While the general public may associate PR with the TV show Absolutely Fabulous, the reality is far from the portrayal of non-stop wining and dining clients and journalists.
According to the CIPR (the Chartered Institute of Public Relations), it is “about reputation - the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you. Public Relations is the discipline which looks after reputation, with the aim of earning understanding and support and influencing opinion and behaviour. It is the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics.”
PR also means different things depending on the specialism. For example, a celebrity PR agent will likely be more focused on photo opportunities and social media activity than securing an authored feature in a leading magazine. In comparison, a recruitment agency owner is likely to want to see their name in a key industry publication – somewhere that clients and candidates alike will access regularly – to raise their brand profile.
At a basic level, PR is all about effective storytelling that raises brand awareness among a defined target audience. In the recruitment industry, PR is extremely effective in placing stories about staffing firms in relevant channels that help influence and shape candidates’ and clients’ perception about your company.
A well thought out, comprehensive PR plan can often be the difference between success and failure for your recruitment business’s campaign. Planning will help you organise your ideas, make sure your core messages are consistent, define your target audience and decide on the tactics that you will use to target them. While ‘make a plan’ might sound like the most obvious statement in the book, it’s something that often gets overlooked or doesn’t get as much attention as it deserves. So, with that in mind – here are five simple tips for creating a successful PR plan.
When you create a PR plan, you need to outline exactly what it is you want to achieve. These need to be clear, achievable and consistent with the overall objectives of your business. Time frames are also important – plan out a set amount of activity for a certain period, and a date for revising plans later on. For instance, you could start by considering the full year ahead, planning for six months, and revising after three. Like everything in business, PR requires flexibility and a recognition that things may change over time.
Identifying your target audience is another critical step in your plan. All the best PR work in the world will mean nothing if the audience isn’t relevant and receptive to your message. Whose support do you need to reach your goals? Who will be interested in what you have to say? Once you’ve identified this, research where you can find and influence your target audience. For instance, start looking at the relevant publications in your sector. Or perhaps targeting social media and bloggers would create more engagement. Defining this is absolutely essential. Without it, you are going in blind.
Creating compelling messages that you want to communicate to your target audience will help shape your content and enable you to meet your goals. When you create a PR plan, this is a stage you cannot skip, and something that should require serious thought. The best key messages are believable, easy to understand, relevant, and succinct.
Now you’ve worked out your messages and target audience, you need to consider the best tactics to reach them. Here are some of the most common examples:
Plan press releases – Plan out the press releases you intend to issue throughout the year or month, and be on the lookout for topics that you could react to, or piggyback on.
List-building and pitching – Take the time to research and build a database of relevant journalist that you can then pitch in ideas to.
Editorial calendars – Look at forward features of magazines and websites, as they can offer an excellent way for gaining exposure, and planning out future activity.
Contributing bylined articles – This is will help you not only generate exposure, but also establish yourself or your business as a thought leader in its sector.
Case studies – These work similarly to bylined articles, but also offer a tangible, real-world example of the benefits of your product or services.
Speaking opportunities – Research conferences, trade-shows, webinars and roundtables for opportunities to put forward your business as a speaker or a member of a panel discussion.
The final step of a PR plan is the one that is often most overlooked, with 50-60% of PR campaigns having no method of evaluation at all.
Measurement should be considered from the very start when you create a PR plan. Share of Voice, quality and quantity of coverage, leads produced and many other methods can be used to measure how effective your PR efforts are. What’s crucial is that you outline how you intend do this at the start of a campaign and stick to those metrics consistently.
To achieve the best PR coverage possible for your business it is vital that you develop a story that can influence and shape the perceptions of your target audience.
Here are three top tips that will enable you to do that.
It’s all too easy to push out a sales message or tell people how great your company is but how is this different from an advert?
If the coverage you’re looking to achieve is sales and has no ‘news’ element to it, no editorial team will touch it. You can, of course, simply pay for an advert, but again, be honest with yourself – will it give you real value for your money? How many adverts do you actively engage with on a daily basis? If you’re looking to raise your profile as an industry expert, chances are an advert will be a waste of money.
So how do you secure the best editorial opportunities? By narrating a story that’s not all about you. This isn’t as difficult as some might think. You and your consultants are likely sitting on a wealth of information that journalists are crying out for. Your knowledge of the top skills that are in demand, where there’s a shortage of talent or how the employment market is changing is something that most sector press will be after. And you can build on this data. Providing the context behind this information, why these trends are occurring and what your predictions are for the future allows you to tell the story of who you are, what you do and why you’re an expert, without the direct sale.
