HR Communications: You can’t hire top talent because your job ads are lame

Communications

By Katherine Beaulieu─ Communications Strategist

@katstubborngoat


It’s every HR Communications staff person’s nightmare—posting an excellent job opportunity that isn’t attracting top candidates while having a hiring manager full of helpful suggestions, like “Why don’t you advertise in Arizona?” or “My brother just hired someone through LinkedIn, why don’t you try that.” or “Can’t we just post the job in the Wall Street Journal?”

If you’re already trying every tactic in the book and still can’t attract top talent to your company, one simple place to start your analysis is with your job ads. Maybe you can’t hire top talent because your job ads are lame.

What makes a job ad lame? All the same things that make any marketing and PR efforts lame – which mostly boil down to not connecting with your potential audience. Are you writing a job ad that sells an intriguing experience or are you writing one that reads more like a legal waiver with grave consequences if its breached?

Businessman in troubles Free Vector Think about how many resources your organization invests into reaching out to new customers and developing new markets. It’s a process that usually includes writing key messaging, identifying consumers’ pain points and developing a memorable brand.

Now think about how much time you’ve spent developing your job ad. Think about the time you spent identifying the key messaging, studying your target markets and identifying pain points. Have you put much thought into it?

For starters, have you looked at the job from a “What’s in it for me” standpoint?

  • What turns your target audience on? Do they like autonomy, or do they prefer a more structured environment?
  • How does this target audience gain a sense of accomplishment and how does the job deliver that?
  • What does a good day look like? What are the amazing milestones the employee can expect to hit?

Recent statistics listed the unemployment rate at 4.8 percent in San Diego County, compared to 5.3 percent for California and 4.7 percent nationwide. By many economists’ measures, this is nearly full employment, which means finding top talent is getting a lot more competitive. If your job ads speak directly to qualified candidates, you’re going to be one step ahead of the competition.

Kat Beaulieu has expertise in HR marketing and communications—from upgrading your job ads to developing full employer brands. Reach out if you’d like to chat about your HR communications needs.

Why PR is Becoming a Visual Game (and How to Win)

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Remember when you were a little kid and your parents asked you to pick out a book to read? Did you gravitate toward the one that was a sea of black-and-white letters, or the cool one with lots of colorful, eye-catching photos?

In high school geometry, which was the better textbook? The one that wrote out how to determine the surface area of a trapezoid, or the one that showed you?

Even now, are you more engaged and likely to retain information with presentations that are strictly verbal, or ones that have graphics and charts?

It’s a fact: human beings are visual creatures. As a general rule, we remember 80% of what we see, compared to 20% of what we read and a small 10% of what we hear, a New York University psychological study found.

Applying this to PR, an industry in which the main objective is to communicate positive messages about a brand or person, Wharton School of Business researchers determined that presentations based on visuals were found more compelling and convincing than those that were only verbal.

Furthermore, 67% of the audience in the study said that merging visuals with verbal aids were all the more effective. So how can we, as PR professionals, leverage these findings to the advantage of our brands?

Get Social

With the popularity of visually-driven social media networks like Pinterest and Instagram, there’s no time like the present to socialize your PR strategy.

pinterestPinterest is especially great since a pin can link directly back to a website. If you pin a PDF of your fresh press release and put some compelling preview text in the description, your audience will not only want to read that particular release, they’ll be taken to your news room, blog, etc. and likely read many more. And check out your team. And explore your website.

In an industry like hospitality, make sure to load your website and e-menu up with lots of great photos showcasing your space, food and amenities. With one click, users will be on your site and one step away from making reservations.

instaInstagram isn’t to be forgotten, though. Although it lacks the referral power Pinterest has (at least for now), it’s a great vehicle for furthering community relations efforts or raising awareness of your brand offerings.

For example, nonprofits can benefit immensely from showcasing their volunteer efforts and positive impact in real time, while a fashion line can post sneak peeks of their new collection and the behind-the-scenes design process to get fans excited to buy.

With a few well-placed hashtags, even non-fans will be in on the action. Networks like Facebook and Twitter, as well as outlets like blogs, can also add to your visual storytelling power in their own unique way.

Create a Better Press Release

Notice I say “create” rather than “write.” That’s because although words still rule in PR, the changing face of the industry requires a little something extra for maximum connectivity and traction from both consumers and media.

As mentioned last year in our piece on putting together a great press release, adding just one photo to a release will increase views by 14%. Applying elements like more photos and video continues the upward trajectory, culminating in 77% higher consumption when visual education tools like infographics comepolaroids into play.

This all depends on the industry, too. B2C brands will do well with high-quality photos of their products or properties, while B2B people may be more receptive to charts and graphs.

As with any PR effort, think about your target audience when adding visual elements to collateral like press releases.

Get Ready for Your Close-Up

If you’re not sprinkling video into your PR plan at least occasionally, you should be.husky

ComScore found that in the US alone, people watch more than a billion online videos every day. Why?

They’re dynamic, typically easy to consume and people equate them with entertainment. Video makes it simple and fun to showcase brand philosophy, spread the word on updates and give a glimpse at the human side of a company, which consumers love.

