Boris Johnson and Alan Partridge embrace LinkedIn


Boris Johnson and Alan Partridge are two of the best-known names to embrace LinkedIn which is going from strength to strength. Both profiles are clearly publicity stunts, but the fact that two communications teams both thought it was worth doing is interesting in itself.

Ironically, the Alan Partridge profile is perhaps the more professional of the two LinkedIn profiles. Ironically because, my overseas readers might not know, Alan Partridge isn’t real. He’s a long-standing comedy character portrayed by UK actor Steve Coogan and co-created by Coogan and writer Armando Iannuccci. He was originally created in 1991 for a BBC Radio 4 comedy show and went on to become a TV comedy show set in a small radio station.

Alan Partridge on LinkedIn

The fake Alan Partridge LinkedIn profile was created by Audible to promote its new From the Oasthouse podcast which features Partridge recording in his Norfolk garden shed during the COVID-19 lockdown.

LinkedIn clearly colluded with Audible to create the fake Alan Partridge profile as the launch was officially welcomed by Charlotte Davies, consumer communications and career expert at LinkedIn who said:

“We were delighted to see that Alan has joined the LinkedIn network.

“We hope that our members will be able to benefit from the advice of such an experienced, dynamic and versatile broadcaster. In turn, we hope that Alan is also able to pick up some tips and advice on professional etiquette from our members.”

Charlotte Davies

This is despite the fact that the Alan Partridge profile quite clearly violates LinkedIn’s user agreement which states you must “use your real name” (8.1.c) and not “create a false identity” (8.2.a).

I appreciate the Partridge profile is great fun but it’s disappointing that at a time of huge concern about fake news, misinformation, and disinformation that LinkedIn didn’t take the opportunity to remind people that fake profiles aren’t allowed.

Apart from the fact it is fake the Alan Partridge profile is a great example of how to create a great LinkedIn profile… and how not to create a great LinkedIn profile!

  • It makes skilful use of the headline to describe who Alan Partridge is, rather than just an uninformative job title.
  • He has a professionally shot profile picture which shows him in ‘action’ but his face is large enough to remain clearly identifiable.
  • It has a well-designed banner with a great photo, two logos and some explanatory copy (LinkedIn isn’t as restrictive as Facebook and doesn’t unnecessarily penalise text).
  • It uses the Featured section to highlight additional content and link to the actual podcast.

Alan Partridge’s profile also has even more examples of what not to do on LinkedIn.

  • He doesn’t say much in his About section which is where you should put your ‘elevator pitch’. You should pay particular attention to the first three lines which are what people will see without needing to click more. Alan uses it to disparage former colleagues (I probably don’t need to say that is not a good idea) instead of highlighting his new expertise as a podcaster.
  • Alan misses out most of his career and doesn’t bother explaining what little of it he does list. Wikipedia informs me Partridge’s first job was in 1991 as a sports presenter for On The Hour, a spoof current affairs show on BBC Radio 4. His LinkedIn profile starts in 1999 and then has several amusing entries, none of which are real (well real for the fictional character) except for the most recent one which highlights his BBC show This Time. You shouldn’t leave gaps in your LinkedIn profile as they raise questions and create suspicion. You also miss out on one of the main benefits of LinkedIn which is people being able to see connections that they wouldn’t otherwise know existed.
  • Just one article and one post since the profile appeared at the start of September isn’t exactly taking advantage of the social networking benefits of LinkedIn. Regularly sharing posts and articles will help you raise your profile with your connections and help create new ones. Alan could use articles and posts to prove he is a ‘thoughtcaster’ as his headline claims. The article is as witty as you’d hope, but the Audible comms team has been lazy and simply used the banner from his profile on the article, rather than resizing it to the correct size for an article or even better creating a specific image for it.
  • Despite the fact his article has received 124 positive comments (at the time of writing on 10 September) Alan hasn’t bothered to reply to a single one. Despite the fact some are from quite important people such as the director of marketing and audiences at the BBC and the CEO of advertising agency McCann.
  • Similarly, he hasn’t shared content or posts from anyone else on LinkedIn.
  • I know Alan has had a chequered 20-year career, but has he really failed to impress anyone enough that he can’t get a single recommendation? I don’t mean the utterly pointless endorsements where some stranger can endorse you for something you’ve hardly ever done, but the recommendations where someone has taken the trouble to write about you. Don’t be shy of asking people for recommendations as since LinkedIn launched the pointless endorsements too many of your contacts will simply be clicking to endorse you rather than making a little effort to write something meaningful as a testimonial.

