How to Make Recruiting 
a Marketing and Publicity Event
By Joan Stewart

The next time you hear someone grousing about not being able to find and keep enough qualified employees, don’t just commiserate for the sake of being polite, write a feature story about it.

Joan Stewart -- The Publicity Hound -- helps businesses, non-profits and government agencies establish their expertise, enhance their credibility and position themselves as the employers of choice by developing and maintaining good relations with the print and broadcast media. Joan Stewart is a frequent contributor to national magazines, trade journals and on-line publications. She is also the "Ask the Expert" columnist on public relations for Entrepreneur magazine's web site at Entrepreneur.com, where she writes a monthly column.

Start compiling a list of the company’s "good stuff"- reasons why people would want to work there or why employees stay. Then develop a publicity campaign or feature story around it.

 As unemployment rates drop to under 2 percent in many communities and the need for more workers rises, media-savvy companies like the giant United Parcel Service and even mom-and-pop businesses have discovered that publicizing their job openings and pleasant work environments can be just as important as marketing their products and services.

At UPS, for example, telephone inquiries about jobs paying from $8.50 to $9.50-an-hour—some of the most difficult positions to fill - were up 11 percent last year over 1997 in the Chicago region. The jump was due largely to a proactive media campaign touting everything from the benefits of being a package handler to the company’s generous tuition reimbursement. A Chicago PR and marketing firm worked with UPS to target the Chicago media with its message. The company snagged 40 media hits, many of which painted a picture of UPS as a great place to work and a good corporate citizen. A few of those stories were picked up nationally or printed in major papers like USA Today.

Dave Chisholm, staffing and development manager for UPS’s North Central Region, says the company doesn’t know exactly how many people apply for jobs because of media publicity, "but we suspect strongly that combining this recruitment PR with recruitment advertising is a very potent strategy."

The real benefit to UPS isn’t only a pile of news clippings.

"It’s what those articles actually stimulate," Chisholm said. "They’ve given us a lot of credibility with people who have job training programs, with city leaders, with people who can fund programs to get more trainees into UPS."

Once employees are hired, the strategy includes doing everything possible to keep them, including promoting from within. Chisholm and UPS chairman Jim Kelly, like many other senior executives at the company, started as package handlers or sorters, received extensive training and were promoted through the ranks.

Developing and training managers is also high on the list at General Electric divisions around the world. The company’s innovative New Manager Assimilation program caught the attention of Fast Company magazine, which explained the retention strategy in the October 1998 issue.

Soon after a new manager starts a job, team members meet without the manager to brainstorm a list of questions designed to uncover as much as possible about the manager in only a few hours. No topic or question is off limits. The manager then meets with the team and talks informally about the concerns that were addressed.

Small companies, too, like Celtic Advertising in Brookfield, Wis., are finding that promoting the casual and comfortable work environment helps the bottom line. Partners Martha Smith and Marlene Byrne—both of Celtic origin—attributed the agency’s rapid growth to the casual and comfortable work environment. Employee perks include gifts and a half-day vacation on St. Patrick’s Day.

Other ways to promote a company’s "good stuff" include:

Pitch story ideas to industry publications, which are read by potential job applicants.
Publicize alluring perks to attract and keep workers.
Promote innovative employee training programs.
Discuss family-friendly policies.
Explain how the company takes care of employees. SAS Institute, a software company in Cary, North Carolina, staffs a health center, for example.
Publicize non-traditional corporate practices. Badger Electronics in Racine, Wis., literally opens its books and shares profitability figures—and profits—with employees.
Tell the media know about any offbeat recruiting strategies, like advertising on the back of grocery store cash register receipts and sending corporate recruiters to Florida during spring break.
Have the company apply for "best places to work" awards that are offered by magazines such as Working Woman. If they win, you can use the award as a springboard for a marketing campaign to potential employees.
Post publicity about the company at your own web site so it can be seen by job-hunters.

The list doesn’t end there. A well-orchestrated public relations campaign can incorporate dozens of others ideas on how to position the company as the employer of choice. If the task seems overwhelming, the best place to start is at the beginning.

Choose one or two ideas you can start using tomorrow, then follow through. The time you spend positioning yourself as a great place to work isn’t nearly as great as what it costs to replace employees you have worked so hard to recruit and train.

the end

Joan Stewart helps businesses, non-profits and government agencies establish their expertise, enhance their credibility and position themselves as the employers of choice by developing and maintaining good relations with the print and broadcast media.

She is a speaker, trainer and consultant with The Summit Group, LLC based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Joan has 22 years of media experience as a newspaper reporter and editor. Most recently, Joan was editor of The Business Journal in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She also edited The Sheboygan (WI) Press, The Express-Times in Easton (PA) and was managing editor of the Lake County (OH) News-Herald.

Joan is a frequent contributor to national magazines, trade journals and on-line publications. She is also the "Ask the Expert" columnist on public relations for Entrepreneur magazine's web site at Entrepreneur.com, where she writes a monthly column.

She is a member of the National Speakers Association and the 2000-2001 president of Wisconsin Professional Speakers Association.

Joan produces the Publicity Hound, a bi-monthly, 8-page subscription newsletter featuring tips, tricks and tools for using free publicity.

You can subscribe or order back issues or see a sample issue here online.

[1nav.htm]