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PR role in employer brandingJust as a positive brand image helps promote sales, positive employer branding helps attract and retain more qualified employees. Companies with positive employment images receive more job applications from qualified candidates, retain first-rate employees and spend less money on employees. Their employees are more productive and more likely to become brand ambassadors and help promote the organization.

As the labor market has tightened and candidates with specialized skills have become scarcer, employer branding has become more important. More than two-thirds (68%) of HR managers say they’re having difficulty hiring, up from 50 percent in 2013, according to job posting site Better Team. Competition for top employees will only increase, especially as more baby boomers retire over the next 10 years.

Traditionally human resources (HR) departments, which oversee recruiting, manage employer branding, also called employment or employee branding. Many communications experts now argue that HR should collaborate with corporate communications or PR in developing and managing employer branding.

Arik Hanson, principal of ACH Communications Inc., argues that HR departments are not well-equipped to handle employer branding, don’t have time to do most of the work and, at least currently, don’t see it as a high priority. “It’s time for communicators to step in and help manage these employer brands,” Hanson asserts.

Communicators Know Social Media

Simply using traditional recruiting methods like advertising, corporate brochures, “career” pages on corporate websites, and items like coffee mugs and T-shirts to promote employment is no longer effective enough to establish a strong employer brand. Employees have an enormous influence on their companies’ employer brand through social media and employer review sites like Glassdoor. Job candidates research companies online and usually believe reviews of employees and former employees rather than company ads or other promotional messages.

HR teams may not be willing and able to add that social media marketing aspect to their duties. Although 70 percent of HR managers plan to use social to build employer brands only a third have someone dedicated to social media, according to Betterteam.

Employer brands need to be developed and measured just like the corporate consumer-facing brand images, a task that’s well-suited for communications pros. “We know how to build an integrated communications strategy using a mix of digital and traditional tools. We know how to conduct audience research. We know how to measure success,” Hanson asserts.

A communications dashboard that can integrate internal corporate communications, social media analytics and media measurement can greatly improve a company’s ability to measure and improve employer branding strategies.

Close Collaboration between PR and HR

Forbes contributor Anthony Petrucci, senior director of corporate communications and public affairs at HID Global, urges HR and corporate communications to collaborate closely to improve employer brands. Close cooperation is essential when a company suffers from low-quality job candidates, high turnover and low employee engagement.

“Combining the best of corporate communications — storytelling, creativity, message discipline and audience targeting — with the best of HR — recruiting, talent management, employee engagement and training — leads to developing a positive reputation that helps attract, engage and retain talented individuals,” Petrucci says.

HR should ask for PR’s help or PR should volunteer its help to HR.

The first step should be a thorough analysis of how current and former employees and candidates perceive the company, he advises. Corporate communications and HR should work together to learn what top talent seeks and identify gaps between job candidate perceptions and what the company truthfully offers as an employer.

Because of the importance of employer branding, CEO involvement and support is crucial, PR pros agree. Acquiring superior talent should be at the top of the CEO’s agenda.

Bottom Line: Companies can improve their reputations as employers by involving PR and corporate communications professionals in employer branding. While HR generally manages the function, employer branding is more effective with PR’s involvement. As recruiting top talent becomes more competitive, close cooperation between PR and HR will become increasingly important.

William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.