HR is the New PR

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Aug 10, 2017

What’s bad for journalism has been good for public relations. Reporters have always had a tendency to leave the trenches of writing stories and the low salaries associated with that profession for the cushy confines of the PR industry. However, the slow decline of newspapers has elevated this trend over the past decade.

As a result, PR is more competitive than ever. Agencies and freelancers are increasingly vying for the attention of journalists and writers in the hopes that startups and new products will end up above the fold in as many places as possible. It’s usually a fool’s errand, as most corporate announcements get lost in flood of releases.

So what’s a PR pro to do?

More and more, PR is turning to HR in order to get noticed. Cases in point include the following:

  • Chobani — Last year, the CEO announced employees would be receiving ownership stakes in the company; it was a perk that could make long-time employees millionaires if the company ever goes public or is sold.
  • Palo Alto Software — The company’s employee policies have gotten the company plenty of publicity. Practices including things like bringing your child to work whenever you want, unlimited free books (just turn in a receipt), a generous gym benefit, paid parental leave, paid volunteer time, and an initial three-week PTO with an extra day added each year you work with the company.
  • Treehouse — This Oregon-based small business scored mentions in Business Insider, CNN, Quartz and more because of its four-day work week.
  • 84 Lumber — It ran a Super Bowl ad with an employee-focused message, and the media lost its mind. It didn’t hurt that the company piggybacked on a hot political issue — illegal immigration — shortly after President Donald Trump took office.
  • Audi — Leveraging the Super Bowl as well, Audi ran an ad that focused on gender equality. The media buzz before and after the game were likely more valuable than the spot itself.

Treating HR as PR is a proven way to cut through the clutter of product announcements and obtain favorable coverage in the mainstream media, as well as throughout the blogosphere. For that reason alone, HR and PR, whether internal or external, should be working very closely together.

However, there are other benefits to treating your media outreach like a recruiting campaign. Candidates want to work at companies who have similar ideals. A parent might see the policies of Palo Alto Software and think, “They share my values. I want to work for a company like that.” As the father of an 8-year-old daughter, the Audi ad certainly spoke to me.

“Companies want to do business with other companies that are well run and regarded. Employees want to work at companies with a great culture,” said Sarah Borup, account director at SHIFT Communications in a blog post. “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 HR-PR should be a pillar of any communications program.”

I recently met Elizabeth Hang, lead generation strategist at Quicken Loans. Her job, which she described as a new position, essentially helps bridge the divide between talent acquisition and marketing. As her online profile says, “In my new position with Quicken Loans, I will be responsible for overseeing the talent lead flow within the talent acquisition team. I work with the talent sourcing and HR social media team to help improve the talent brand strategy. As my team leader says it, our forces will create the most influential team with the entire talent acquisition entity. I plan on it.”

As recruiting and marketing become more intertwined, I expect the trend of HR as PR to progressively grow in popularity. If you’re company is still thinking of talent acquisition and marketing as two separate entities, you’re simply doing it wrong.

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