Relevance and timeliness are key to a good story. You don’t want to wait for weeks before you comment on industry trends, and if there’s breaking news that you can comment on do it straight away. And if you’re keen to share your views on a particular topic, ask yourself why? Do some research for any recent reports that make this topic relevant to the here and now and use this information as a ‘hook’ to share your own views.
If you can’t find anything relevant, instead think about how you can make it newsworthy. A simple survey to your database or on your social channels asking others to sharing their thoughts on the topic you’re keen to get talking about will give you the data to make it relevant.
Pitching to journalists is one of the most significant activities involved in PR and it is vital to learn how to do this if you are to be successful.
Here are five top tips on how you can successfully pitch to a journalist.
It is critical to put aside the necessary time and effort to craft well thought out, personalised pitches to journalists. There’s nothing worse than a generic, copy and pasted pitch, which hasn’t taken into account anything about the publication or journalist.
You should tailor your pitch as closely as possible by checking out the website of the publication for specific sections that would be good to place content in, or searching the journalist to see if they have a history of writing about the topic you are suggesting. This is especially important if you’ve had no prior contact with the journalist.
The value of an engaging subject line must not be overlooked. Put yourself in the shoes of an over-worked, busy journalist that is flooded with emails, hundreds of which will be potential pitches – you simply won’t have time to look at everything.
Therefore, without an engaging subject line, you are essentially wasting the small window of time where you could grab their attention. Focus on crafting an engaging subject that will boost your odds of securing features.
It’s easy to lose sight of the audience and what will be relevant to them when you have written hundreds of pitches. However, no matter how experienced you are or how clever you think the angle is – the basic principle of producing relevant and interesting content for a target audience will always hold true.
A small but important detail to remember is that including relevant hyperlinks in your pitch will go a long way towards showing a journalist that you are well-informed on a given subject. For instance, linking to any previous work your recruitment firm has produced on the topic that you are pitching will be very effective.
While it might be tempting to pack as much information and value as possible into your pitches, it’s important to resist the urge to do too much. Ultimately, you’re not trying to show how smart you are, how wide a vocabulary you have, or write a literary classic – you’re trying to deliver results. You will get far more success from providing everything that is needed in a well-written, clear and concise manner than trying to prove you’re the most knowledgeable person out there.
Thought leadership PR comprises content and communication that demonstrates your knowledge, experience and skills, with little to no sales pitch. It leaves your target audience with a real understanding that you are 100% in tune with the sector you work in.
And in a Covid hit environment, this type of PR content is more important than ever. Here are four reasons why.
The economic effects of the pandemic means we are now in a client-led market, where competition for placements is tougher than it’s been for decades. If you want to really influence decision makers, building thought leadership content into your PR plans by showcasing your expertise and specialist knowledge will really help you to stand you out from the crowd.
In this client-led market, competition for share of voice has increased across almost every market. We’ve seen a rise in one-man-bands launched as consultants look to go it alone and job uncertainty remains rife.
Interestingly, though, we have also seen firms that were perhaps less vocal externally prior to the pandemic, really ramp up their PR and communications activity. As a result, competition to be heard has increased – making it more critical than it’s ever been to ensure your firm is getting the right message across.
This is, of course, true for us all. But for potential clients with limited finances, the argument of why they should outsource recruitment rather than manage this in house has once again intensified. This is where thought leadership PR content will tip the balance in your favour.
By demonstrating your agency’s expertise, it’s possible to highlight why by partnering with a staffing company, a business will be getting more than just a ‘bums on seat’ service. Showcasing how much you know about the talent in your specialism will demonstrate why your firm can provide added value to an employer over an in-house recruitment team – particularly for hard to fill roles.
Sharing thought leadership content can really help boost business confidence across your specialism, which in turn will improve your organisation’s growth prospects. This is particularly true in difficult times. By sharing best practice advice and guidance to employers across your sector that is relevant to the current economic climate, you will be supporting their business navigate through these difficult times – and you will be the first port of call once their need to hire picks back up.
When it comes to thought leadership PR, ghostwriting features on behalf of your brand’s figurehead is a great way to both raise their profile and authoritatively propel your company’s expertise into the public domain. Here are three tips on that will enable you to do this successfully.
Once you have successfully pitched and sold in your expert’s credentials and secured your slot, it’s time to get a download from the author. They may simply want to share their big idea - or they may be looking to provide a complete brain-dump which goes above and beyond the parameters of the piece in question.
