deborrah Ashley: How to Become a LinkedIn Blackbelt

On this episode of Marketing for Good, Deborrah Ashley joins Erica to talk about all things LinkedIn.  They talk about utilizing Linkedin as an online platform for networking and creating a specific way to connect in a business aspect, how the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing holds people back on LinkedIn. Deborrah also shares ways to optimize your profile and get increased search hits and how to become or utilize brand ambassadors on LinkedIn.


This is a transcript of Erica Mills Barnhart’s interview with Deborrah Ashley on the Marketing for Good podcast. You can listen to the episode here and listen to more episodes on Apple Podcasts, or wherever you enjoy listening to podcasts. Enjoy!


LinkedIn, profile, people, marketing, company, volunteers, nonprofit

Erica Mills Barnhart  00:08

Have you ever had the experience where you think that you’re like decently good at something and then you learn maybe not not so much actually. I have that experience in this interview when Deborrah told me the metric for whether or not you are like a power user for LinkedIn. Now Deborrah is the LinkedIn blackbelt. Deborrah knows so much about LinkedIn, it’s absolutely incredible and she is so generous with what she shares about it and her advice is both strategic and also ultra, ultra practical. She was kind enough to create a LinkedIn sheet for marketing for good listeners. So definitely go get that. Don’t worry, you don’t need to do all of it. Pick a few, work through the list over time. I did want to share one thing because it happened after we stopped recording. But I noticed that Deborrah lives in Tampa, but in her LinkedIn profile, it said New York City and I was like, that’s interesting. So I asked her about it. And she said, you know, you don’t need to put your physical location you want to use every single scrap of real estate in LinkedIn strategically. So for her, her target audience is mainly leaders and CEOs. So New York City has per capita, the most leaders and CEOs in the country. So she put New York knowing that she would show up and way more search results, just by nature of how many there are in New York versus, you know, even where I am in Seattle. I was like, that’s genius. That’s the type of goodness you’re gonna get throughout this whole episode. She has really excellent tips for organizations in general, nonprofits in particular, little tidbit about how to make your volunteers into ambassadors on LinkedIn that I really loved. And then at the end, she gets into how to make LinkedIn and your LinkedIn profiles, both personally and then also for your organizations and companies more inclusive so to really bring in our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion on LinkedIn. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. I learned so much and I was just super energized by the whole conversation. So here you go, my interview with the LinkedIn black belt, Deborrah Ashley. Welcome to the show. Deborrah, I am very excited to have you here to talk to us about LinkedIn and inclusion and lots of other things today. So thanks for being here.

Deborrah Ashley  03:14

Well, thanks for having me on, Erica. I am super excited too.

Erica Mills Barnhart  03:19

So you’re tagged, I’m gonna call it a tagline. But when I was looking at your LinkedIn profile, I don’t know if you consider it a tagline, but it says humanizing brands, connecting people. And I feel like there’s a story behind that tagline, maybe. But can you share with us how you know how you ended up on that tagline? And being the LinkedIn blackbelt, and kind of, you know, how’d you get here?

Deborrah Ashley  03:43

Absolutely. Well, you know, I came from a 20 year corporate marketing background. So about for around 45 I decided that I’m kind of bored with what I’m doing and I decided to explore what else there was out there for me. So I have you know, I had quite a good amount of success in the corporate world. And of course, it was helping the companies to build brand awareness, but I wanted to do it on a different level. So I discovered this entire world online of business owners who are brilliant at what they do, but they’re just not that great at marketing what they do. So of course, I came online, I had all the different things that happen when you first come into a space that’s unknown to you imposter syndrome, all of that other stuff. And I started to share from a point of what I’m used to, which is that corporate speak, right? So you know, people were enjoying my content, but it didn’t hit me what I was doing until one day, someone said, well, you’re in line now you can take up your pearls.

Erica Mills Barnhart  04:41

Oh, that’s so good.

Deborrah Ashley  04:43

Yeah. I’ve never necessarily worn pearls, but I got it. So it has-

Erica Mills Barnhart  04:50

That’s a little bit genius right there. Yeah, your pearls.

Deborrah Ashley  04:53

Exactly. It’s not even about you know, this whole formal way of approaching people. It’s about being that friend and having conversations like you would with your friends, because naturally people gravitate towards people they find a connection with, right? That’s how you humanize your brand and obviously connecting people that way. It’s done that way too. So this LinkedIn blackbelt title was assigned to me because if we think about, like, I mentioned imposter syndrome, all of that stuff hit me. I just know that I’m sharing what I know and and how things work. But I don’t necessarily, at least in the past, I didn’t necessarily see myself as an expert. So I would hear people say different things like you are the queen of LinkedIn with the content I was sharing. And you’re the LinkedIn black belt, like you have this black belt on LinkedIn. And I was like that actually, I like that it sticks. I think everyone should, especially when we think about LinkedIn, everyone should have this little aspect that they, you know, like a tagline or a name that people remind them from because it’s easier to relate that way.

Erica Mills Barnhart  05:58

Yeah, we’ll get into this more, but when when somebody searches for you, like your profile URL is linkedin.com/thelinkedblackbelt.

Deborrah Ashley  06:11


Erica Mills Barnhart  06:12

Yes, so post your name?

Deborrah Ashley  06:13

Exactly. There’s a slight shift, though, because LinkedIn doesn’t allow you to use their intellectual property, which makes sense, so it’s the linked blackbelt. But if someone searches hashtag the LinkedIn blackbelt anywhere, Google through anything, they’re going to find me.

Erica Mills Barnhart  06:29

Wow. Okay. So good. And you have your MBA. So you have like a very businessy background, have this corporate career snd then how long ago was it that you transitioned to being the LinkedIn blackbelt?

Deborrah Ashley  06:43

About six years ago.

Erica Mills Barnhart  06:43

Six years ago?

