Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

What’s The Difference Between PR, Marketing, and Advertising, and Why Recruiters Should Care
October 27, 2009, 7:00 am
Filed under: Networking/Social Media, Public Relations, Recruiting

These days, everything is a mashup – our gadgets and gizmos aren’t worth purchasing unless they perform a million different functions. So no big surprise that our jobs are becoming mashups as well, and I think that as recruiting professionals, our roles within our companies are about as complex as they get. I wrote a post earlier this year discussing the various roles that recruiters play in our daily duties. There are certain aspects of this job however that are becoming more and more important, but I don’t think a lot of recruiting professionals really understand the impact and the value of these components of our jobs.

Our jobs are all about building relationships. Such is the case with marketers, advertisers, and PR professionals. Our desired end result of building the relationship is really what separates us. Here are some very simple definitions:

  • Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.
  • Advertising is a paid communication in which the message is controlled by the sponsor, and is designed to gain attention and motivate action.
  • Public Relations is planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organization and its public by telling an organization’s story to its public.

Subtle differences between the three, but the basic premise with all of these functions is to establish a line of communication between two or more entities.

Recruiting professionals would do themselves a favor to understand some of the job responsibilities that come with being in marketing, advertising, and public relations. For example: there is much more to candidate advertising (aka job posting) than simply plopping a boring job description into a post template and slapping it up on some job board. There is more to recruitment marketing than bulk emailing a spammy message with an e-newsletter attachment to your entire prospective client database in the hopes of gaining one or two additional job orders. And there is certainly more to creating good PR for your company than simply having a Twitter account or a Facebook fan page.

What I would like to do with this post is invite professionals who perform these unique functions to leave a piece of advice for recruiters to incorporate into their job function. Yes, I did work at a PR agency for a little bit, but that doesn’t make me a good source for PR strategy by any stretch of the imagination. I learned a lot while I was there, and I use that knowledge in my daily function now with AT&T, but I’m looking forward to hearing from the marketers, the advertisers, and the PR pros who are out there in the trenches on a daily basis. How do we, as recruiting professionals, utilize the strategies you exercise daily in our own efforts in finding, attracting, and hiring talent for our companies?

When leaving a comment, please let us know what job function you perform, and the industry in which you work. I look forward to an interactive discussion!


28 Comments so far
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I too worked in PR for a Fortune 100 company before making the switch to a recruiter. Both a PR professional and a recruiter have one similar function; they both go out of their way to make their company look in a positive light to the public. Negative news can have a spiraling affect on a company from lower sales to lower stock price which can also affect a recruiter’s job on presenting to a candidate why they should work for their company. An example of this is Merck during the Vioxx lawsuits. That was a PR nightmare for them and their recruiters.

Comment by Steve

Hi Amybeth – thank you for the interesting post. I currently work for an integrated communications firm, so I think I have a little perspective on all of these. What I wanted to specifically address was the PR component to your equation above. I think there’s a lot of misunderstanding about what PR pros do, and without this turning into a spitting match between PR and marketing pros, that misunderstanding typically comes from marketing people. To be fair, I’m not sure PR people always have an appropriate appreciation for what marketers do, but marketers see PR people as the folks who just blast out a bunch of pitches. That we’re solely responsible for developing hits. As you noted above, that’s only one small component of the puzzle. Recruiters need to understand that the lines between these three disciplines are blurring and there are some savvy PR pros that are also excellent marketing people. Look for strong communicators first…then think about the appropriate discipline.

Comment by Chuck Hemann

Great post! This is quite a hot topic right now. As an advertising major, I have always taken the approach to recruiting that my job is part Advertising/PR/Marketing/Sales. As a 15 year 3rd party recruiter, my job has always been not only to communicate the benefits of my firm, but also that of our clients. This idea, while not new, has a whole new life with the ease of social media and the push for employer branding. Even in an employer driven hiring market, 3rd party recruiters and employers both need to be aware that this is more important than ever before. Because if you are not integrating all of these aspects into your HR model for recruiting, onboarding, and retention, you are getting left behind.

Comment by Craig Fisher

Thanks for the post, Amybeth. I’m seeing the same blurring of disciplines that you’re seeing. My role is that now of integrator – looking specifically at how Marketing, advertising, customer service, sponsorship and PR work together to feed the social media machine in a way that makes sense and brings value to the audience we’re trying to reach through social media and builds trust. I think that last point is likely one for all disciplines, including recruiters. The real value of social media for many brands is in its ability to build trust where it may not have been present in a relationship before, or to build on the trust and goodwill that is already present – reaffirming the affinity for the brand. For a brand, it’s doing what you’ll say you’ll do. It’s helping customers that are having an issue. It’s proving to applicants that there is substance behind the brand and not just bullet points on a brochure. This opportunity to build trust by following through and being consistent in word and deed is the opportunity of any brand or individual in social media. For a brand ambassador like a recruiter, I think this is a particularly powerful tool. You are the brand online, and that should come through in a way that builds trust – in the words you use and the actions you take.

