Public Relations and Recruiting: Eliminating the “And”

When people talk about public relations, most have an image of either a corporate press secretary touting the genius actions of his or her boss or else a line of local celebrities shoveling some dirt with gold spades at the site of a new youth center. When they think about recruiting, most people think of someone in a suit-and-tie pounding the pavement, or else interviews and newspaper or Internet job ads. Very few people, if any, would ever put public relations along side of recruiting. But if you want to be successful at recruiting in today’s innovative economy, that is exactly what you should be doing: creating a public relations recruiting effort. Let’s start with a definition of what “public relations recruiting” is and why it is important. Then we will discuss real world ways for any type of company to begin implementing their public relations recruiting campaign. What Is Public Relations Recruiting? Public relations recruiting can be summed up as simply the ability to create an image of your company as the absolute best place to work…EVER. Okay, so telling the world that your company is the best place to work “ever” may not be so simple or quick to implement. But by moving in that direction, you begin to separate your company from all the other companies where the top candidates&nbsp:ó either passive or active&nbsp:ó are looking to build a career. Every day, thousands of job candidates across the country are looking for a new job. They begin the process by looking for a job opening or contacting a third party recruiter. Once they see something that interests them about your company, they begin to do research. This might include checking your corporate website, joining online chat rooms about your company or industry, searching sites like Vault.com (if you haven’t ever looked at this site, you should, because it is very popular), contacting friends or family that may work or have worked for your company, and so on. This process may be different based on what the candidate is looking for in a new career. But the best candidates are really taking what they see and hear seriously. The question you must ask yourself is, “Can I control the information they receive?” The answer is yes. This is where a constant flow of public relations recruiting is essential to having a successful recruiting process. That doesn’t mean that you are marketing each individual job. What it means is that you are creating a public image of your company where everyone pictures it as the best place to work EVER. A quality candidate is going to look to your company to give them not only financial opportunities, but also a career where they can grow with the company and not have to worry about being laid off because the executives don’t know how to be innovative in a new economy. So a negative public image&nbsp:ó at any job level&nbsp:ó could spell disaster for your company’s ability hiring the best and brightest talent on the market. While for a few positions that might not be so bad, if it happens over and over, throughout all the departments and divisions, eventually you are competing for sub-par talent. Long term, that means your company doesn’t perform well financially, and maybe even goes out of business. All because someone in a chat room said your company was a terrible place to work. That’s the power of negative PR. A Positive Public Relations Recruiting Effort So let’s talk about how you can implement a positive public relations recruiting effort and give you some real world ideas that you can start using today. These ideas will include those that you can do on your own (even without your boss’s approval), those that you can implement by partnering with the marketing and corporate communications departments in your company, and those that can be implemented at an executive level as part of the overall corporate brand image and strategic plan. On Your Own First, let’s talk about those that you can do on your own. How about joining the chat rooms that talk about your industry or company? Taking a few minutes a few times a day to log on and see what is being talked about can not only give you an immediate idea of how your company or industry might be viewed by the general public, but also allow you to speak up for your company or distill any wrong information. Using any of the major search engines, it’s easy to find chat rooms that are free to join. Just keep looking at different ones to see where people are going that are interested in what your company or industry is doing. The other value of this is that if you “see” someone that looks like a good candidate, you have a way to contact him or her about any job openings. Next, take a look at sites like Vault.com. Now, don’t go there thinking that you can change how everyone feels about your company overnight. If you have gone through some major layoffs or require new employees to regularly work sixty-hour weeks, there are going to be some negative comments. At the same time, if there are good comments, add to them or ask that people in the departments that have openings add comments or offer to be contacted if anyone has a question. If there are no comments, either let it be or simply add your contact information if anyone has questions. If you start talking about how great your company is, there might be some ex-employee that disagrees and starts commenting negatively. One other item that you can try on your own&nbsp:ó and while it might be time consuming at first, it will pay off a lot down the road&nbsp:ó is to create a public relations recruiting rapport with those candidates that you someday would love to hire. Start sending them information about all the great things that your company or department is doing. This could include awards received, how many people are getting promoted out of that department, revenue growth, and more. A monthly hit with each of those candidates keeps your company in front of them all the time, so that when they suddenly have that one bad day at work, they just might call you to see what kind of openings you have. Partnering with Marketing/Communications Next, let’s examine some of the ideas where you could work with your corporate communications and marketing departments. These two departments are charged with public relations for your company. Why not piggyback on their efforts? I would encourage you to get to know the person or people in charge of public relations for your company. Let them know what you and the recruiting group are trying to accomplish through hiring and the types of positions you have open. Many times each of these people are writing press releases, articles, speeches, ads and direct mail materials that could include some message about open positions. In a Fortune 500 company that I used to work for, we had a team of community relations’ directors who had the job of making sure that the company was well viewed by the public in the region that they managed. As part of their role, they would often speak at community and industry meetings about what the company was doing. If they were going to speak at a luncheon where there were a lot of financial people present, they were encouraged to “mention” that we had financial jobs open. If they had some of your business cards, they could hand those out to anyone who talked to them after the speech about those openings. Also, these two groups are heavily involved in networking. Keep them appraised of the types of people you are looking for and you never know when they might refer someone to you from their network. All it takes is a simple email, once a month, to say here are the open job requisitions I have and could you keep an eye out for top candidates. This is a simple, low-cost and often very effective method of public relations recruiting. Public Relations Recruiting at the Strategic Level Finally, let’s look at two very strong ways your corporation can leverage the brand image and strategic plans to help in a public relations recruiting effort. One of the most popular business “lists” in the market today is the Fortune 100 Best To Work For list. Is you company on that list? If not, how did the companies that are listed get there? I would encourage you to have the head of HR or recruiting examine the companies that are listed (especially your competitors) and understand how they differ from what your company does. Then look to make some changes corporately to get on the list. While this will take a more focused effort by the corporate executive team, if positioned as long-term strategic value for the company, it might just find its way onto the agenda. The other way is to make sure that the public views recruiting by your company as one of the strategic efforts of the corporation. When your CEO is speaking internally or externally, make sure that she mentions how important recruiting is to the future of the company. It doesn’t have to be five minutes of the speech, just a few seconds every time she or any other company representative makes a public comment. After a few months, the press will pick up on the comments and begin asking questions about why it is so important. That is when you kick it in high gear and have the full commentary ready that outlines exactly why it is so important to… (fill in the blank here for your company’s future). Remember that creating a public relations recruiting effort is not something that will happen overnight. It can’t be done sporadically, and it works best if the whole company is behind the endeavor. There has to be a focused effort, including a tactical plan, that targets an end result of making sure that anyone who has interest in working for your company or is contacted by you about an open job views your company as the absolute best place to work…EVER!

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Jeff Dahltorp (jdahltorp@trustarsolutions.com) is the director of global marketing and business development for TruStar Solutions, the leader in "creating exceptional hiring strategies." He is a regular contributor to notable industry publications and is a recognized speaker at tradeshows and events. His responsibilities with TruStar Solutions include overseeing the marketing department and developing new strategic alliances. Jeff has over 10 years of business experience in the area of marketing, sales, consulting, product development and product management.

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