A saying that has been drilled into us all from a young age (and usually met with a sigh or an eye roll) - who would have thought our teachers actually knew what they were on about? Although we may not have appreciated it at the time, they were spot on, and it’s no different for PR.
Deciding to invest in PR for your recruitment firm is a big decision, and planning is the key to success. It is the be all and end all of any triumphant campaign, and without clear direction and a strategy you will fall short of what you are trying to achieve. Yes, it may seem obvious, but formulating a plan for PR often doesn’t get the designated time that it needs or deserves.
Creating (and executing) a strategy allows your company to set goals and how best to achieve them by organising your ideas, ensuring core messages are coherent, considering a target audience and employing tactics to effectively target them.
Once your goals and demographic have been outlined, key messages must be identified to establish your tone of voice and the image of your business that you wish to portray. Clear and well thought out messaging that will resonate with your target audience is a great way to maximise your brand, and by aligning your brand and PR strategy you’ll have the perfect recipe for success.
Tactics are an integral part of a PR plan, you can’t execute one without them, but more importantly you need to be choosing the right tactics. At the end of the day, PR is an aid to business development, but often businesses’ approach to creating leads is far too direct. Once again, it links to maximising your brand and getting it out there – relevant blogs, social media posts, case studies, press releases, bylined articles and speaking opportunities are all a great way to shout about the work you are doing, but more importantly position yourself as an industry thought leader, building your brand and giving it credibility.
Finally, measurement is an entirely necessary step within a PR strategy - there is little point investing the time and money into PR without an accurate way of determining the ROI. Outline how you intend to track your campaign’s performance (otherwise you won’t learn anything) and stick to it throughout.
Journalists aren’t interested in who you are and what you do (sorry, time to deflate that ego!). They’re not after a sales pitch, they want intriguing and engaging content that they can share across their publications and digital platforms that will be of interest to their readership.
With this in mind…
No one cares that you’ve decorated your office.
The gap between what a business thinks is an intriguing PR story and information that actually grabs the attention of target publications is often vast. It is important to know how to find a PR story of interest to ensure it will be picked up by the press.
Keeping up with developments within the recruitment sector and writing about it will give you the best chance of securing coverage – but keep in mind whether it fits with the brand and indeed if it’s actually newsworthy. Piggybacking the latest news trends is a tried and tested way of ensuring what you are writing about is relevant, and provides journalists with an incentive to build an article around your release. However, it’s essential that you always check your sources – as a rule of thumb facts and figures should be backed up by at least two credible sources. This will save the embarrassment of being wrong and the potential backlash that would accompany it.
Controversial topics are also a good place to start when you’re aiming to write a great press release – it provides the opportunity to tell the reader something they didn’t already know, and that will always generate appeal. Create a ‘human interest’ with quotes from the individuals behind the research, providing the opinion of real people makes the piece more relatable for the reader. Keep things short and to the point, don’t make the release longer than it needs to be with unnecessary waffle – this is a big put off for journalists.
The final piece of the puzzle, and arguably the deal breaker is your headline. Many well-written and sometimes ground-breaking articles slip under the radar simply because the headline doesn’t sell the content. Consider your audience – make it interesting and shareable, would you read this article? Keep the headline active, not passive, refrain from using slang or jargon and don’t be personal – avoid ‘I’. It’s important to remember that journalists receive a barrage of emails daily, so a short, clear and bold headline that grabs the reader’s attention is integral – but remember there’s a fine line between an eye-catching headline and being overly clever.
It’s one of the busiest professions out there, with constant emails and phone calls journalists simply don’t have time for you to beat around the bush – the less of their time that you take up the better. You may have the most interesting and well-written press release in the world, but if you don’t know how to engage with a journalist successfully your piece has every chance of being dismissed.
Before you even go to compose that email or pick up the phone, it’s important to do your research. Who is the right person to contact regarding your article? Is there a correspondent directly relevant to the topic you’re discussing? Learn the publication inside out – highlighting particular sections where your piece could fit in will be sure to score you brownie points. Find out when the press days are – emailing or calling on these days is a big no in the eyes of the media, you’ll only irritate them and get ignored.
