Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Getting there ugly - welcome to my world

I don't suppose I have a great deal in common with the Chairman of WPP, Sir Martin Sorrell. But I had to laugh when I saw his comment about 2009 being a year when clients 'got there ugly'.

Sir Martin, sir, welcome to my world.

For me, sometimes it's all I can do of a day to restrain myself from penning an irksome letter to some of my clients, and sign it off with 'Irked of Bellevue Hill'.

You see, what irks me (see, I'm getting there) is the number of Australian organisations that are happy to 'get there ugly' in recruitment comms, while spending a fortune on their consumer brand. For one such client, the disparity is incredible.

Client X (as we shall call them) are a big name. They have recently spent a fortune on a heap of wonderfully creative ads on billboards, adshels, newspapers, and so on. I'd love to show you copies of these ads; their agency has done a great job in creating that warm, fuzzy feeling about an organisation that in reality is totally irrelevant to the vast majority of the population.

But the thing is, their recruitment advertising is hugely inconsistent. We've done some great work for them, even won some international awards for the ideas we brought to their largest recruitment programme.

But most of what they do in recruitment is boxy, text-heavy, uninspiring and - well - outdated. Why the difference?

Well because they are so big, bureaucratic and process-driven, some departments actually feel they need to preserve the status-quo rather than take any steps to improve. Where we have made improvements, our contacts have had to have been brave enough to come on the journey, damn the consequences. And they've often had to field the spears afterward.

So my question is, why the battle?

For the eight years I've been working in employment marketing/recruitment advertising, I've been party to a crucial insight. That a brand exists in an organisation's people.

Employees are an organisation's mouthpiece, they are the ones who live the values (whatever they may be) and they provide the foundations for whatever product, service or innovation that company is famous for.

But when most organisations recruit, they segue straight through values/culture straight onto technical skills. They could explain a whole lot more about their culture, and attract a lot more of the people who would live their brand, if they only looked harder at the employment messages they put out there.

A strong, tight, integrated advertising strategy that makes people feel something will help an organisation attract more of the right people, and in doing so save money through increased productivity from hiring people that fit.

Isn't it about time employers started thinking about their potential employees like customers?