Employee Engagement

Why HR and PR Need to be Friends

By

Jason Bodin

| May 23, 2017

Today’s tech has created an environment with 24/7 access and instant communication. Anyone, anywhere, at any time can share live company updates, photos and videos to countless followers, media outlets, investors and competitors.

This live and on-demand style of communication directly impacts your HR department, since employee actions and consumer satisfaction can be shared in seconds. Your employees, who directly engage with the brand, instantly can become either a champion or a liability.

Trending for the wrong reasons

Consider the recent heightened awareness around the airline industry’s customer service. With the average flight carrying an estimated 230 passengers, a flight crew may have a few hundred citizen journalists on any given flight. The environment has evolved into a “neighborhood watch” under which every employee action is open for documentation, praise or scrutiny.

Overnight, one of your employees – if not your entire company – can make headlines. Another example is last year’s viral video of an upset Michael’s customer claiming mistreatment at the register. The smartphone footage of the store manager remaining calm and composed through the customer’s anger quickly gained national media attention. The store employee received a wave of positive public support and the attention prompted Michael’s corporate office to release an official company statement on the incident.

Benefits of linking HR and PR

In some cases, like a recent incident with a national airline, once HR relates sensitive information to the PR team, it’s often too late to circumvent less-than-desirable online and media attention. Establishing early lines of communication between the two departments is an advantage not only to the general health of a business, but also to a company’s crisis plan.

Media attention is often generated by unexpected circumstances such as:

  • local and national awards and accolades
  • campus emergency
  • fatality or injury
  • consumers organically praising the brand a.k.a. employer brand lift
  • illegal employee activity
  • successful marketing campaigns going viral
  • destruction from natural disaster, power outage

With the speed and convenience of today’s communication, every interaction with a company can be immediately shared. Because of this, HR and PR should be closely intertwined within the fabric of a company. Individuals often are raised to learn that integrity is what you do when no one is watching. Now, everyone is always watching.

 Empowered employees are the best ambassadors

How can companies better prepare employees to understand the vulnerabilities of this emerging climate? By strengthening the relationship between your HR and PR departments and empowering your employees with the right training, which proactively educates your workforce on potential pitfalls of mobile technology. Your employees, properly trained on the dos and don’ts of online conversations, are now ambassadors instead of liabilities.

In the not-too-distant past, CHROs had little visibility into the market insights of the CCO and CMO. But now, with the growth of social media, today’s savvy executives recognize that their PR and marketing counterparts have a front-row seat to product feedback and how employees are performing in real time.

In order to avoid being tomorrow’s headline fodder, ensure that your HR and PR departments are developing social media and public relations training for your employees. Everyone, from the receptionist to the CIO, needs to be aware that their actions could be displayed to a public audience and even go viral.

We will discuss how HR and PR can join forces to communicate an organization’s value, culture and personality, which plays a key part in company branding and policy in part two of this blog, titled What Happens When HR and PR are BFFs.

Be sure to check out the latest episode of our HR Break Room podcast “Fight or Flight: What HR Can Learn from the United PR Disaster” to learn more about how HR can help prevent negative incidents by working closely with their PR and legal teams, and how to create policies that empower employees to mitigate tricky situations.

About the Author

Jason Bodin

Jason Bodin has been the communications pulse for a number of organizations, including Paycom, where he serves as director of public relations and corporate communications. He helped launch Paycom’s blog, webinar platform and social media channels. He aided in the development of Paycom’s tool to assist organizations in complying with the Affordable Care Act, one of the largest changes in health care the country has seen. A graduate of the University of Oklahoma, Bodin previously worked for ESPN and FoxSports. In his free time, he enjoys adventuring with his family, reading and strengthen his business acumen.

See more posts by Jason Bodin