Dorothy Crenshaw August 30, 2022 | 09:36:10

How Strategic PR Supports Employer Branding

As the “Great Resignation” gives way to “Quiet Quitting,” worker engagement and employer branding is bigger than ever, and so is the PR that drives it.

That wasn’t always the case. Time was, we’d have a full-blown PR strategy meeting, and employee recruitment would be in an internal comms section, reduced to a single bullet point in a slide deck. Or it would be siloed in the HR department, who never spoke with PR or communications.

Today, employer branding is a business imperative. For any organization that prizes an engaged workforce and recruitment of talented and committed employees, their image as an employer is a make-or-break proposition. And the right PR program can amplify the efforts and outcomes for most organizations. Here’s what to keep in mind.

C-Level visibility is a talent magnet

A charismatic CEO is a powerful employer branding asset. So is a strong roster of articulate C-level executives. The CEO is often the public face of the enterprise, especially for entrepreneurial companies, so their participation is critical to successful employer PR. C-level thought leadership, driven by major media and conference speaking opportunities for senior leaders, sends a compelling message to employees and prospective recruits. It typically results in quality coverage on the business pages of news outlets that conveys the values, vision, and future plans of the organization. It can also humanize it through the real-life stories of the successful execs that have climbed the ranks over time. Who doesn’t want to work with business rockstars?

PR showcases workplace culture, credibly

In a candidate-driven market, culture matters. Talented employees are attracted to a standout workplace experience. That used to mean free lunches and a pet-friendly office, but today it’s more likely to reflect a sense of purpose, or a signature quality like innovation or inclusiveness. Most tech PR campaigns, for example, focus on innovative products. But a more robust PR program will highlight the very culture, processes, and workers behind that great product or service. Talented tech workers like engineers and programmers want to be part of a culture that fosters innovation, and the real-life narratives can be very persuasive. GE has been telling the story of its engineering talent for years through social content, with great success. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has been open about his company’s need for drastic cultural change to recapture its own heritage of innovation. The same tactics can work for startups and SMBs.

External recognition drives interest

Awards and honors are another piece of the PR picture that work hard to add luster to an organization’s image and support its recruiting. Best Places to Work, 40 Under 40, Women to Watch, Entrepreneur of the Year — there are a wealth of lists and awards that will not only make a splash but be searchable for months and years. A smart internal or external PR team will invest the time to scout for opportunities and craft entries to win external recognition, often in concert with Human Resources. Entering many of these awards takes a heavy lift, so it’s essential to put in a consistent effort and to be strategic in selecting the opportunities that make sense and are worth the time and effort. But there’s nothing like the credibility of a prestigious workplace award or the recognition earned by employees.

PR and HR are better together

Even the most brilliant PR team can’t transform a destructive or problematic culture, nor should it. If the stories and messaging put out by PR don’t match the employee experience, the effort is wasted, or worse, it can backfire. That’s why the HR and PR functions should work together. This is particularly important for an external PR firm. An outside agency will bring the benefits of objectivity and experience, but it won’t know the company’s DNA. At the outset, both teams should be privy to how current employees and prospective recruits perceive the company. They should review core values to identify gaps with a company’s policies and reward systems, or the actual experience of current employees.

The full recruiting experience, from ads to interviews to job offer, is obviously key to company perception, as is the pace and cadence of its processes. (How often have you heard stories of people who feel disrespected by multiple rounds of interviews, followed by….silence?) Every link in that chain should reflect well on the organization and be consistent with the culture PR is boasting about. Any red flags — negative comments on Glassdoor, an uptick in job rejections, or a change in employee survey results, for example — are cause for greater scrutiny and quick escalation. PR can’t prevent bad reviews or complaints, but it can encourage happy employees to share their experiences. More importantly, it can work with HR to identify and address any bubbling issues that will impact employer reputation.

On the upside, PR + HR is a winning equation. When recruiting and personnel processes are in sync with company culture, and that story is amplified through PR and thought leadership, the organization is far more likely to attract quality employees who stick around.

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