Whether it’s your first day as an entrepreneur, or you’re a creaky veteran of business, you know that finding, recruiting and keeping the right talent is essential to business survival and success. It’s somewhat surprising then that so many companies separate their public relations and marketing efforts from their talent recruitment and retention ones. It’s almost as if entrepreneurs and other business leaders believe that customers, investors and team members are different kinds of people.
True, they may be looking for different things in what your company says or does -- a quality product as opposed to great benefits, for example. But the line of thinking that segregates business messaging between employee targets and others, can and should end.
That’s because customers and team talent alike are viewing companies holistically, thinking about how they engage with their communities, interact with political and social issues and treat their employees. So, bragging that your company has cutting edge leave or health-care policies or pay generously won’t just attract better quality employees -- it will lure customers and clients too. At the same time, being outspoken about your company’s social causes or charity work, as examples, can not only bolster your public image overall but help your company get and keep the best employees.
Here are three things businesses can do to build a better image and boost team member quality and enthusiasm.
1. Publicize charity, community and employee engagement.
Many times, corporate community-relations offices are shy about publicizing their charity and community support or employee volunteering -- they are afraid it can seem icky. But it doesn’t have to be. If your company is already doing community giving or has a policy that encourages and rewards employee volunteerism, share it proudly.
Mazda is a great example. They recently put considerable ad resources behind their “Drive for Good” campaign which links their charity giving to employee engagement and customer activity. For every test drive, the company supports their employees giving an hour of time to charity. The result has been a trifecta for Mazda -- increased employee satisfaction, customer outreach and a polished corporate image.
2. Boost pay, and brag about it.
Everyone accepts that pay and benefits for employees in highly-skilled and competitive jobs can be lofty. But there can also be outstanding benefits in publicity -- as well as for employees -- in raising wages and or benefits across the board. Generally, customers like supporting companies that treat their employees well, and whatever stigma there used to be about sharing these stories is gone.
Ice Cream giant Ben and Jerry’s had been living on the public relations of setting their wage ratio for the highest-paid employee to the lowest to 5:1 -- which they did until 1990. Not only did it benefit employees, it changed the way customers thought of the brand. Southwest Airlines has not been shy at all about announcing that their employees come first, customers second. And even notoriously cost-conscious WalMart has been rolling in great publicity by announcing regional pay raises.
3. Have fun -- use your employee networks.
Your employees and team members have lives outside the office. And you may be surprised to find that several of them are active, even quite active, on social media. So ask around and find out who your selfie office rock stars are. Unless you work at Google or CNN or something, it’s not uncommon for a few employees to have larger online audiences than the company.
Once you have a sense of who posts to Instagram or is a power influencer on Twitter, ask them if they’d be willing to share information about where they work and what they do. But don’t push or expect it -- some employees are rightly guarded about segregating their work lives and personal ones. At the same time, you won’t get unless you ask, and a fun photo of the office lawn bowling tourney from one of your employee rock stars can do amazing things to help your workplace brand.
But making this idea work requires your team to do fun things that are worth sharing. Have those fun lawn bowling tournaments. Don’t ask your team member to post your annual reports to their Facebook pages. That really doesn’t help anyone.
Boston startup Jebbit, for example, hosts regular Tuesday dinners with prominent local business leaders, founders and investors and is seeing the results on their employee’s social-media communities. "We understand that many of our employees have entrepreneurial dreams of their own, and we want to help foster their enthusiasm," CEO Tom Coburn said. The dinners, Coburn says, “give our team access to people they otherwise wouldn't be able to talk to -- and they often share the insights they've learned on Twitter."
Those are just three ways to connect the public dots between what your company is doing for employees and building better brands and more loyal customers. As a business leader, you probably shouldn’t treat your employees better or give more to your community just for the publicity value. At the same time, though, as you do those things, there’s every reason to tell people about it and make it a core part of your public-relations and marketing strategies.