In my last post, I wrote about the premature sounding of the death knell for public relations. I’ll go a step further and say that, the need for adept public relations skills is actually growing and is more critical today than ever before. In fact, the use of strategic PR has begun to dominate areas that were once the sole responsibility of completely separate corporate functions. A clear case in point is employee recruiting.
Once the exclusive domain of the Human Resources department, recruiting has quickly evolved into a PR/marketing function. Recruitment expert, Jim Durbin recently wrote that successful recruiting today “includes a wide range of disciplines including creative, copy writing, social media, SEO and blogging.” These are precisely the skills one seeks a public relations professional to perform.
Case in point: the medical industry.
While a large percentage of companies today are cutting back their workforce, segments of the medical industry are desperate to find qualified staff – particularly nurses, doctors, counselors and support staff. According to Career Trends, healthcare and medical jobs continue to account for 1 out of every 4 openings represented by search firms and postings.
So you can imagine that, given the enormous demand for qualified candidates, competition for the few professionals out in the job market is fierce.
I was talking to the head of a healthcare facility about the problems he was facing regarding recruitment and he told me that he was doing everything he and his HR department could think of to find new recruits: posting jobs on all the Internet job boards, going to career fairs, interviewing at local colleges and universities.
I explained that unfortunately, these traditional strategies are simply not enough – particularly when the demand is a lot higher than the supply (of good candidates). As Code Works CEO, Sara Moss pointed out in a recent article, recruiting techniques have change dramatically over the past few years. Job seekers that once looked for opportunities through job postings now expect the opportunities to find them – wherever they may be on the web or elsewhere.
BrenMed Communications developed a plan for this medical facility that was strikingly similar to the type of PR plan an agency would use for a consumer product push or even some B2B campaigns. It consists of three components: (1) Make sure they find you, (2) Make sure they like what they find, and (3) Go where they go.
Making sure candidates find you – SEO and beyond. Public relations has come to own the variety of tactics designed to ensure those who are looking for a company and/or its products, find them. Basic coding strategies (meta tags etc.) is a given, but this is just a start. Website copywriting has reached an entirely new level of sophistication. The words must now be carefully constructed to attract both search engine spiders (a.k.a. web crawlers) and target readers. SEO may also include an ongoing program of creating and disseminating press releases and articles, linking to blogs and commenting on the blogs and forums already being written about your topics.
It’s these type of activities that not only help ensure you show up prominently during a Google search, but that the pages that do appear attract customers with credible information that spurs them to action. Having a link appear that goes to your website is nice. Having a link appear that goes to an article about your product or service is much better. Just as with traditional marketing, PR provides the credibility that advertising (i.e. your own website) simply can’t.
Make sure they like what they find. Here is where positioning and messaging comes in. This is solid PR, pure and simple.
When it comes to recruiting – particularly in a competitive environment – the employer must differentiate itself from the competition. Why should I (a potential candidate) work for you rather than someone else?
The particular medical company I was talking to was a non-profit organization and therefore wasn’t able to pay nearly as well as competitive employers. They were also small and unknown. They couldn’t offer the best benefit package or career path within the organization. What could they possibly say about themselves that would attract high-caliber candidates?
Using some of the same messaging workshop techniques it uses for all of its clients, BrenMed was able to identify some messages that would attract prime candidates. For one, the organization provided an incredible amount of opportunities to gain important skills. The existing staff included some highly regarded industry pundits with connections throughout the industry. In other words, this facility offered enormous opportunities as a stepping-stone to a highly successful career.
Once positioning and key messages are identified, they should be used at every opportunity throughout all recruitment activities. A jobs-related website could be developed that relies heavily on the messaging. It can also provide information about individual staff members – both their professional and personal lives – and it allows potential candidates to engage in a conversation with these employees. The idea is to create professional relationships early on. Something a simple job posting could never do.
Go where they go.
As Kip Havel, Spherion Recruitment Consulting wrote, recruiters must now go where the candidates are – when they Google, when they socialize online and when they visit their niche destination sites. The plan also called for the creation and maintenance of a Facebook page that engaged candidates with staff members. BrenMed also suggested that similar presence be created on a few industry-related social network sites identified as important to the company’s target group. These sites are designed to allow parties to become familiar with each other – to engage in dialogues and create professional relationships. The value they provide to a recruiter is immeasurable. Would you prefer to take a job from someone you’ve only seen during interviews, or from someone that you feel you already know? Social network sites provide a platform that, if used strategically, can allow candidates to become familiar with the staff, the facilities, the neighborhood, the customers and all other aspects of the job before even having that first face-to-face interview.
The bottom line – recruitment is now a marketing function. It requires the full myriad of skills associated with public relations –from adept writing to message development and relationship building. With the increased acceptance of social networks and other Web 2.0 tools in the professional environment, we will see public relations grow as an integral part of a company’s business strategy.