Deborrah Ashley  06:45

Yes, about a year to figure out that although I was connecting with people they wanted to know more about me versus my content.

Erica Mills Barnhart  06:55

Because then you took off the pearls.

Deborrah Ashley  06:57

I took off the pearls. I took off all the pearls after someone told me to take off the pearls. And it’s, it’s been good since then.

Erica Mills Barnhart  07:07

Was there a sense for you that you wanted to take off your pearls? But something was holding you back from doing that? Or was it more like this is a strategy you knew was this very corporate speak? I’m just I’m curious if there was anything holding you back and that that person kind of gave you permission? Or if you just hadn’t seen it that way?

Deborrah Ashley  07:24

Right. It’s interesting, right? Yeah, I almost didn’t even see it that way. I was just stepping into what I was used to, because this is like, you know, this is the new version of my nine to five. So as I’m having conversations with business people, this is how we talk about things. But these are still just, you know, you’re regular everyday people, not necessarily, you know, your corporate business people. So I think in a way it gave me permission, but like I said, I didn’t know that I was doing that. And I didn’t realize that because everyone’s always, especially as a speaker, so I you know, I’ll tell you the story too, of how I started speaking and they always tell you there, you can’t say, um, and you can’t say certain things. So I just thought they were, it was an unwritten language that you couldn’t use online. So yeah, that was my permission.

Erica Mills Barnhart  08:10

Love it. Okay, so in 2019, we’re recording this in 2020. You did LinkedIn assessments for over 800 executives and founders, and what you found was, and I’m quoting directly from your LinkedIn profile, is that they see value in LinkedIn, but they don’t know how to optimize it to unlock opportunities. So to my ear, that sounds sort of like a classic, know do gap like k n o w, like, you know something, but you can’t or aren’t, maybe because you need a permission slip, to do something. So you are doing everything there is to do on LinkedIn, because you were ranked in the top 1% of LinkedIn users. So I do want to dive into like the specifics of how to optimize it but I’m curious one why do you think that know do gap exists, like folks can see it and know that there are opportunities, what’s holding them back?

Deborrah Ashley  09:04

Well, I think it’s more about similar to what I had. I was speaking with this CMO this morning. And, you know, although they want to build their personal brand, and they know it’s important, they don’t want to be too casual. So when I said to her users will connect with you with your content when you’re taking it from a casual standpoint, I think her definition of casual was a lot different than what I see as casual. So then she pointed out someone who is what we consider an influencer in her market. I always say, you know, we have influencers all over social media. It’s not necessarily about who you think is an influencer for you, but who does your audience see as an influencer? So she pointed that out to me today and she said, well, if you look at her content is more formal. She’s also former president of a very large fortune 500 company. So she has a lot of pull. So we went through her content and I said actually, she is very casual. You can see, there’s three main concepts that she speaks about. And it’s about helping young women see that you can have opportunities and you know, no matter what, nothing will hold you back from the opportunities you desire. Another thing that we saw about this person who she thought was more formal that she’s definitely a feminist, she shares books that she’s written and had the word feminist in the title. So, you know, to me, that’s casual. I’m having conversations with my friends this is the latest book I’m reading and this is a reason why I liked the book. So she was able to relax a little bit because she said, okay, it is something that I discuss every day with friends, but I didn’t know I could use it on LinkedIn. So it’s like you said, it’s more of a permission base.

Erica Mills Barnhart  10:39

Yeah, well, and you use the word relaxed, which is, you know, you can sort of see people go like, oh, I can do this. That’s not that’s not so scary. That’s, that’s easier, right? That’s like more of a path of least resistance. I think there’s a tendency to build up things on social media because so many folks are doing it in a way that’s like kind of highly produced and everything’s perfect. And there’s a little bit of tension, you know, between this idea of highly produced, everything was perfect and like people want you to actually be human. And particularly for executives and executives, you know, a certain age, I think the the Zoomers, and millennials get this a bit more intuitively. And I’m Gen Xer. I think we struggle a bit more with that.

Deborrah Ashley  11:25


Erica Mills Barnhart  11:26

Yeah. Because there used to be those brighter lines between personal and professional. And I think it’s part of the reason I find LinkedIn really interesting, which is it does sort of call, call you to think about how you want to show up, and what it means to be professional yet human, and how are you going to balance all those things? So how is LinkedIn different, help us think about like and understand how is LinkedIn different than other social media platforms?

Deborrah Ashley  11:51

Well, when you think about LinkedIn, how it was designed and why it was designed, obviously, it’s no longer just about resumes and recruiters but it is designed to be an online platform for networking. So that’s all that is done. When you when you go to Facebook, yes, there’s aspects of Facebook that you’re using for business, but most people who are using Facebook, you know, they connected for people to people for a reason. So they connected to them to see maybe let’s see how the kids are doing and, and you got married it, we can see some wedding photos, you know, things like that. But when we go on to LinkedIn, it’s very specific to this is where I’m going to go to not only share my thought leadership, but to connect with the people who are looking for the type of business that I have. An aspect of that too, when we kind of like think about LinkedIn, obviously, it’s not necessarily about showing pictures of your kids. But now with a pandemic, things have changed. So, you know, we have people who are graduating, they’ve spent like, you know, whether years in medical school or parents with their kids with, you know, four years in college, and they can’t celebrate. So now it’s kind of cool that they can share with their colleagues at work through LinkedIn that look at what my my child has achieved. And they get a ton of engagement from that.

Erica Mills Barnhart  13:08

Oh, that’s interesting.

Deborrah Ashley  13:10

Yeah, it gives me the chills just talking about it. Because I can’t imagine being a parent that you’ve worked that hard to, like, put your kids through school and they can’t even have a graduation ceremony, like a traditional one, you know?

