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The quest for media coverage is often more of a slog. Newsrooms continue to shrink as the population of public relations pros grows. To win a reporter’s attention and boost their brand image, businesses now have to get more creative. As companies work to develop more compelling story ideas, one approach gaining traction is to leverage human resources policies to help spread positive narratives and garner coverage.

Who’s doing it?

One of the best examples of a brand successfully executing this strategy is Chobani. The yogurt company made international headlines when founder Hamdi Ulukaya announced that it would share stock with each and every employee. “Now they’ll be working to build the company even more and building their future at the same time,” said Ulukaya. What business journalist wouldn’t want to write that story? And its impact on the company’s image is indisputable.

 

Of course, this is just one instance of using an employee-driven initiative to make news and elevate brand image. Other examples of using HR as PR include:

  • Barclays, after making sweeping changes to its parental leave policy, the bank announced the move in a press release, garnering coverage in top publications.
  • JPMorgan Chase raised wages for retail banking employees and used a New York Times op-ed to spread the news.
  • Treehouse, a software company in Portland, Oregon, made news with its four-day workweek.

How it works

One key to undertaking this approach is that the HR policy must be made with a clear intent to improve employee well-being and not just for the sake of earning news coverage. And when it’s done well, this strategy can do more than earn a company positive PR coverage. It also attracts better job candidates, which in turn results in improved product and service offerings, since better hires typically lead to better offerings.

 

“Companies that advertise new policies around issues like parental leave and gender equality are saying, ‘You should buy services from us because we care about doing the right thing for our employees,'” says CEB Global. “These companies are, smartly, using HR as PR to drive the performance of their business.” 

Why it works

One reason this is an effective approach is that today’s consumers care about a brand’s values. Those that include their corporate social responsibility (CSR) policies as part of the narrative of their workplace culture can attract millennials, both as consumers and as job candidates. This can be the deciding factor in whether a valuable prospective employee will choose to work for your company or for a competitor’s.

 

Another plus of including HR policies as part of your PR strategy is that high-quality talent may not go through traditional channels to search for jobs. By using alternative channels, brands may be able to better reach this desirable portion of the workforce. And as competition for the best employees continues to heat up — a growing frustration for many organizations — highlighting a unique cultural element can make a company more attractive to potential hires.

 

As a recruiting tactic, the HR as PR approach can also be cost-effective. Ads, job boards and recruiters all cost HR departments money. PR can be a less expensive approach that achieves better results. And once a positive story catches wider attention, companies may have more success with their paid ads on sites like Glassdoor to attract strong candidates.

 

Once journalists cover a brand for its unique HR practices, they may be more likely to cover its products or services. Having an opportunity to speak with a reporter always provides an opening for a brand to talk about its products — so HR PR can be used as an ice breaker to build that relationship and create future opportunities.

 

As companies struggle to find great talent and look for that next earned media win, smart brands will leverage HR as PR for wins on both fronts.

Michelle Messenger Garrett is an award-winning writer, content creator and public relations consultant with more than 20 years of agency, corporate, startup and Silicon Valley experience. Her articles have been featured in Entrepreneur, and she’s a regular contributor to leading PR blogs Ragan’s PR Daily and Muck Rack. Garrett was named a Top 100 PR Influencer by Onalytica and was recently named to the board of the newly formed National Organization of Women in PR USA. Her blog was recently named a Top Small Business Marketing Blog.

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