How to Bolster Employer Branding Strategy With A PR Program

By Sarah Babbitt, Vice President, Agency Marketing

Employer branding strategy is something we rarely walk away from a meeting with a client or prospect without bringing up. Some clients proactively ask for PR’s help building an employer brand. And some, while they envisioned a PR program hyper-focused on their product or solution, realize they do have an immense need for it at an organizational level.

Employer branding can and should have a place in most companies’ PR and communications strategies. It’s true whether a large established brand or a small startup trying to make a name for itself.

First, why? For starters, look beyond hard news coverage in today’s media landscape. What do you see? In its many iterations, workplace topics command a good portion of business press real estate. Inc. and Entrepreneur churn out tons of stories on culture, recruiting and management; CNBC’s “Make It” channel is dedicated to it. The list goes on.

Second, how? Employer branding strategy takes many different forms, tactically speaking, to serve different purposes:

Attracting talent by bringing culture to life

At its most basic level, employer branding helps attract talent. Like marketers putting budget toward filling the sales funnel, HR departments spend big money with recruiters, job boards and ads to source talent. And they need to continuously fill and move prospects along that funnel with other “marketing” activities. Stories that highlight a unique cultural element do just that. SHIFT executed this for Work4, whose overall and employer brand benefited from stories like this Fast Company one: How Shadowing Coworkers Can Make You Better at Your Job. These stories are also highly valuable to press, as they provide real-life examples of how entrepreneurs are solving the recruiting talent – a C-level priority. It’s a win-win.

Demonstrating innovation as part of employer branding

It’s obvious for a company to talk about their product being innovative. But what about the processes and technology behind their product? Attracting engineering and technical talent is a pain point for many, and this tactic can help. SHIFT worked with Benefitfocus to show how innovation is central to its organization and technology team, landing this story on offering employees stock for new ideas in their local daily paper. Top technical talent wants to help build something innovative and highlighting how a company uses cutting edge of technology is one way to get them on board.

Combatting HR perception challenges

Sites like Glassdoor have become mainstays for people to research companies. Thanks to its Glassdoor rating, Asana was recently written up in CNBC as the top-rated private cloud company to work for. Unfortunately for many businesses, employees with negative experiences tend to be much more motivated to leave reviews than ones with positive ones. While it doesn’t replace addressing issues brought to light on Glassdoor, nor will it drown out the negative noise completely, using PR as a way to execute on employer branding strategy can live alongside it and highlight the great benefits, management practices and cultural programs that are rarely seen outside the organization. Companies can take this one step further by taking out ads on Glassdoor, linking to positive coverage of their employer brand.

While culturally-focused PR serves these specific purposes – and others – there’s another huge benefit. It builds brand allure and raises the CEO profile in a way that makes reporters more interested in what the company does. It’s a push-pull scenario. SHIFT experience this with Treehouse firsthand. We pursued an entire campaign around Treehouse’s unique 4-day workweek, scoring coverage in Business Insider, CNN, Quartz and more. Giving media unique, fun and helpful story content opened up doors and created the interested needed for Treehouse’s CEO to talk about the company’s own product.

Companies want to do business with other companies that are well run and regarded. Employees want to work at companies with a great culture. Press want to speak with companies about more than their products. Other CEOs and entrepreneurs want to learn from companies with interesting and effective management practices. These are just a few reasons why employer branding should be a pillar of any communications program.

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