If you’re trying to rebrand a respected, but traditionally conservative corporation, try a regular feature showcasing employees doing volunteer work or shadowing them for a day on the job. If you’re a tech-savvy company, dabble in mixing up your written press releases with video ones.

Video is also a great tool for media relations. At (W)right On, we’ve had great success creating client b-roll and sending on to news stations for high-quality, late-breaking event coverage – plus, it allows you to pick and choose the footage you want to show off. And, video is a fast way to introduce people to who you are as a company, piquing the interest of potential customers, media influencers and even investors.

What other ways have you found visuals instrumental in a successful PR program? Tell us in the comments or find us on Twitter.

Ideas Worth Spreading: 5 TED Talks to Inspire Your Work & Stir Curiosity

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It’s no secret that I love TED Talks. When I’m facing a tough challenge at work or need inspiration, they’re a fantastic resource. I even listen to them in the car on the way to work or on long runs. Here are a few favorites:

Simon Sinek: Start With Why

This TED talk not only changed the way I approach PR and marketing campaigns, but it changed the way I approach life. In this talk, Sinek unveils a simple but powerful model for how leaders inspire action, starting with the question “Why?”

Arianna Huffington: How to Succeed? Get More Sleep

In a world where most people are overworked, overstressed and under-rested – and wear it as badge of honor – Arianna Huffington’s mantra is refreshing. Huffington shares a small idea that can awaken much bigger ones: the power of a good night’s sleep. She believes we can sleep our way to increased productivity and happiness — and smarter decision-making. This is a short talk – only four minutes long and well worth your time.

Seth Godin: How to Get Your Ideas to Spread

This talk is 11 years old but is every bit as relevant today as it was back then. Marketing guru Seth Godin spells out why, when it comes to getting our attention, bad or bizarre ideas are more successful than boring ones.

Madeline Albright: On Being a Woman and a Diplomat

There is a special place in hell for women who don’t help women”

Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright talks bluntly about politics and diplomacy, making the case that women’s issues deserve a place at the center of foreign policy. Far from being a “soft” issue, she says, women’s issues are often the very hardest ones, dealing directly with life and death.

Olivia Fox Cabane: Build Your Personal Charisma

OK, OK – this one isn’t a TED talk. But it’s close! This talk helped me learn a lot about active listening, eye contact, warmth, body language and presence. Olivia Fox Cabine teaches us that charisma isn’t purely innate or magical. Instead, it can be something that one cultivates.

Social Media and Media Relations: Like PR’s Peanut Butter and Jelly

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How many times did you check your favorite social media channels today? I’m willing to bet it’s definitely more than one, and if you’re anything like the average person, it’s probably more around 14 – and that’s just Facebook. Even if you haven’t reached the point of constant connection, social media is a big part of everyday life.

In the professional world, social media is a great resource for info gathering. Most of us are on at least a network or two, and given the time we spend on said networks, we leave a trail of facts and tidbits about ourselves that can be useful for taking care of business. Competitors can suss each other out, business development pros can track and connect with leads, fashion influencers can gauge the style tendencies of the season – the list goes on. It’s stalking, really. I don’t mean this in the literal, creepy sense, of course; it’s a jargon-y terms that explains how we employ Twitter and the like to learn about the people around us.

In PR specifically, social media is an invaluable tool when it comes to connecting with members of the media and building strong relationships. While excellent for tracking down specific contacts, media databases like Vocus and Cision don’t always give us the robust and ongoing information on journalists their own social channels can. Social media is also a fantastic way to talk with consumers and efficiently manage communications – any good PR strategy should include social media presence, after all. Social Media Today reports that between 2012 and 2013, brands using social media to respond to customers increased by 143%, and 71% of consumers are likely to view a brand in a positive light and recommend it to peers when they receive satisfactory communication through social media. With that in mind, platforms like Twitter – definitely the holy grail of making media connections – are indispensable resources in a successful PR pro’s box of tricks. Here are a few key best practices to keep in mind:

  • Spot trends: Twitter has easy trends to follow on its sidebars, which can be tailored to your city, the location of key influencers– wherever you’d like. However, that’s just the beginning when it comes to your ability to track trends and current events on the network – plus, the “suggested” trends are often dominated by non sequitur topics. Follow news organizations from hyperlocal to international, sync up with journalists you’ve worked with or have collaborated with in the past, connect with fellow publicists and look to movers in shakers in industries relevant to your clients  – these people will be on their game when it comes to current events that matter to you.

Once armed with this information, think about how you can pull together a creative and impactful pitch that piggybacks on current events and will be all the more likely to catch a journalist’s eye. Is a writer at a big fitness publication talking about gluten-free foods that actually taste great? Did the health food brand you work with just roll out a new line of GF treats? Bingo.