When it comes to contacting the journalist make sure you’re engaging. Consider the best angle for them and their readership and avoid a sales approach. One of, if not the most important piece of advice is get to the point! Unnecessary waffle in an email or a ten minute phone conversation isn’t going to earn you any friends, an elevator pitch is the best way to retain their attention.
In an environment where everyone is saying the same thing it’s essential to stand out – a unique perspective will give your claim of thought leader that extra credibility. After all, positioning yourself as an expert is the key to unlocking a vast amount of brand exposure as you become the go-to person that is contacted for comment by the media.
Commenting on current news trends or industry developments and providing your own opinion is a great way to increase your presence. This can be achieved through social media and blog posts which will boost the chance of media outlets picking it up – journalist’s search for insight often starts online and you could be contacted off the back of your content. Taking this a step further is shouting about your specialist area of expertise – if you know a certain topic inside out, show it off! Additionally, don’t shy away from controversy, posts that are conversation starters will be highly regarded.
One of the top tips if you want to be an effective media spokesperson is to always be available! If you’re not ready to comment the moment a journalist needs you, they will waste no time moving on to someone else (so keep that phone on loud!). It’s also important to remember that journalism is a cutthroat industry, it’s a race to get the juiciest story first, so don’t be offended if you’re replaced by breaking news – don’t be a diva, put it behind you and move on – or you may not be top of their list next time.
But what about the wrong type of media attention?
It’s an unfortunate fact of life that sometimes you will find yourself in a challenging situation, and when dealing with a PR crisis it’s essential you get it right to ensure damage limitation.
“Simon Pegg won’t be winning any crisis management awards” Tweet
Going for a nice cold pint at The Winchester and waiting for it to all blow over is exactly the wrong thing to do. Be visible and act fast rather than trying to hide in the shadows. Involve those that need to know straight away and assign responsibilities – this will ensure communications are consistent and that nothing slips through the net. Next, prepare a statement, including in-house as well (you don’t want the rumour mill turning) – own up to it and be transparent, you may not have all the facts yet but honesty and acknowledgement of the crisis will go a long way to protecting the integrity of your brand.
Don’t play the blame game! A lot of businesses will immediately go on the defensive when they are under scrutiny, rather highlight that you are looking into it as a matter of urgency and symathise towards the ‘victims’ if there are any. Recognising there is an issue, and apologising to those effected without necessarily admitting guilt will help to nullify some of the negativity towards your brand – just look at KFC who nailed their communications strategy during the chicken supply crisis last year.
A PR agency or someone who is media trained are the best options for a spokesperson, so it is a good idea to have these in place as part of your crisis management strategy. A crisis is always an exciting story, and journalists will try and get the most out of it which may include provoking a reaction – remember to stay professional and stick to the information within the prepared statement and question responses, if you’re asked something you don’t know, be honest and don’t speculate – you will be caught out.
One last thing to remember…
“There’s no such thing as ‘off the record’” Tweet
It’s a dangerous and deceptive phrase. It’s important to know that journalists can use anything you say to them, so nothing is truly ‘off the record’. If you find yourself wanting to use this phrase, then the information following it should be left unsaid.
It is no secret that PR is key in candidate attraction, allowing your brand to be seen in a positive light, yet recruitment firms often make critical mistakes that lead to a failure in securing talent.
One of our top tips is that engagement is key – rather than going into information overload which will only distance yourself from candidates, start listening, learn more about them, and make them and their skillset feel wanted (you have two ears and one mouth for a reason). This is applicable to your content strategy as well, be sure to share your opinions online and on social media as conversation starters and actively involve yourself in them, this will only strengthen the relationships you have with candidates.
Content marketing is a trend that is only growing, it gives your brand visibility and is a great attraction tool for candidates, client and recruiters. A blog allows you to build a powerful brand image, establishing a tone of voice that resonates with your target audience. Effective structuring, use of key words, and employee advocacy when sharing content will ensure it gets the exposure it needs in order to be an asset in attraction. Blogs and other content marketing mediums position your business as a provider of relevant and useful content (such as evergreen or hero) that is engaging and adds value. This, alongside SEO (which is also important for job postings), gives your brand the best chance of climbing the rankings not only in Google, but also in the opinions of your target audience.