Either way, it’s your job to ensure that you collect all the information you need to craft the feature efficiently and concisely. If there is a certain trend your expert has noted, ask them what the reason behind this is. If they are making a prediction about the future, ask them why they believe that this will happen.
Before you begin writing the feature, be clear on what the publication needs from you. What is the wordcount? Is there a style guide you must adhere to? And have you been given a deadline for submission?
When it comes to actually drafting the piece, it’s important to ensure that the feature accurately captures the author’s voice. However perfectly crafted an article is, if it doesn’t sound like they could have written it, it just won’t resonate – so ensure that you mirror vocabulary, sentence structure and attitude. Also try, wherever possible, to replicate exact words or phrases noted during the ‘download’ session.
While the expertise of your author will set you in good stead in terms of theme, tone and structure, adding weight to their argument through the use of third party data will elevate a straight opinion piece to true thought leadership content. Once your argument is defined, do some desk research to find supporting evidence which you can build into the piece. Most media organisations have a rule that all facts should be confirmed by two reliable sources, and you shouldn’t be any less stringent in their own communications activity.
If there’s one PR issue that recruitment agency owners are arguably most concerned about it’s what to do in a crisis. Whether it’s a breaking news story about some less than scrupulous actions from an employee or potentially detrimental information about your firm’s finances being leaked, implementing a damage limitation process at this time is crucial for businesses of all sizes. But it’s not an easy task. So how should you handle a PR crisis?
First and foremost, it’s crucial to plan ahead and that everyone in your marketing communications team knows who is responsible for what during a crisis to ensure there is consistency in communications and nothing slips through the net.
Once you’ve assigned responsibilities, it’s important to prepare a statement. In these situations, remember that transparency and immediacy are the key components. Waiting until you have all the information may seem like a sound decision, but the longer it takes you to respond, the more time people have to form their own opinions.
When it comes to handling a PR crisis, it’s natural that a business and its key spokespeople go on the defensive – after all, it’s their company under scrutiny. However, in order to limit any potential damage to your brand it’s crucial that you remain professional in the statement and don’t look to pass the blame to someone else.
Having a spokesperson who is media trained will naturally put your firm in a better position to handle a PR crisis, but of course upskilling these individuals mid-crisis isn’t a possibility! As such, it’s advisable to schedule annual or bi-annual training for any members of staff who are likely to be media-facing spokespeople at any point.
When things do go pear-shaped, there are a number of rules that anyone speaking with journalists would do well to follow:
Recruitment marketers have faced a common challenge for a long time now: getting consultants on board with PR activity. We all recognise the frustration. Those in the profession know that the best and most impactful marketing and content strategies are ones that everyone in the company supports. Whether that’s through sharing press coverage and blogs, being active on social media or contributing to the content themselves, having recruiters involved in PR will be hugely valuable in driving up engagement levels.
But this has been a real challenge for many staffing companies for understandable reasons. Recruiters need to recruit. Their focus is on placing candidates. If they’re not doing this, they’re not making money, so tearing them away from that is difficult.
However, the simple fact is, PR and business development go hand in hand, and the two together are a perfect match for driving client conversion.
While every business is different, there are five common steps that recruitment marketers can take to really align PR with the sales activity of consultants:
If you want to get someone involved in something that they perhaps don’t deem a key part of their role, you need to demonstrate what’s in it for them.
Highlight the traffic that’s being driven to blogs (i.e. potential leads), the readership of a publication (aka new contacts) and the engagement that’s being achieved on social channels (or possible prospects) to those involved in business development. If a consultant has the numbers put in front of them that show they could increase awareness of their profile or grow their network by x%, they’ll soon become marketing’s biggest ally.
In order to track when PR has resulted in a conversion, it’s critical that the database your firm uses is set up and being used in a way that ensures this information is being recorded. Arguably the most crucial element in this is the human one: making sure consultants are adding the right information.
Where consultants are seeing results from PR in their business development activity – shout about it. The more that their peers see their them converting leads through effective use of content and media platforms, the more they will also want a piece of the pie. Remember as well that demonstrating the success to those responsible for your PR and marketing budget regularly will pay dividends longer term. Don’t wait until your scheduled review time to demonstrate the conversion rates that are being achieved as a result of the PR content that’s being used for business development.
Once consultants are on-board and getting involved in PR and marketing activity, keep a two-way dialogue going. It’s important that marketing teams aren’t missing out on key metrics because the sales team haven’t communicated that a particular lead stated that it was the content in an industry magazine they read or a social media share that pushed them to sign on the dotted line with the business.