Erica Mills Barnhart  13:20

Yeah. Oh, I know, I, I’m a teaching professor at the University of Washington. And so I teach undergrad, but I teach a course for a second year students, their Capstone, so I get to know them deeply because it’s a six month deal. And, you know, they didn’t get to walk and you know, the Evans School, which is where I work, did a wonderful job with an online version of that, but it’s still, it’s not the same.

Deborrah Ashley  13:45


Erica Mills Barnhart  13:46

Especially for first generation students like oh, gosh, just to not have that moment was heartbreaking.

Deborrah Ashley  13:55

 Yeah, who knows what’s going to happen in the future, right? We don’t know. But this is like, this was their moment, so.

Erica Mills Barnhart  14:01

Yes, this was their moment. Yeah, yeah. Well, one thing now that we know is that we don’t know. So if ever there was a question mark about that, I think now there is no more question mark about that. Right. Right. So you’ve touched on this a little bit. But I’m curious if you can give us a little more insight into what holds people back? So specific to thought leadership, which is one way to use LinkedIn, what holds people back from sharing their thought leadership on LinkedIn? Maybe in general, what holds people back? If you have opinions about that, and then specifically on LinkedIn, what holds people back?

Deborrah Ashley  14:32

Yeah, definitely, it’s the fear of saying or doing the wrong things. Right. And you know, and it depends, there’s a piece of it, you’re doing it for your own personal brand, and then you’re also doing it to stand out within your company. So if you’re, when we think about whether the nonprofit or for profit, there are certain things in certain industries that you just cannot say, so what if you mess up? What if that audience member that’s been watching you for a while that you’re connected with doesn’t necessarily agree with everything that you share? So I think those are the main things that will stop people from doing it because they just don’t want to mess up. Specifically on LinkedIn, now it’s about that brand voice. What voice do I want for LinkedIn? Like who? And to me, it’s like, it’s your voice. It’s who you are naturally. But that’s the biggest question I get. And I, you know-

Erica Mills Barnhart  15:23

Oh interesting.

Deborrah Ashley  15:25

Yeah, it’s the biggest question I get that I don’t know how to share my voice on LinkedIn. And so it’s the whole preconceived notion of what LinkedIn is.

Erica Mills Barnhart  15:34

Are these people who are comfortable or are sharing their, their thought leadership on other platforms, and then they like get stuck when they’re trying to transition?

Deborrah Ashley  15:45

On Twitter, they have no problem. And two weeks ago, I spoke to at least 20 executives between the executive, founders, different people, someone from Facebook, so of from Indeed, different companies, just for my own research, something I was doing. And they told me they have no problem sharing their thoughts on Twitter, they almost don’t feel tied to their organization through Twitter, but on LinkedIn, they do.

Erica Mills Barnhart  16:14

Okay. So I want to make sure I’m understanding this because from a psychology perspective, this is fascinating, which is, there’s something about Twitter that feels like kind of more their own, and like, they won’t mess up on behalf of the company. Whereas in the environment of LinkedIn, that feels very tied to their company or organization, and therefore they’re worried about messing up.

Deborrah Ashley  16:35


Erica Mills Barnhart  16:36

Oh, wow.

Deborrah Ashley  16:38

Almost, they didn’t mention this, but I almost wonder maybe because they have more colleagues who are on LinkedIn, because Twitter is also Twitter’s very complicated. I used that in the beginning of my online career, but it’s complicated so people stay away but LinkedIn once you get into it, it’s a fluff.

Erica Mills Barnhart  16:54

Yeah, Twitter’s noisy.

Deborrah Ashley  16:56

Yeah. It’s noisy and it’s fast and yeah, so that is it’s fascinating. I love human psychology and it’s an interesting thing to even think about.

Erica Mills Barnhart  17:07

Yes. Okay, so you have an amazing LinkedIn profile clearly, do you mind if we walk through your LinkedIn profile and you can like explain to us what’s going on? I like I kind of fancy myself and you know, a decently good LinkedIn user, clearly not a black belt, and I was like, I wonder why she does that. I wonder why she does that. So, okay, can we take a look, I’m going to share my screen for folks who are watching on video. Here we are. And again, calling attention to the fact that I put in your name and then it takes me to this, the linked blackbelt.

Deborrah Ashley  17:42

Right. So the very first thing if we want to start with the URL, when you first join LinkedIn, what’s going to happen, it does linkedin.com slash i n and it has your like, if your first and last name, it has a dash in between and then a whole bunch of numbers after that, in order to kind of personalize you’re brand new, you want to switch that to something specific, but it’s something that you pretty much use throughout social media. So it can be your first and last name. But something that’s very unique to you. If your name is a pretty popular name, like Christian Smith or something like that, then you may have to find something else, but you don’t want people to search for you and then they find about 30 different people with the same name because now you’ve lost them. Right? So that’s where to start. Now, I can tell you about two weeks ago, I had a different completely different banner image. But that but the banner image was more about it was words, it’s different words that I do. So it was, you know, gain your competitive advantage, LinkedIn training. This time, I decided because I want to focus more on doing virtual trading at this point, but virtual trading and speaking engagements. So the image pretty much, this is exactly what I do, and I’ve done it for others in the past. That’s your social proof. So if you have something that you’ve done in the past, and you want to position yourself as an expert in that space, let that banner image be the place you put it because you have about three seconds for someone when they come to your profile to make a decision whether they want to go further or not.

Erica Mills Barnhart  19:12

Okay, three seconds, thats a high bar. One thing I okay, so that even your name, Deborah Ashley, MBA, and then in parentheses, elevate and scale, most paren for our podcast listeners, and then dash marketing strategy. So not just your name, like you were packing a lot into this sort of title area.

