HR is the New PR

HR is the New PR

What’s bad for journalism has been good for public relations. Reporters have always had a tendency to leave the trenches of writing stories and the low salaries associated with that profession for the cushy confines of the PR industry. However, the slow decline of newspapers has elevated this trend over the past decade.

As a result, PR is more competitive than ever. Agencies and freelancers are increasingly vying for the attention of journalists and writers in the hopes that startups and new products will end up above the fold in as many places as possible. It’s usually a fool’s errand, as most corporate announcements get lost in flood of releases.

So what’s a PR pro to do?

More and more, PR is turning to HR in order to get noticed. Cases in point include the following:

  • Chobani — Last year, the CEO announced employees would be receiving ownership stakes in the company; it was a perk that could make long-time employees millionaires if the company ever goes public or is sold.
  • Palo Alto Software — The company’s employee policies have gotten the company plenty of publicity. Practices including things like bringing your child to work whenever you want, unlimited free books (just turn in a receipt), a generous gym benefit, paid parental leave, paid volunteer time, and an initial three-week PTO with an extra day added each year you work with the company.
  • Treehouse — This Oregon-based small business scored mentions in Business Insider, CNN, Quartz and more because of its four-day work week.
  • 84 Lumber — It ran a Super Bowl ad with an employee-focused message, and the media lost its mind. It didn’t hurt that the company piggybacked on a hot political issue — illegal immigration — shortly after President Donald Trump took office.
  • Audi — Leveraging the Super Bowl as well, Audi ran an ad that focused on gender equality. The media buzz before and after the game were likely more valuable than the spot itself.

Treating HR as PR is a proven way to cut through the clutter of product announcements and obtain favorable coverage in the mainstream media, as well as throughout the blogosphere. For that reason alone, HR and PR, whether internal or external, should be working very closely together.

However, there are other benefits to treating your media outreach like a recruiting campaign. Candidates want to work at companies who have similar ideals. A parent might see the policies of Palo Alto Software and think, “They share my values. I want to work for a company like that.” As the father of an 8-year-old daughter, the Audi ad certainly spoke to me.

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“Companies want to do business with other companies that are well run and regarded. Employees want to work at companies with a great culture,” said Sarah Borup, account director at SHIFT Communications in a blog post. “Press want to speak with companies about more than their products. Other CEOs and entrepreneurs want to learn from companies with interesting and effective management practices. These are just a few reasons why HR-PR should be a pillar of any communications program.”

I recently met Elizabeth Hang, lead generation strategist at Quicken Loans. Her job, which she described as a new position, essentially helps bridge the divide between talent acquisition and marketing. As her online profile says, “In my new position with Quicken Loans, I will be responsible for overseeing the talent lead flow within the talent acquisition team. I work with the talent sourcing and HR social media team to help improve the talent brand strategy. As my team leader says it, our forces will create the most influential team with the entire talent acquisition entity. I plan on it.”

As recruiting and marketing become more intertwined, I expect the trend of HR as PR to progressively grow in popularity. If you’re company is still thinking of talent acquisition and marketing as two separate entities, you’re simply doing it wrong.

Joel Cheesman has over 20 years experience in the online recruitment space. He worked for both international and local job boards in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s. In 2005, Cheesman founded HRSEO, a search engine marketing company for HR, as well as launching an award-winning industry blog called Cheezhead. He has been featured in Fast Company and US News and World Report. He sold his company in 2009 to Jobing.com. He was employed by EmployeeScreenIQ, a background check company. He is the founder of Ratedly, an app that monitors anonymous employee reviews. He is married and the father of three children. He lives in Indianapolis.

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7 Comments on “HR is the New PR

  1. “As recruiting and marketing become more intertwined, I expect the trend of HR as PR to progressively grow in popularity.”
    I welcome this trend if it leads to Recruiting being able to focus more on “putting quality butts in seats” and less on the peripheral activities so often being suggested we take on:
    Employment Branding, Retention, Candidate Experience, etc.

    1. Because quality candidate experience has nothing to do with the quality of the candidate?

      Before that was even a “thing” – I pulled out of an interview process that I was hand-picked for by the VP of HR for a Fortune 100 company because the candidate experience was so bad… and thus, their employer brand was effectively tainted in my mind.

      My question for you: Do you also consider consumer branding and marketing and customer experience/retention peripheral to the sales conversion process??

      And for the record – I don’t advocate front line or full life cycle recruiters having to “take on” those activities, but TA as a whole should have those things cared for at a higher level and recruiters absolutely should understand them as they relate to their organization. We don’t live in the days or the almighty employer and the fortunate job seeker just being happy to have a job and we haven’t in a long time.

      1. Because quality candidate experience has nothing to do with the quality of the candidate?
        In most cases: “no”.
        1) If you’re not an employer of choice, you only have to treat your “*Fabulous 5%”‘
        applicants with courtesy and professionalism. The others will come running, take
        what they can get, and be glad for it, too.

        Before that was even a “thing” – I pulled out of an interview process that I was hand-picked for by the VP of HR for a Fortune 100 company because the candidate experience was so bad… and thus, their employer brand was effectively tainted in my mind.
        2) If you are an employer of choice, you only have to treat your organizationally will-
        connected “fabulous 5%” contractors with courtesy and professionalism.

        My question for you: Do you also consider consumer branding and marketing and customer experience/retention peripheral to the sales conversion process?
        Yes, for the sales rep actually closing the deal. EB and the other activities are to
        Recruiting, what Marketing is to Sales

        We don’t live in the days or the almighty employer and the fortunate job seeker just being happy to have a job and we haven’t in a long time.
        Maybe not in your world or that of your friends/colleagues live and work in, but in the world most of the people I know and work with (and myself), those days never ended.

        *The top 5% of candidates that the employers feel they are entitiled to have as employees.

  2. “Employees want to work at companies with a great culture,”
    I could not agree more. A candidate looks at the hiring process as an indicator of how they will fit in at the company. It’s a company’s responsibility to keep their hiring process smooth and optimized, or else they might lose out on prime candidates that might feel uninspired to apply. Even small things like having a dedicated careers page integrated with an ATS system like Recruitee can make a world of difference in how people experience your culture. In my opinion, the way a company treats their candidates is a great reflection of how they will treat their talent on a day-to-day basis.

    1. “People in hell want ice water, don’t mean they a -gonna get it”.

      Most candidates can’t pick and choose who they work for- they take what they’re offered.
      Most companies don’t have to treat either their candidates or their employees well, and that there are a number who DO is a statement to their positive exceptionalism.

      1. True that. My recent job search has shown me how much companies barely give a damn about their recruitment process or the talent that applies. The ones that do well will benefit in the long run by increasing employee satisfaction and being able to attract the best talent available.

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