When it comes to helping your company achieve its goals, great communication can be what makes the difference. So, here are seven top reasons why you should invest in recruitment agency PR.
When you invest in PR for your recruitment agency you’ll be gaining access to a network of quality relationships within your sector that you may not normally have had access to. In the same way that your USP to clients is that you have access to valuable talent pools, by investing in recruitment agency PR, you’ll have access to the contacts that can help you take your brand to the next level.
Hiring an agency that specialises in your specific industry will allow you to seamlessly work with them as a partner and extension to your company, as they are already familiar with the sector you work in, industry jargon, and any of the struggles you may be facing. This will in turn lead to better results in terms of media coverage and exposure.
By outsourcing your PR to an external agency you will be able to take advantage of an objective, independent perspective. A good PR agency could potentially offer advice that those within the business either do not feel confident in giving or cannot appreciate from the inside. Furthermore, they know what works - while you may think the opening of your new office will make a great story - we may tell you otherwise!
Recruitment firms that invest in PR are ensuring that their story will be constantly reviewed and refreshed in line with their wider goals. This will help to not only attract candidates and clients, but also continually challenge a business to think about the messages it is sending out and whether or not they are relevant or effective. In the lighting-paced digital media landscape that we currently occupy, failing to take control of this will see your company left behind by competitors.
An effective agency will not only be one which helps you with content development, but will also be one that makes your content work for you, and get the most possible benefit out of it. This can be achieved in a number of ways – for instance, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). An agency that is skilled in SEO can enable your content to appear far higher in search engine rankings for certain phrases that are relevant to your business.
At the end of the day, you and your consultants have got a job to do, and recruitment is a full-on industry. By investing in effective PR support, you’ll be able to focus as much time as possible on achieving your day-to-day goals, without having to spend time on brand messages and PR activity.
Finally, a good PR strategy will help you to become a more attractive employer. Media coverage offers you third party credibility that you can’t really replicate anywhere else. When you’re in publications read by your target audience, it makes your direct approaches less cold. When you are being seen regularly as a thought leader, you’ll be the first agency a potential client thinks of when they’re hiring, or the agency that candidates call when they’re considering opportunities.
When it comes to partnering with a PR firm, there are a number of considerations to factor into decisions. However, quite often one of the questions we come across is whether a recruitment business should go for a generalist firm or a specialist agency. While there are benefits to both, for staffing companies in particular, having a niche expert on board can often provide the greatest return on investment.
Here’s our take on the specialist versus generalist PR debate.
When it comes to getting your message across in a manner that works for your recruitment company, having a representative that speaks your language and really ‘gets’ your industry is something that we often find business owners are seeking. But a generalist PR firm will have to start from scratch to develop this knowledge and expertise. With a specialist firm, you will have access to communications professionals who not only possess the PR skills set to design and deliver a PR and comms strategy that’s tailored to your firm, but also the niche knowledge to be able to hit the ground running.
We’ve found in the past that when a recruitment business is making a decision on a PR firm, it often comes down to us versus a generalist agency. And when it does, the topic of numbers will undoubtedly be raised. We fully expect to be told “the other firm is promising more coverage.” Our response is always the same. They may be able to achieve that for the same budget, but what’s the quality of the coverage?
A generalist firm may be using an expensive newswire distribution service to deliver larger volumes of coverage, but often these are made up of news aggregator sites rather than targeted press activity. You may have your name featured on several of these websites, but will your target audiences see these? It’s highly unlikely, in which case, it’s not delivering the end goal of most PR activity: gaining visibility with new business prospects.
If you take a ‘Jack of all trades’ approach to your external business partners, you will get just that; someone who has the odd connection across a variety of media outlets, but no specific area of expertise. But if you’re a firm placing IT contractors internationally, for example, what does it matter if the PR firm has successfully helped a local restaurant gain coverage in The Sun?
Working with a niche firm that has connections in media that is relevant to your firm will provide more meaningful results.
Another benefit of a specialist is that they will often give you honest feedback and advice. Based on the expert knowledge that a niche PR firm has, they will be able to guide a business on what does and doesn’t work. As a case in point, we know that a new office opening won’t generate the news interest that a recruitment firm might be after. However, the reasons behind a new office – an increase in business that indicates hiring activity is increasing in you sector vertical, for example – is newsworthy and will be of interest to publications that are relevant to your business.
When it comes to choosing a PR firm to engage with, generalist and specialists can both have an appeal. But, much as recruiters will often highlight why their niche abilities will deliver the better result for employers, a specialist recruitment PR expert can provide firms with greater value for money.