  • Make friends: Journalists are people, and people are more likely to work with others they know and trust. So, use Twitter to “make friends” with media people you’d like to collaborate with. Understand who they are, what interests them both inside and outside of work, what they like to write about, and even their “voice.” Engage with their content and ask questions – genuinely, of course. Don’t pretend you’re an expert on nuclear fusion because you want a writer to cover something in Scientific America.
  • Do your research: Continuing on the trend spotting component of Twitter, it’s important for PR pros to have a handle on what’s going on in the world. However, PR being an extremely busy profession by nature, it can be hard to stay on top of news. Twitter is perfect for quick updates – its snackable content gets to the point, and if something piques your interest, you can choose to take additional time to read more.
  • “Listen” and learn: Targeted “social listening,” or monitoring social channels for topics that relate to your industry, is a great way to track sentiment. Social listening can help you out when:
  1. You’re dealing with a cool launch, a big announcement or a crisis comms situation. It’s a quick and direct path to connecting with the consumers talking about your brand or product. Simply type a search term, or better yet, a hashtag, in your Twitter search box and voila – hundreds of conversations at your fingertips. From there, you can plan responses and next steps, build a social sentiment report, or plan for a follow-up campaign.
  2. You’re running a social media campaign or contest with a special hashtag, this will give you an easy rundown of how quickly the Twitterverse is picking up on your content.
  3. You’re trying to build a quality follower base. Use social listening to find conversations that make sense to become engaged in – give opinions, retweet good points, and ask your community for their input. As like-minded users see you sharing their content, it’s likely they’ll return the favor somewhere down the line and earn you a new follower. For more advanced brands, this is a great way to find brand advocates – bloggers, industry leaders, and the like. If a conversation takes off or they tweet something that indicates they’re the perfect match for a brand or product, a publicist can take that cue and make a connection outside of social media.

PR pros, how else do you use Twitter and other social networks to enhance your skills and effectiveness?

How to Handle Crisis Communications

business meeting conference journalism microphones

If you’re at the center of a crisis when one hits, like it did April 15 when two bombs killed and maimed spectators and participants at the Boston Marathon, make this your mantra:

Communicate early. Communicate often. And communicate accurately.

Communicating early, when facts are still coming in and very little can be confirmed or validated, means at least letting stakeholders know that:

  1. You’re on it.
  2. You care.

Social media might be among the first places you let people know that your organization is working to fact find and planning to release more information as it becomes available and verified. If you’ve pre-planned your crisis communications, you will have some prepared responses to many potential crisis scenarios so that your posts are a keystroke away and do not need vetting or wordsmithing under high stress. If you have an important message that you need to get out, use social media and ask people to share your message. Many people will be glad to help.

It’s important to show people as early as possible that you are the best and most reliable source of information about your crisis and that you care. Do not assume that they realize you’re as upset, saddened, shocked or dismayed as they are. Tell them so. And if your attorneys tell you not to comment at all, just keep in mind that their primary goal is winning in the courtroom or negotiating table. They might win there, but if you don’t communicate early and empathetically, you lose in the court of public opinion and that may cost you more dearly than any court-mandated settlement. (Just sayin’. If the lawyers start driving the communications strategy, it’s game over. Think of BP in the Gulf of Mexico or Toyota with its faulty brakes.)

If people were harmed, you care deeply and are empathetic. If people have been inconvenienced, you’re sympathetic and are working furiously to ensure that everything is returned to business as usual.

The lawyers want to be sure that you’re not excessively admitting to responsibility for their inconvenience or injuries. This is valid, but it is a terrible and irreparable mistake to withhold any response and, as a result, project an image of callousness. You cannot be too compassionate. And compassion does not mean taking responsibility.

Think about this: What if the CEO of Carnival Cruises had gotten himself airlifted to the ship adrift and suffered alongside his customers? I would feel entirely differently about the problems Carnival and its passengers have suffered through if I knew its executives shared in the discomfort. And the headline would not be: “Boss of Carnival Adds Insult to Misery By Going to Basketball Game as 4,000 Suffer Aboard ‘Stinking Stricken Ship’…”.

Communicating often is essential because media coverage can be around the clock. If it’s an evolving situation, plan to hold media briefings every few hours. Listen closely on social media so you can correct misinformation that is getting passed around as it happens. Use your social media channels to release details in between media briefings. Establish a hashtag for your crisis communications on Twitter so that people can more closely follow the ‘official’ information source.

The frequency of your communications are a way of showing that you care about your stakeholders and are serving their needs and not just your own. Today, people make judgments based on your organization’s behavior and not just a carefully crafted message labored over by your attorneys, senior executives and others.

Inaccurate information can un-do all of your tremendous communications. To increase the likelihood that accurate information is presented on a timely basis, your crisis plan should have designated spokespeople, chains of command and reporting structures so that people in the field, on the scene or troubleshooting the issue know the protocol for providing updates. They should have the names and contact information of the crisis team, there should be a clear method of capturing and reporting out the information to the crisis team, and everyone in the field should know not to speak to but instead properly redirect the media and to limit internal speculation.

Stress degrades decision making, so successful communications in a crisis are typically based on a pre-existing communication plan that reasonably anticipates various crisis situations and develops responses so that they’re at the ready when a crisis hits.

Whether you have a plan or are planning on the fly, just repeat after me: communicate early, communicate often and communicate accurately.