Comment by Brad Mays

One of the biggest ideas I have for people is to have and express an opinion.

This could manifest itself as blogging, speaking, twittering or being active on LinkedIn in the groups. But it will differentiate you and give you something to talk about with candidates above and beyond a specific job opportunity.

And over the long term it will create new opportunities you would not find otherwise.

Comment by Kevin Dugan

As a recruiter for a PR agency, I find the similarities b/w PR and recruiting to be staggering. Long gone are the broad job board postings to yield quality results (press release blasting) candidates (consumers) are more savvy and connected and want the job outreach (message) to be personalized (know your audience), they want to be engaged and will seek out the advice of others (social media communities) before committing, even to a conversation. Agree with Chuck that more often, the strongest candidates have a solid understanding on how the communications family works and when/how to leverage the three tools. Those are the candidates that win in my book.

Comment by Nikole

Hi AmyBeth- Thanks for the great post. I currently work as a pipeline generation (sourcing) expert and a Social Media Advocate for a global fortune 100 Firm. Recruitment has changed so much to a push strategy, in that companies should be focusing on branding and how they are viewed in the marketplace as a “good place to work” to attract talent. Where as before it was the goal to pull resumes and find talent on an as needed basis, see death of the big boards or “post and pray” model. The E-strategies and Social Media have really switched the entire recruitment model. Recruiters would do good by understanding how to create a marketing strategy/message and carry it to a marketplace to find & attract communities. I see an issue where companies are trying to do this, but are still using a “MUST PULL” approach, which seems selfish and inpatient, hence why they are having little gains in growth of community traffic. The recruitment leads in organizations have to understand their new role. How to create a message strategy and build communities. After that they must really understand that they are not always needed to push communication. Sometimes they must just listen or strategize, then execute. It’s important that every recruiter in an organization stop hiding behind Talent Acquisition Systems and learn how to build a presence and brand themselves under the company. I like IBM’s commercials when real employees talk and say, “Hi I’m John Doe and I’m an IBM’er”. Great idea for a recruiters to think with that type of mentality. Companies should be looking at pre-qualifications for their new recruiters to be more aligned to on-line tech savvy marketing and branding types, rather than the old dialer and smiler.

Comment by Anthony Knierim

I agree with Nikole’s comments. I’m a former PR practitioner turned in-house PR firm recruiter. I’m in the “building rapport” business. I rarely find candidates through job postings and have to do a lot of proactive outreach and networking. For me, it’s about taking the time to get to know a potential candidate before you reach out to them. And if you can be referred by someone in their network- even better. People still rely on recommendations from their friends and colleagues whether it’s a restaurant or a job. Social media has really helped this personalized approach.

Comment by Brian Batchelder

This draws the lines well in job descriptions. When I worked for big firms, many times the different groups thought they were experts in the other area’s when they should have left the job to the professionals. Good work Amybeth.

Comment by john simonds

I’m a former recruiter turned healthcare social networking entrepreneur while building out social recruiting tools for the health care space. Sseems obvious they will work together.

That said, I have only one basic piece of advice; Don’t “sell” until the time is right. Taken just a bit further; Don’t underestimate what your audience will perceive as “selling.”

IMO; Savvy jobseekers don’t care that you have the job until they feel you are the person they would like to speak with about a job. This speaks to trust and integrity. Take that direction first. It’s the tougher road and ROI is slower. But, long-term, it’s the right strategy; IMO.

Remember; You, the recruiter, corporate or otherwise, are a brand. And, “brand awareness” is NOT a transaction…it’s a result.

Hope that helps.
Happy Halloween.
– Jim

Comment by medXcentral (Jim)

Very good topic here. But, something that really interest me is Geo Tagging. A lot of online apps and social communities seem to be about GPS and Geo Tagging. That is knowing where your friends are and/or letting your friends know where you are.

Using some of these features is good PR for a Recruiter. It lets the job seeker community know what they are doing and how to find us.

Just my 2 cents.

Comment by Michael Glenn

Insightful post, Amybeth! Building genuine relationships is still the cornerstone of a successful executive. All marketing, advertising and public relations professionals must understand the importance of balancing their social media interactions with sensible offline activities.
As a recruiter, salesperson or member of the media, it is now more important than ever to engage your target audience using the wealth of social media and research tools available. Then continue to follow up and follow through preferably in person or over the phone to truly develop a trusting relationship.

Comment by Jenny DeVaughn

Amybeth – Yes, most corporations have these as separate functions focusing on each of these responsibilities. The interesting thing is that social media has made it EVERYONE’S responsibility to be versed in these areas – EVEN recruiters. To say “It isn’t my job” only marginalizes you. Thanks for calling this out to the community!