“Media coverage gives you something no other form of marketing can…” Tweet
…Third party credibility. Through a combination of your content marketing strategy and your engagement online, you can position yourself as a thought leader within the industry and secure media coverage that will maximise your brand exposure. This will attract candidates, clients and recruiters who will view you as a market leader and want to work with (or for) your recruitment agency.
“The increasingly candidate-led market is posing an issue for recruiters” Tweet
The downwards unemployment trend and current market landscape is accelerating the war for talent, meaning it’s more important than ever to ensure your recruitment marketing is as effective as it can be.
Candidate personas are a perception of your ideal candidate for a certain job role that aid you in identifying suitable talent. It allows you to understand who the candidate may be, what channels they should be targeted on, and produce personalised content that directly appeals to them.
In order to build the personas, you need to source reliable data – ensure your consultants are asking relevant questions during the on-boarding process and recording the responses in the CRM. Look at the LinkedIn profiles of candidates for information on how and what they engage with. Interview previously hired candidates to provide insights into their career aspirations and interests and refine your personas accordingly. Send out surveys to target groups to understand issues with the candidate experience and how best to attract talent for example – an added incentive such as a gift card for one of the respondents will help increase participation.
“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it” Tweet
Accredited to Peter Drucker, it’s one of the most important sayings in modern business management, and entirely relevant for PR, or any campaign for that matter.
Measurement is an often overlooked stage of PR campaigns – in fact somewhat shockingly, 50-60% of campaigns have no method of evaluation at all! Without it, you can’t analyse the performance of the campaign nor learn anything from that data, so how on earth are you going to determine the ROI of all that time and money you’ve just invested?
Effectively measuring PR starts with goal-setting, and ROI will depend on the nature of the goals you wish to achieve. Ensure they are as quantifiable as possible to establish who, what, when, and how much the campaign is intended to affect.
PR activities are likely to influence KPIs and so it’s important to measure this, for example website analytics can show if the number of visitors has spiked. Leads are a likely outcome of a successful PR campaign so it’s essential to track the source of every lead – a quick ‘new customer survey’ is a simple way to achieve this.
Advertising Value Equivalent (AVE) is a common tool to measure the effectiveness of PR. It is the estimated cost of buying the space taken up by an article, had it been an advertisement. However, while it may make PR look like it captures huge value, it doesn’t take into consideration certain factors such as the weight of influence a news article has versus an advertisement.
“Measuring quality outweighs quantity” Tweet
When measuring coverage, quality matters. Is the publication reputable and one that your target audience reads and engages with? Is your business portrayed well? What is your Share Of Voice (SOV)? It’s the same with social media – vanity metrics such as followers, likes and comments are all good and well but what is the relevancy and quality of them? Are they coming from potential leads or influential individuals within target sectors? Large amounts of irrelevant engagement should negatively affect your measurements and thus clearly defined goals and outcomes are of particular importance for social media.
“The key to winning back lost customers is like bragging about your social life after a break up" Tweet
No, seriously! As talent acquisition (and the prices for it) become increasingly competitive, it's an unfortunate reality that losing a client is a fairly common occurrence in today’s recruitment climate. Instead of staring blankly out of the window, remembering the good times with a box of tissues by your side, start thinking strategy and how you can win your beloved ex-client back.
The solution? Show them what they’re missing!
You’ll have a plethora of highly engaged clients that love the work you’re doing and can be used to not only win old clients back, but also attract new customers (after all, there’s plenty more fish in the sea…). Produce case studies on the results your agency has achieved, and highlight how your agency is the only one that could have delivered them. If you’ve been undercut on price by competitors, emphasise the ROI and added value that your agency provides instead.
Targeted engagement will ensure your content is getting the necessary exposure – and that it’s shared in the right places. Get people liking and commenting on your case studies in your network and promote employee advocacy in-house. Consider the hashtags you’re using and look at which ones your previous clients favoured to give your content the best chance of being seen by them. With a bit of luck, they might just come crawling back to you!