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Recruitment PR Lessons from the Apprentice: Week 1

It’s that time of year again. No, I’m not talking about the time to break out your jumpers and dig out your warm coats. It’s Apprentice time. Now I won’t lie, way back when this show first aired, I was a big fan. As a recruitment PR professional, it was great entertainment watching the cut-throat nature of high-profile (and highly-paid) hiring. And at the time, the activities on the show seemed completely reasonable ways to identify the next high-paid apprentice for Lord Sugar.

BUT, times have changed. The job on offer has changed. Even the judging panel has changed (who else misses Nick?) The process itself, however, remains identical. And herein lies my biggest issue. Yes, the entertainment value of watching a group of ‘entrepreneurs’ desperate for a break (and a significant financial investment) is there. But it doesn’t necessarily serve its purpose when it comes to hiring the right person for the job. In fact, I’d argue it damages the recruitment industries reputation. So, what recruitment PR lessons can we learn from the Apprentice? Here are just a few from the first week.

Don’t overpromise and never lie

If you’ve yet to watch the first episode, I warn you there are spoilers ahead. Those of you who have watched it, I’m sure you’ll be disappointed that the men couldn’t deliver the Big 5 to the tourists in their group. Essentially, their sales team over-promised and arguably lied when pushing people to purchase tickets to their safari trip, promising them they’ll see the ‘Big 5’ (elephants, lions, leopard, rhino and buffalo). Now, those sensible people out there will know that promising this on a safari is simply not feasible. These are wild animals. Unless you have a GPS tracker on them, it’s almost impossible to know where they are and when. And you can’t make them perform. Everyone interested in a safari is likely to know that the animals will do what they want, you’ll either get lucky and see them, or not. The fact that one of the first questions a member of the team’s tourist group asked was “can you really guarantee we will see the big five” says it all really.

Recruitment PR lessons

So, what’s the PR lesson here? There are two in my view. For in-house recruitment marketers, don’t over-promise to keep the CEO happy or off your back. If you know their expectations for PR and marketing are simply unachievable, tell them. This conversation will be much more welcomed than one explaining why you’ve not delivered what you promised.

And for recruitment directors and company spokespeople. Don’t lie. Just as Lord Sugar was brutal in pointing out to the men that they made a fundamental error saying they can ‘guarantee’ tourists will see the Big 5 on their safari, journalists and online audiences will hold you to account if you make a statement that isn’t 100 per cent correct.

I’m not, of course, suggesting that lying is a common problem, but there’s often the temptation to exaggerate the truth a little when it comes to your public profile – after all, you want your recruitment PR to show your firm in the best possible light. But making a statement that you can’t completely back up or deliver on will backfire, so check all of your facts before saying or writing anything publicly.

Get your spokespeople in line

I’m conscious that I’ve been rather scathing of the males without a mention of the women (I suppose the men did lose…). So, what can we learn from the other team this week? There was a rather cringeworthy moment where the ladies had a disagreement in front of their audience as to who gets to claim a sale. While I certainly hope that this unprofessional behaviour isn’t common place, there is a crucial recruitment PR lesson here: make sure your spokespeople are on the same page.

A lot of firms will have more than one spokesperson – particularly larger businesses with multiple specialisms. While this is a necessity to ensure these individuals maintain and grow their image as experts in a specific field, it can also open up some inconsistences. If, for example, you have two outspoken people who have opposite views on the value of technology in recruitment, having two contradictory messages going out to your audience isn’t ideal (particularly if part of your business has a tech product or service as part of its offering). So make sure you’re agreeing crucial messaging with your spokespeople to avoid these types of confrontations.

I’m sure as the weeks go on there will be plenty more recruitment PR lessons from the Apprentice – check back next week for more.

Did you watch the latest episode of the Apprentice? What’s your view? Is it a fair reflection of the recruitment industry or is it damaging its reputation? Comment below



Author: Vickie Collinge

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