Deborrah Ashley  19:36

Right. So what’s going to happen, part of the reason when you think about LinkedIn and itself, just like Google is a search engine. LinkedIn is a search engine. So at any given point, someone’s going to notice that they’ll search for marketing strategist or marketing strategy, New York, anything else and you want to make sure that your name comes up on top so you’re put in that not everyone has to do it this way, but you want to at least put that what you do in your headline and your about section. But let’s go into the how I set up my name. So when we click on that pencil, that’s pretty much how to update your name. I have my first and last name in my first name column. And I have marketing strategy in my last name column. So when I engage in content when I’m in other people’s, when I think about networking event, when I start having conversations, and I enter a conversation that’s already taking place, in someone else’s feed, people will automatically see what I do. They don’t have to guess just by my name. And they may get curious. And then that’s when the whole goal is to lead people back to your profile. Your profile is like the funnel.

Erica Mills Barnhart  20:47

And so I’m hearing two things just in the name section. One is to help with search engine optimization. And then also to like take away any uncertainty somebody might have about what you want to be known for.

Deborrah Ashley  20:59

Right. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  21:01

Okay. And then underneath it you have helping leaders and brands stand out as industry experts to win new business. And then this very kind of groovy forward arrow linked in marketing strategist, consultant and trainer, another groovy arrow, and then 20 plus years brand building. I’ve never seen a groovy arrow.

Deborrah Ashley  21:22

It’s on there. You just do arrow character, and you can find it on you know, Google on any of those.  You can do like a podcast mic.

Erica Mills Barnhart  21:32

Oh, yes, I could.

Deborrah Ashley  21:33

Yeah. Yeah. So you can do mic emoji and then you’ll find it in Google. So with the headline area, it’s really about same thing when you’re engaging in someone else’s feed. Because more than anything, you’re going to get connected to more people when you engage with others. Yeah, typically what they see first of all, is helping leaders and brands stand out. Everything else will be cut up, cut off when I’m engaging on someone’s post. So what’s going to happen now they’re going to get curious again, because human nature makes people get curious. And the way to do it is to make sure that you’ll leave in very relevant remarks. You see people say cool, and thank you on the post. It doesn’t make you stand out. But if you share something that’s very relevant, then it’s going to make you really stand out.

Erica Mills Barnhart  22:22

So I just scrolled down to see your activity. Just so the folks have a little example of that one.

Deborrah Ashley  22:28

Yeah, I think the one with 100 videos will be a good one to share. Because we started having conversation if you click on Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  22:35

Oh, what I learned from posting 100 LinkedIn videos, okay. And this is a Dr. Brian Harmon.

Deborrah Ashley  22:40

So go down to my comment it hopefully it’s right on top. Yeah. So if you notice the, you see right underneath my name, yep.

Erica Mills Barnhart  22:51

Okay, great. Yeah. Yeah. So what folks are seeing is Deborah Ashley MBA and then helping leaders and brands stand out as Industry experts to win new bus…, right? So really six to six to seven words.

Deborrah Ashley  23:08

If that’s their goal, they will take a look at my profile. Plus, I also engage the person who  hear the comment by asking him a question. And I’m sure other people had that question they just didn’t ask.

Erica Mills Barnhart  23:21

So your question was, you said amazing accomplishment, Dr. Brian Harman. What app did you use to make this? He said canva. You said thank you, I should have known that. So there’s, it’s a conversation. It’s human.

Deborrah Ashley  23:31

Right. I’m at a networking event online and we’re having a conversation.

Erica Mills Barnhart  23:35

Yeah. Oh, that’s a great way to think about it. Mm hmm. Okay, let’s go back to your amazing profile. Here we are. So there’s some stuff that is put in there. Okay. Let’s talk about your about section.

Deborrah Ashley  23:50

Sure. So your goal, especially with the very first line of your about section because we at this point have an attention of a nat or a mosquito, the whole goal of that very first line, because before you open this, you’re only able to see the first two lines. The goal is to get other people to read the next line and doing that they have to open it. So now you’re going to call attention to something very specific that they’re either concerned about or that they have a question about,

Erica Mills Barnhart  24:19

So asking a question, because our brains are hardwired to want to answer questions is probably a good way. But it sounds like the job of this first sentence is to get people to click the more button and then read the rest of it.

Deborrah Ashley  24:32

Absolutely. Okay. Now, I’m almost telling them that this is the reason you’re going to want to listen to me. And people are always going to be intrigued by the fact that I have done all of those LinkedIn assessments. They want to know what it would mean to them and what what can they do to fix their own profile? Because that’s kind of like where it starts.

Erica Mills Barnhart  24:52

Yeah, yeah. And then you go through. I mean, you make it easy, right as a consultant, here’s all these things, as a trainer, here’s all these things, right? My expertise is your secret weapon, proof points, my 25 plus years of experience include crafting innovative campaigns for brands and steering, marketing development for startups across a broad range of industries. Right, and then next steps so I’ve never seen this before. Talk to us about this. This is your fourth bullet. Next steps.

Deborrah Ashley  25:23

So next steps, I just want them to self select. Some people may not need the full consulting with me, they just want their profile to be overhauled. And when we think about see that CEOs or executives, they don’t necessarily use LinkedIn, but their profile has not been changed in 10 years. Right. So they’re, you know, their teams may say, okay, if she and I’m pretty much letting them know specifically this is exactly what I do, right. And then this is how you can you know, you can connect with me.

Erica Mills Barnhart  25:51

So for listeners under next steps it says, I focus on a holistic approach to marketing born from a place of client obsession, which is like you’re like, well, I want her to obsess about me that sounds fantastic authenticity and integrity. If this is you, let’s chat. And then you have three calls to action. So they can kind of choose their own adventure inquiry for consulting, contact information, LinkedIn profile overhaul, contact information, and speaking and training requests.

