5 Tips for Employer Branding in Mass Media

It’s no secret that recruiters in 2019 need to spread their employer brands across multiple channels in order to catch the attention of qualified job candidates. Most recruiters tend to focus on social media channels like Facebook and Instagram—with good reason—but there’s also more to life than tweets and Snaps. If recruiters really want to gain a competitive edge in the war for talent, they need to consider pitching journalists and mass media outlets to improve brand visibility. 

With 10 years of media experience and dozens of employer branding articles written in collaboration with global brands, I’ve learned that HR and public relations can add tremendous value by working in tandem to boost a company’s employer brand. Usually, recruiters equate PR involvement in employer branding with paid media (i.e. advertorials and other paid content), but there’s no reason for recruiters to limit themselves in this way. Instead, you can work to gain earned media with the same fervor you bring to social media marketing.

Here are some of the strategies you can implement to more effectively promote your employer brand in magazines, online publications, radio, or TV.

1. Give journalists unique, quality content

Before you’re ready to pitch a journalist with your story, you need to really nail down just what that story is. A strong employer brand narrative can take time and effort to establish, but it’s a critical starting point for gaining media interest. Try to find the elements that differentiate you from your competitors: this could be your team’s culture and vibe, your work environment, the benefits your company offers, employee events, or anything else that will help you to stand out from the crowd. Journalists are generally attracted to things that are new and out of ordinary—so keep this in mind when you pitch them about your company. Pictures and videos that reflect your company culture and EVP (employee value proposition) are another “must have.” Hire or find someone who can take high-quality pictures and videos—someone who can capture the authentic feel and tone of your workspace. You don’t want these to look like stock photos, after all.

Tip: Make sure you give journalists access to an asset library that includes a company logo, general office pictures, images of work zones and relaxation/socializing areas, and some close-ups of your colleagues.

2. Do your research to find the right journalists

Plenty of journalists have zero interest in the labor market or what employers have to offer—and there’s nothing more off-putting to them than being pitched stories that are outside their area of interest. That's why it's a PR department’s job to do some research and find journalists who have written about employees and employers in the past. Try to build a qualitative and targeted database with journalists who have some interest in recruitment- and employment-related topics, so that when you have a story to share you’ll be ready to get it in front of the right people. Remember, success in mass media is largely about developing and maintaining relationships, so make sure to keep in touch with journalists even when you don’t have an important subject for a news story. Also: don’t put pressure on journalists to write about topics that clearly don’t deserve to be news.

Tip: Don’t proclaim to the media that you’ve introduced an employee fitness program or a new bicycle parking lot. No doubt these things are exciting internally, but they probably won’t differentiate you from similar employers in your area—and journalists will write you off as having nothing new to offer.

3. Leverage employee testimonials

It should be no surprise that in this area, as in most, your employees are your biggest asset. Studies show that prospective employees place a lot of weight on the word of current and former employees when they’re considering a position at a new company. Why? Because they can identify most readily with those who are in positions similar to their own, and will be less distrustful of a sentiment coming from a potential future coworker than a C-level executive. In this way, your employees can be ambassadors of your employer brand, spreading the word about what a great workplace you’ve created at your company.

Tip: Diversity is important. Make sure to choose employees not just from different departments, but of varying genders, ages, religions, and nationalities. Beyond that, highlight the employees whose faces are easy to remember and who speak most naturally about their work with your company.

4. Pitch something newsworthy

We’ve danced around this issue a little bit in the rest of the article, but it’s important for recruiters to make sure that they’re pitching something that could be considered newsworthy. How do you figure out if your story is newsworthy? Well, it should have at least one of the three elements of newsworthiness.

The first of these elements is that it's in the general interest of the public. This doesn’t mean your story has to contain earth-shattering revelations—just some information that the outlet’s audience would find useful to know. Choose subjects that can be interesting for a larger audience: consider highlighting your employees' involvement in social or environmental projects, or showing your company participating in some viral trends (think the ice bucket challenge, or something similar, that raises awareness for a pressing social or medical issue).

The second element is timeliness. Let journalists know when your company really has some great news in the market. Let’s say you’ve decided to increase the minimum wage for all of your employees, or you’re moving to a headquarters that has some new and unusual features, or you’ve begun hiring in a city/country where you will open new offices: these are perfect subjects for a press release, and journalists may have an interest in them because they reflect a changing state of affairs within the larger business community. Even a large number of open positions at the same time can sometimes be a newsworthy subject—just make sure it’s timely.

The third and final element is uniqueness. You need to give journalists the opportunity to write unique stories about topics their readers won’t have encountered at other companies. What falls into this category will depend on your industry, but if you’re truly doing something new (an incredible way to organize interviews, some hi-tech equipment your employees work with, some unique product or solution that solves a real-world problem, etc.), people will want to read about it.

Tip: Read the publications you’re pitching—and the ones you’re not. Try to keep an eye on the trends in society, the key topics in your field, and news about the labor market. This way, you can better fit your own stories into the larger discussion taking place in the world.

5. Don’t be afraid of paid media

Of course, earned media is the best option when it comes to creating a trusted brand that will appeal to your ideal job candidates. But if they’re carefully written and crafted, advertorials (or paid articles) can be turned into a powerful employer branding weapon. The main pitfall that many companies fall into here is overselling. Some people think that if they don’t give a hard sell to readers they will have wasted their money—but in point of fact the opposite is true. People don’t want a sales pitch; they want some kind of value in exchange for their time. Try to stick to one of the three elements of newsworthiness above: general interest, timeliness, or uniqueness. The audience has a sixth sense for advertising content that does not offer any news or quality information, and they’ll stop reading as soon that sixth sense kicks in. Thus, it’s crucial to save your promotional content for when you really have something novel to share with the world.

Tip: Recruiters and CEOs can sometimes be prone to overselling. Try working with a PR professional or agency who can help you think like a journalist and craft content that people will want to read. Above all, the ability to craft high-quality content will be your key to success. 

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