Boris Johnson on LinkedIn

The real Boris Johnson LinkedIn profile appeared at about the same time as the fake Alan Partridge profile and ironically has even more problems than Patridge’s profile.

“[The PM] joined the professional social networking site because it was particularly important for Johnson to connect with businesses through the post-coronavirus economic recovery.

You can expect to see on there a mixture of written and video content from the PM which will promote UK businesses, jobs and economic announcements.”

Spokesperson for Boris Johnson

Johnson isn’t the first prime minister to have a LinkedIn profile as Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has one, as does New Zealand PM Jacinda Ardern and French president Emmanuel Macron.

Boris Johnson’s LinkedIn profile does some things really well:

  • It has a fantastic profile picture of Johnson in action where his face is still big enough to be clearly identifiable.
  • The professional banner photo shows Johnson confidently striding out of Downing Street clutching a folder showing him as dynamic and hard at work with his trademark blonde hair blowing in the wind.
  • He has posted lots of updates since his profile first appeared which includes a mix of original content, uploaded native LinkedIn videos and sharing content from others (albeit all from UK government departments.) It’s also good to see him at least linking to other profiles such as in this post where he links to Tesco’s company page.

Now let’s take a look at what Boris Johnson gets wrong… or rather what his team gets wrong as he clearly has no role in actually managing the profile.

  • The profile makes no attempt to use either the headline or the about section effectively. The headline simply states his job title and the about section merely adds his other two jobs – MP and leader of the Conservative Party. This actually highlights the fact they’ve missed adding leader of the Conservative Party to his career history!
  • There is nothing listed under contact details. This is where there should be a link to his Twitter account , the 10 Downing Street webpage, the Conservative Party website, his constituency website etc.
  • His career history is even worse than Alan Partridge’s spoof career. Apparently, Boris only came into existence in 2001 when he became MP for Henley. He then appears to have progressed rapidly to become mayor of London and then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. He curiously makes no reference to the shadow ministerial positions he held the first time he was an MP. Perhaps that’s to avoid having to explain he was sacked by Michael Howard for lying to his face about an extra-marital affair.
  • His professional profile also makes no reference to his jobs in journalism at the Daily Telegraph, Spectator and The Times. His first job was a prestigious graduate trainee role at The Times which most people would be incredibly proud of. Unfortunately, in Johnson’s case he was sacked for inventing a quote that appeared in a front-page article. Astoundingly the fake quote was meant to be by his godfather.
  • Curiously his education profile appears to make him appear uneducated as it omits any reference to him attending either Eton or the University of Oxford.
  • A good LinkedIn profile details your whole career. Just like the fake Partridge profile Johnson has created suspicion and doubt by leaving gaps in his career history.

LinkedIn for PR, public affairs and corporate communications

Boris Johnson and Alan Partridge joining LinkedIn have helped to raise the profile of the business networking site which too many PR and communication professionals still think of as being primarily about recruitment. LinkedIn is an incredibly powerful platform for PR and communication where it can be used for research, thought leadership and publishing content as well as creating and developing relationships with stakeholders.

Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss how you and your team could be getting more out of LinkedIn. As well as advising my own clients on strategy, tactics and best practice I also developed the CIPR’s successful LinkedIn for PR professionals’ course and am one of its trainers. I also run bespoke in-house courses for organisations and companies as well as providing ongoing support to provide coaching and mentoring to teams.