Deborrah Ashley  26:17

Right? I shared that information about this is who I want to work with, this is who I don’t want to work with so you get to self select. If you’re the type of organization or the type of business that everything’s about sale sale sale, as soon as we connect, you want to pitch me in your inbox, then I can’t help you. Because that’s not what I do. So I want to be very clear about the type of people like I help because I’ve made the mistake earlier on on taking on the wrong clients, and they ended up being like that.

Erica Mills Barnhart  26:47

Yeah, because I’ve been consulting for so long, I get questions, right, from folks who are just getting into the field. I’m sure you do too. And my biggest piece of advice is to just remind yourself that your no’s are as important as you’re, probably more important than your yeses, your early yeses because because for a lot of people is going to be referral and word of mouth. And so if you take on a project and this makes total sense, especially now we’re all a bit worried. So you’ll take on work that isn’t necessarily there it’s work you can do but it’s not the work you want to do. Well then if you do a great job, then you’re getting referred for work that you don’t actually want to do. So as hard as those early no’s are, they are so important. And you will get you will get the projects you want faster if you can, like be brave enough to say no, absolutely. Oh, that’s tough though. Okay. And then they have a feature stuff which is automatic. Now if we go under experience, one the name of your company, which we haven’t mentioned, next is Thrivoo Marketing. Did I say that right?

Deborrah Ashley  27:45

You did. So that’s great. Most people say something different, I’m amazed. Thank you.

Erica Mills Barnhart  27:51

Thrivoo Marketing. I like the way it looks. I like the way it sounds. I was like, oh, that’s fun. And then under this also, again, just so you have this it’s like, yet again, I know exactly what you are offering. LinkedIn strategy consulting, employee profile overhaul, strategic partnerships.

Deborrah Ashley  28:11

All keywords and what I’m doing there. I’m just doing I’m putting keywords in.

Erica Mills Barnhart  28:15

Okay. Okay. Yeah. And then you have is this based on not some sort of timeline, but you have these these sub bullets underneath Thrivoo.

Deborrah Ashley  28:27

Right. So this is I typically share this in my workshops. If you are looking to position yourself as a speaker, you should have a specific separate, almost like a job experience area that just says you’re a speaker. Then you’re going to outline what you speak about, where you spoken before, even links to if you’ve been on podcasts. So when someone searches for a speaker, your keywords will now come out.

Erica Mills Barnhart  28:54

Okay, that’s exactly what you’ve done here. Of course. LinkedIn speaker, corporate speaker, corporate trainer, and those are all keywords, I’m guessing that they would search.

Deborrah Ashley  29:06

If you want to go up a few bumps, I’m going to show you something that well, you may not see it on your end, actually, you won’t. Right. You’ll see it on your profile. You know where it says the number of searches this past week is really the past seven days, that’s where typically you want that number to be over 500 that means your profile is fully optimized.

Erica Mills Barnhart  29:28

Okay. Yeah. 500?

Deborrah Ashley  29:31

Yeah. So I can tell you, let me check on my phone. I have a little over 1000 searches based on my skill set this past week. So if you click that area, you can see what company those people are working at that did the search what their titles were and what specific keywords they searched for to find you.

Erica Mills Barnhart  29:51

Right. Yeah. Okay. I think in general, I show up and like maybe 100. So, clearly, I have a long ways to go, lots of opportunity for improvement.

Deborrah Ashley  30:04

Exactly. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  30:06

All right. That’s a great, but what a great benchmarking thing. Okay. So listeners, if you’re listening, when you look at your LinkedIn profile and you’re logged in as you, if you’re looking at it, it would be kind of it would be over here on the side on the left hand side and it’s going to tell you how many searches you showed up in that, for so you said per week, we want to be aiming for 500 that means we’re fully optimized.

Deborrah Ashley  30:29

At least 500 so it’s gonna say your private dashboard, typically right underneath the feature area, okay, the private dashboard, and all you have to do is click it and sometimes like initially, when I first started doing this, it would have so many random keywords like fitness and coach and I said to myself, no, that’s not me showing up. So you just have to play around with it. You know, marketing is all about testing what works and tweaking and then moving forward with it.

Erica Mills Barnhart  30:57

Experiment, experiment, experiment. Okay, anything else that you want to draw attention to that the neophytes among us may not know that you have done on your profile?

Deborrah Ashley  31:08

one thing that’s going to be super important your testimonial area that’s right at the very bottom, you want to make sure that you have at least two new or relevant testimonials within the past six months. People care about that a lot more than they care about the skills area because anyone can check off your skills. Right? Those are people that you’ve either worked with or you’ve either impacted to leave you a specific testimonial. And when I always you know, share about testimonials are not Oh, Erica is an amazing person. She did a great job. I love her podcast. It’s more about before I found Erica online, this is where I was now that I have listened to her podcast and I’ve gained their insight this is what the result of what has happened based on our work together.

Erica Mills Barnhart  31:56

So the transformation that has occurred. You don’t have to answer this necessarily, but if you want to, I’m curious. Do you write a proposed testimonial and then then have folks edit? Or do you just let them freeform?

Deborrah Ashley  32:10

So yeah, two options, so what I’ll say and I share this anyway, I will initially it depends on who the person is, I will initially say, like, for example, hey, Michelle, I’d love for you to write a testimonial about the workshop that you attended, you know, that I hosted specifically, I’d love for you to share, you know, where you were in the process before, what you’re doing now, and what result has happened since our work together.

Erica Mills Barnhart  32:36

Got it. Okay, so a little like leading the horse to the water.

Deborrah Ashley  32:40

Absolutely. If I don’t hear from them in three days, I will then reach out and say, and you know, people get busy. So maybe there’s something else going on. I said, hey, you know, if you’re busy, if you want, I can kind of share something that someone else has written and you can take from that and insert what you need.

Erica Mills Barnhart  32:59

Oh, Okay, all right, like a double down strategy. But yeah, initially just like, hey, this is generally what I would like, and then helping them move towards something with more specifics in the follow up, right?

