One of the most frequent questions we are asked these days is how PR can support hiring goals. It’s no surprise that in a period of record venture capital investment well-funded startups are in expansion mode. But against a backdrop of “The Great Resignation“, competition for talent is tough. So how can you use PR to stand out in today’s aggressive, candidate-driven marketplace? 

You’re likely already advertising, using recruitment agencies and seeking referrals. Recruitment-focused PR provides “surround sound” for those targeted efforts, as part of a wider reputation or brand strategy. It’s about demonstrating credibility, momentum and showcasing your culture to appeal to prospective employees. It requires following a lot of the same principles as any PR effort: know your audience, have a compelling and relevant message, and be in the right channels. But there are some specific approaches you can adopt if attracting talent is your goal.

Who is Your Audience?

The first step of PR for recruitment is understanding what kind of candidate you’re looking to attract and where they consume information. As with customers, candidates are content omnivores, so you’ll need a comprehensive strategy that spans media types, from business and trade journals, to social media platforms, newsletters, and even lifestyle press, through paid, earned, or owned media. 

Our clients are often looking to recruit candidates in the fields of engineering, AI, and data science. While coverage in the Wall Street Journal won’t hurt, often these audiences are going to be more avid followers of TechCrunch, Venturebeat, SiliconAngle, or The New Stack–so prioritize accordingly. They’re also going to be on platforms like Stack Overflow, KDNuggets, Kaggle and Reddit, which may not be reachable with traditional PR efforts, but can be excellent resources for understanding the issues of interest to your target audience. Some can be suitable targets for paid media programs. 

Choose Aspirational Spokespeople 

While your CEO may be the face of your company, is he or she the right person to inspire job applicants? Potential employees want to see people like them, with similar skillsets, thriving at your company. If you’re looking to hire data scientists, showcase your top data scientist. If you need to hire marketers, create some opportunities to promote your CMO. Show candidates that they will have access to valuable mentors.  

And don’t just consider the roles and skills of spokespeople. Ensure that the people speaking for your company truly reflect the diversity of your employee base and of the candidates you hope to attract. The Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey indicates that the emerging workforce takes Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) into consideration when evaluating a company’s culture. How can you demonstrate that you offer an inclusive culture if your spokesperson bench is anything but? 

Find opportunities for all these executives to comment on trends in their profession, participate in panels and virtual events, or contribute content to trade media or your company’s own blog. If you don’t already have a PR plan for each of your executives, now is a good time to create one. 

Define Your Employee Narrative 

All PR campaigns need a narrative. PR for recruitment is no exception. Your employee narrative is the story you want to tell candidates that will inspire them to join you. Top candidates know their worth, and a hefty salary alone is not enough to attract them to your company. They need to believe in your vision and see how they will contribute to it.

Work with your HR department to understand the specific initiatives and programs that enable employees to succeed at your company. What training and mentoring opportunities are there? How are diverse perspectives supported? What do typical career paths look like? How is the culture preserved through rapid growth? How does your company approach leadership, feedback, work from home, work-life balance, benefits, autonomy, transparency, community, and social impact initiatives? 

There are ample PR opportunities to discuss how your company approaches each of these topics–especially with the current media focus on remaking work post-pandemic. For example, BuiltIn, an employment recruitment website for tech companies, has an editorial arm which features articles on workplace trends and provides opportunities for HR experts to share their perspective. 

Prioritize Podcasts 

So you know who you want to reach and where to reach them. You have your spokespeople ready. But what tactics should you pursue? This is where podcasts deserve a special mention. Podcasts allow your spokesperson to show their personality and create a more personal connection with candidates in a way that written material cannot. 

Podcasts have exploded in popularity over the last decade. With over 700,000 active podcasts, there’s a channel for nearly every niche, and many are quite specialized with an active community, allowing you to be in front of precisely the people you want to reach. While it may be tough to secure a spot on a top industry podcast, there’s an abundance of corporate-branded options so consider having your exec appear as a guest on a podcast hosted by a company in a similar space to you–their listeners will likely be your exact candidate profile. 

Apply for Awards 

With the cancellation of events, awards have become an essential revenue stream for many publications during the pandemic. There are now dozens of awards to which companies big and small can apply, like Inc 5000 and Deloitte 50 awards for Growth, Fortune’s Best Places to Work awards, and Forbes’ Diversity and Inclusion awards. Awards are not a “quick win” but many of them are very meaningful endorsements that could help separate your company from the competition in the eyes of a candidate.

Amplify the Results 

So far, so good. But none of these efforts will make a dent on your recruiting unless you put in the effort to amplify and merchandise them. In a tough hiring market, hoping candidates will spot the article that mentions you is simply not enough. You need to promote the fruits of your PR labor to them, just as you would with PR programs intended to reach customers.

Consider the entire candidate journey and think about how you’ll use PR assets throughout. If you’re using LinkedIn for proactive outreach, be sure to share media coverage, blog posts and award wins from your company page. If you amplify these posts with paid promotion, do so from within the LinkedIn ad tool rather than directly from your account, as it allows you to target specific candidate profiles. Highlight your best articles in your outreach to candidates or in follow-up, or add them to your jobs page. Since the best hires come from referrals, encourage employees to engage with your posts or share positive media coverage themselves. 

By integrating your PR into the candidate journey you can also directly measure its impact on hiring rates. Track engagements with your posts, referral sources to your jobs page and time-to-hire for employees that you proactively share PR results with. Identify the assets that resonate most and use that to inform your PR strategy going forward.  

While targeting, messaging and content are all important in PR for recruitment, when it comes to attracting talent, timing is everything. You want to pop up in a potential candidate’s feed right when they’re having one of those days in their current job. PR provides you with the assets–whether media articles, awards or contributed content–to fuel regular candidate engagement. In today’s recruitment market, that might just be what hooks your next superstar hire.

About the Author

Lucy Allen is a Principal at Firebrand with two decades of technology communications experience. Lucy leads client operations, from executing programs that help clients grow their business, to developing Firebrand’s team and services. Prior to joining, Lucy held leadership roles in global agencies including US tech sector chair and Bay Area GM at Edelman and chief strategy officer at LEWIS.