Deborrah Ashley  33:13

Because a lot of times, I mean, when you think about it, it’s not even that they don’t want to write you a profile. Now, it’s always about what if I say the wrong, I don’t want to mess up, or I don’t even know how to put into words, especially if we, you know, I have a lot of people who have very analytical backgrounds, your engineers and your attorneys. Well, not, well, yeah and they and they make it very formal versus very personal. So that’s why I kind of have to coach him a little bit and it’s so it’s completely okay.

Erica Mills Barnhart  33:41

Yeah, back to that theme of being human.

Deborrah Ashley  33:44

Yes. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  33:46

Okay, I’m gonna stop sharing my screen.

Deborrah Ashley  33:49

Okay. All right. That was fun, a mini classes in between.

Erica Mills Barnhart  33:52

It was like a mini class. I loved it. Thank you. I learned a ton as I knew I would. Um, so we’ve talked a lot about LinkedIn from personal perspectives like my, you know, a personal LinkedIn profile. Right? I want to transition so that you can share with listeners and viewers kind of how to think about it from, like a company or organization perspective.

Deborrah Ashley  34:14

Yeah. Wonderful. So okay, obviously, let’s focus kind of on the non profit area, I identified a few people who are doing it excellently.

Erica Mills Barnhart  34:24

Oh, good.

Deborrah Ashley  34:25

I identify those people who are doing a great job. Obviously, we already know the, you know, American Heart Association of the world. They have a team that’s going to do they want, they’re going to do an amazing way, but I want to share what’s making it amazing for them. Another group, the ICF, International Coach Federation.

Erica Mills Barnhart  34:44

Oh, okay.

Deborrah Ashley  34:45

Yeah, they also have obviously a great base on LinkedIn. So I’m surprised I didn’t realize they were on LinkedIn too, but I can identify some of the things that they’re doing very well. So when we think about the content that they’re putting out, you want to use your company page. But you also want to use the personal page and build brand ambassadors. So your brand ambassadors could be your volunteers. They could be your current employees, and they can be, you know, potentially your members. Obviously, it has to be someone who, who’s already on LinkedIn. So if we are using brand ambassadors, the first thing that we want to focus on is making sure that their LinkedIn profile is optimized. Because no matter what, even if they now share content from the company page where a lot of the content should originate, they’re sharing it to their feed, people will get interested in what they’re saying, and they will go right back to their profile. The profile doesn’t necessarily have to speak to like, for example, the American Heart Association. It doesn’t have to speak to their vision and mission, but it should at least align if they call themselves volunteers.

Erica Mills Barnhart  35:51

So are you just just to make sure I’m tracking like the Heart Association might reach out to their volunteers, which I would guess they have a lot and say do like, do they give them tips like, hey, here are three things you could do to really help us spread the word like three changes on your LinkedIn profile or something like that?

Deborrah Ashley  36:11

Yeah, they could do that, um, see, I would more say because their profile has to be done already. So yeah, whether someone internally on their team would do it, or help them with it with like a guided booklet. It’s not going to be necessarily about the American Heart Association, but it’s going to be about their love of giving back and charities and interest because you have that section on your profile that has interest in any one of the interest should be American Heart Association.

Erica Mills Barnhart  36:39

Okay, that’s a good specific tip.

Deborrah Ashley  36:42

Oh, yeah, very specific. Yeah. But the ways that the American Heart Association, for example, or any nonprofit can get their volunteers to share. We can do like a volunteer of the week, or volunteer of the month that’s highlighted on the company page. And this now is going to kind of go into I know, you know, there’s a little inclusive marketing is going to be very important, especially with nonprofits. Now we want to make sure that we’re highlighting everyone within the organization. So whether they’re volunteers, whether they’re members, anything else, because if you’re looking to recruit more volunteers or you’re looking to fundraise, or you’re looking to bring in more people with diverse audience, you want to make sure that you’re showing that diversity that’s already going on within your organization and you do that through your content.

Erica Mills Barnhart  37:29

Okay. You know, where my mind goes is so many organizations, nonprofits, do a newsletter, electronic or print, whatever. And there’s sort of a spotlight section. So it sounds like a pretty easy thing to do would be to just take that if you’re doing that and bring that onto LinkedIn as well.

Deborrah Ashley  37:47

Absolutely. Bring that onto LinkedIn. Something else that I’ve seen that’s, you know, it’s relatable. They do mini interviews with them too. So clearly, just like we’re doing an interview, it’s from the comfort of your own home, but they do Like a 90 second spot with them almost like why did you volunteer? What are you getting out of it? So it depends on your goals. So the biggest thing is to figure out what are your goals, for your organization? And how can you now use LinkedIn as a tool to make it happen?

Erica Mills Barnhart  38:19

Yeah. So when I teach marketing, I have the super simple methods. The Claxon method, which starts with what a success look like? Um, so what are your goals? And then and then who’s the target audience? And then LinkedIn would be a how. So then it’s how are you going to reach them? Do you think I mean, what’s your opinion? Obviously, you’re predisposed to being a fan of LinkedIn. But I’m curious, are there are there companies or organizations for whom like, this just wouldn’t be a fit, like their audience isn’t there? And so why bother optimizing?

Deborrah Ashley  38:49

I can well, it’s hard to name the company, I would say go to where your audience hangs out. So if you understand who your client your potential clients are your audience, then you’re going to you know, you’re going to focus on whether it’s LinkedIn or Instagram or Twitter. So I can’t think of one right off the bat. But yeah, that’s that’s probably several.

Erica Mills Barnhart  39:09

So I am sort of smirking because so I teach and, you know, most of my students are a bit younger. So more in the millennials, some Zoomers now. And whenever I talk about LinkedIn, they’re like, oh, like, there’s not a lot of enthusiasm. I’m like, here’s the deal. Like the people that who are gonna think about hiring you, you may not love LinkedIn, but they’re using it. So you kind of have to be there. Right. So I think LinkedIn is a bit unique in that way. It’s like that that overlap between personal professional, you know, in other instances, like if you don’t like Facebook, don’t be on Facebook. If you don’t like Twitter, don’t you know, don’t be on Twitter, like nobody’s forcing you to do these things. But there is a piece about LinkedIn, which is like if your target audience is somebody who’s going to be hiring you then you need to be on LinkedIn. And then you need to listen to Deborah who’s going to tell you how to optimize.

Deborrah Ashley  40:05

Absolutely. Yeah, they have. So why are they why do they groan about it just because it’s too boring for them?

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:11

 Yeah it is for old people. Oh, yeah, totally. They’re like, Oh, but you know, because it’s not where they naturally convene online.

Deborrah Ashley  40:20

Absolutely. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:21

You know, they’re on Insta, they’re in snap. Right? You know, they’re on Tiktok.

Deborrah Ashley  40:26

They don’t realize though, they could make it fun. So they could go on LinkedIn and they can, they can share just from a place of this is how I use TikTok. This is how you can use TikTok, so they can go on there and they can now position themselves as like an expert on TikTok, and then an organization. I mean, maybe they’re not even going to school for that, but who knows an organization could pay them $100,000 a year just to tell them how to use TikTok.

Erica Mills Barnhart  40:54

So, so true, and so I have a son who’s 12. And he definitely is a pretty active TikTok user but increasingly what he what he’s using the force to find like to experiment with recipes.

Deborrah Ashley  41:07


Erica Mills Barnhart  41:08

Right and so I think this is fantastic, of course. I love cooking and like just as I guess I mentioned that because people think of TikTok is like, kind of patently silly. Like, this is such a generational stereotypical thing in Gen Xers and older like Tik what, you know, kind of like what why would you be that? But there is this you know, and I really appreciate you pointing out like where these things can converge in a really cool way because I was a little resistent about TikTok, you know, like really spend your time doing TikTok videos, this is how okay, but one it’s kind of cute. I also have a almost 16 year old daughter and so they’ll make and she’s a dancer. So make TikTok videos together but he is becoming a good little cook because of TikTok. Right. So that’s a silly example. But I really loved this idea that you offered to you thinking of college age and whatever, yeah, to like, establish yourself and if you had a specific area of expertise, you could blend the two so if you’re interested in environmental, you know issues climate change or whatever, you could actually look for videos on Tiktok about that and then bring that in. Oh, that’s that’s fun.

Deborrah Ashley  42:22

And your son even now let’s get him to make money your son could now work with some food, you know, we have that food as medicine type of companies. And they send like, this is for me, I you know, when I was younger, I said, I wanted to be a food critic. So I can I can get free meals to write about, but so they could start to sponsor him and they could send him food in order to do TikTok videos about you know, different there’s different things that you can do with it.

Erica Mills Barnhart  42:49

So many different things.

Deborrah Ashley  42:51

Yeah, but then he would meet them either on Instagram or LinkedIn. So he would meet those people there and then they would bring him in as an influencer, depending on how you know large is account is.

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:01

 Totally going to talk to him about this. He doesn’t post as much. He’s more of like a consumer, as opposed to a producer. I will say though our family is pretty well known for our chocolate chip cookies. We make very good chocolate chip cookies. And the evolution of that happened over the weekend because of TikTok. Which it turns out, you can put your cookie dough into the waffle maker.

Deborrah Ashley  43:23

I didn’t know that but you’re right.

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:25

Oh, it’s delicious. Ice cream on top, on cheat day. Oh, it was I was like this is the best thing ever. So that gives you a lot of insight into our weekend.

Deborrah Ashley  43:38

I’m excited about that. I never thought about it. But yeah, waffle maker.

Erica Mills Barnhart  43:41

Waffle maker. Hmm. And anyway, it’s faster. There was a lot of perks to the waffle maker approach. We touched on this, but I want to make sure that we come back to it and we’re actually we’re talking about it a little bit here, which is this idea of inclusion. We were just talking about it sort of in terms of age. But you know, how can companies and organizations be more inclusive in their marketing in genera and then in LinkedIn in particular.

Deborrah Ashley  44:04

Yeah, I think the big thing and you know, obviously with everything going on with a bigger focus now on diversity and inclusion, because it was always there, but it’s really urgent for companies now. I think the importance is, and this can be all around the LinkedIn profile and your presence, you know, there’s a difference between and I’ve seen this on Instagram, which makes me cringe a little bit. It’s not necessarily put in my face on one of your LinkedIn or Instagram posts when you don’t necessarily know me, and it’s not relevant. But it’s about having a conversation about why it’s important to you and maybe even admitting that in the past, this wasn’t something that you thought about, and yes, I’ve messed up and we overlooked it. But this is how we are working at this point in order to make sure that things change. You know, it’s going to be important, especially if we think about nonprofits and recruiting the right board members, other organizations and recruiting VPs. Because if now they go to your profile, your just your social media presence in general, or LinkedIn or anywhere else, and they don’t see anything that speaks to them, or they don’t see people that look like them, then either when they get in that interview, they will be hammering you with questions, or they may not want to even, you know, be associated at all.

Erica Mills Barnhart  45:20

Yeah, it’s not gonna feel authentic. No, like, you can’t just write an, you know, diversity equity inclusion statement, put it on your website, and then say like, look, we have it there.

Deborrah Ashley  45:33

We have it there. Yeah.

Erica Mills Barnhart  45:34

I really appreciate your point about boards of directors. Yeah, definitely. But also, I hope that listeners and viewers will really hear your point about owning the messing up that may have happened in the past, right? We can’t, revisionist history isn’t going to serve us going forward. And this loops back to a theme that’s been kind of coming up and what you’re saying around being human, and humans fail.

Deborrah Ashley  46:00


Erica Mills Barnhart  46:01

And that’s super scary. And yet if we’re going to move forward and you’re truly going to be inclusive, you know, that’s a bit of bravery that has to happen.

Deborrah Ashley  46:12

Right? And it’s almost like a sales and marketing call when we think about sales and a sales call. They maybe they’re probably thinking about it already. You’ve never talked about this in the past. How do I know this is something different? So why not address it right now? So now, any objections they possibly have, you’re just putting out on the table and people appreciate that.

Erica Mills Barnhart  46:31

They do. Yeah. And it’s scary. Get it? I mean, all you know, speaking as a white woman, yes, I have messed up a lot. Also, when it comes to marketing, and there’s been a couple other podcasts about this, just being so mindful of the implicit bias that you bring, right? And if you’re not aware of it, and you can’t name it, then just the way that that marketing the like behemoth machine of marketing is structured right now you really risk perpetuating dominant paradigms.

Deborrah Ashley  47:04


Erica Mills Barnhart  47:04

So you have to be so proactive about it, but it’s really doable. And but it is that intentionality out of the gate and that owning the stuff like, I’ve talked about this on other podcasts, but I, you know, I teach this graduate marketing course. And a couple years ago, one of my students, God bless her, said, hey, I know that you really care about diversity. I can feel that and have you looked at the authors on the reading list?

Deborrah Ashley  47:27

Oh, wow.

Erica Mills Barnhart  47:28

All white.

Deborrah Ashley  47:30


Erica Mills Barnhart  47:31

I get like, choked up every time I tell that story, because it was it was a moment and I had to say, no, I didn’t see it.

Deborrah Ashley  47:39

But I’m so glad that you are a person that they completely trust that they could come to you with that.

Erica Mills Barnhart  47:44

Oh, such a blessing. Oh, my students are blessings in every way. I had this,  so speaking of inclusion, I want to be mindful of time and your time and listeners time, viewers time, but quickly, pronouns.I wasn’t intending to go here. But I think it’s really really feels related to me. Which is we’re having, like, you know, an evolution of, you know, with they being a singular pronoun. And that actually, that’s more inclusive than the, you know, it used to be you had to pick he she them. And then there was the s/he  kind of middle ground like that I happened for a while. And I as a writer, I’m like, Oh my gosh, they is finally a singular pronoun. It’s like, yay, but it’s little things like that and I’m thinking about like on LinkedIn profiles, just that attentiveness to the pronouns that you’re using can also speak to like, I’m trying, I get it. I’m trying.

Deborrah Ashley  48:42

Yeah. And this, and as you said before, it should be authentic. So don’t do it if it doesn’t feel authentic to you.

Erica Mills Barnhart  48:50

Thank you, Deborah.

Deborrah Ashley  48:51


Erica Mills Barnhart  48:52

There are people for a variety of reasons if we just stick with the pronoun example. They’re like, I can’t do it. They is plural. It’s never going to be singular for me. But what made me think about that is I just student a couple years ago, all my students are such gifts I learned so much from them. And she was just, she was so lovely and gracious about, you know, she’d come up after class and be like, that was great. You know, I learned a lot about this. I just thought I’d flag for you. There was a lot of gendered, you know, language today and here’s an example. And here’s how the future you might change that.

Deborrah Ashley  49:25

That’s amazing.

Erica Mills Barnhart  49:26

But it’s amazing that you took the time. Right? And she was willing. Oh, amazing. So I’m super blessed that way that I have my students who like-

Deborrah Ashley  49:34

Absolutely, but yeah, but like I said, that speaks volumes about who you are too that they feel comfortable doing that.

Erica Mills Barnhart  49:40

Thank you. I appreciate that. All right. We’ve talked about a lot of different things. So what’s one action, one action that you would recommend that people take.

Deborrah Ashley  49:52

If you still have that blue default banner on your LinkedIn profile, change it today.

Erica Mills Barnhart  50:00

Yeah that is so true.

Deborrah Ashley  50:04

Yeah. And if not, if you’re already past the second step, then just this week work on optimizing or just, you know, making your LinkedIn profile more of a reflection of who you are and where you’re going.

Erica Mills Barnhart  50:17

Yeah, a little bit of bravery. Yeah, we need human now more than ever. We need human right?

Deborrah Ashley  50:23


Erica Mills Barnhart  50:24

So I close every single interview with the same question, which is about inspiration and motivation. So the roots, the etymology of the word inspiration means to give breath. And then motivation is about action. So we need inspiration to take action. So Deborrah, what inspires you and what motivates you to keep doing this work?

Deborrah Ashley  50:43

What inspires me and I never thought about it this way before but what inspires me are people who are ready to give up that we may not have even met before but something that we say or something that we do, specifically on the online space creates this different world for them where they want to try again. So that inspires me. And what motivates me daily is, I don’t know. I just love what I do. I just love what I do. The feedback that I get from people, the lives that and I never, I never necessarily think I’m changing lives, but the worlds that I’m changing and the conversations that are changing based on what I put out there.

Erica Mills Barnhart  51:25 Yeah. And the perspectives that are changing. Yeah. And the access that you create and the connection so you create. Yeah, I think that that’s, I think that’s world changing according to me. Thank you, Deborrah, so much for being here. Deborrah, aka the LinkedIn blackbelt. Folks, of course, you can find her on LinkedIn for sure. I so appreciate you being here today. I learned a ton. So thank you. It was like a mini mini masterclass for all of us. So I so appreciate you being here, appreciate what you’re doing and what you’re sharing. You were very generous with your knowledge with all of us. Thank you. And of course listeners and viewers, thank you for being here. And, as always, do good, be well and we will see you next time.

Do you communicate as effectively as you think?


Do you communicate as effectively as you think?