Other articles that talk about the differentials between PR, marketing and advertising: (strategy vs campaign), (PR vs publicity).

Comment by William

I think that for Corporate Recruiters it is about marketing to the candidates. Why they should want to work for you ( the best people are always in demand ). Independents also have to market their services. What will differentiate them from the 1000’s of other search firms out there.

Comment by Tim Esse

Hi Amybeth,
I once worked in PR, I have been a marketer of B-to-B services, a recruiter and recruiting leader of course, and now leader of my own company. All of the roles required marketing, advertising, PR and sales. As recruiters we are natural marketers, most of us aware that our messages represent our corporate brands. Until very recently, very few recruiting organizations employed formal marketing and PR strategies to achieve “sales” (hires). We’re very accustomed to running advertisements and, like all industries, we’re finding that advertising delivers diminishing ROI. Social media provides the opportunity to engage with “customers” (jobseekers) with more authenticity than advertising, yet many of us do not have formal training in marketing and PR. Understanding marketing psychology, how to measure intangible results, relationship theory, etc. etc. is critical to developing social recruiting strategies that work. Having spent the last 10 years “posting and praying”, recruiters are bewildered by tactics that require relationship development, targeted messaging and branding. All of that stuff takes time and attention to detail, and is hard to scale. So recruiters are quick to write off such tactics. In a talent market where fewer and fewer workers will have the required skills, however, companies will find themselves competing for talent that is impervious to advertising. The time to prepare for this, I think, is today. Thanks for a thoughtful post and, the invitation to comment. I like your style!

Comment by Carmen Hudson

The role of the recruiter has become so much more complex with all of the aspects you mention whilst most just think job board = applicants = hire.

I think that we will see new roles emerge within large teams with a dedicated Recruitment Marketing Exec to drive relevant candidates to the recruiters; just like marketing do for the sales team! Ad agencies may even get to realise they can make money if they become experts in the new marketing strategies – maybe.

That’s my thoughts anyway.

Great post.

Comment by Peter Gold

Well I am not a recruiter, or involved in socail media, but as Excutive VP of Sales and Marketing for over 20 years for a Fortune 500 company, all three functions fell under my area of responsibility.
I think Amybeth’s post touched lightly and correctly on the three functions, but these functions go much deeper then what Ms Hale sited in her post.
I am only going to touch on the marketing phase. The true function of marketing is research. The job of the marketing department is to search for products or services needed by the end user(the customer). It is their job to work closely with the engineering and sales departments, giving these the departments the proper research and data needed to have a successful launch of a product. Of course there is the glitz of coming up with the proper slogan, packaging and promotional items, but these are very minor compared to the mountain of research which must be done first if a product or service is going to be successful

Comment by Steve

This is so interesting because I attended a social media conference, last week, and participated in a session for community managers.

I’m like, “Punk Rock HR is built on software. It has an infrastructure. People participate. I moderate it.”

The room was not friendly. “Just because you participate in a community doesn’t mean you manage it.”

Snap. That’s so true.

My point: we’re all dilettantes in the 21st century.

Comment by laurie ruettimann

Doing more with less has placed many in the quadrangle of Recruiting, marketing, advertising & PR. If one understands and practices the principles of these disciplines then indeed a rose is a rose……

Comment by Karla Porter

PR as a practice is all well and good in HR, until an HR rep fails to communicate a decision in a timely way to a job candidate, asks her to fill out a form before meeting a manager, insists on a credit and background-check release prior to interviews or warns a candidate not to call a hiring manager. PR in recruiting is not just about “creating a positive company image.” It’s about stepping back and asking, How does my behavior and my company policy get reflected by candidates in the professional community after they interact with me?

Comment by Nick Corcodilos

It’s an interesting post, Amybeth, and I bet if you polled advertising and PR pros, the cross-tab analysis would have very different answers. It’s important to note that calling out differences between advertising and PR is not the same as saying one is better than the other, rather your definition of marketing (which sounds something like what Phillip Kotler might have written), encapsulates both.

Each have benefits and drawbacks; each industry is undergoing substantive changes — marketing leaders should seek to integrate the two so that they are complementary.

In my mind, advertising is comes down to paying for the ability to tell people about yourself. PR is about getting others to say it for you: it’s about third-party credibility. Advertisers have control — they pay for space or time. PR pros, have no control, or at least less control — a writer, a reporter, a Tweeter, can say what they wish. PR means doing good, and having others say it for you — after all what’s the likelihood a company would buy and advertisement only to promote a drawback?

It seems fitting to paraphrase best-selling author David Meerman Scott: We’re all after attention: Advertising pays for attention, PR persuades for attention and Sales begs for attention. I’ve left off the good part about social media. You’ll have to read his book. There’s no irony, that my last comment is, well, sort of like PR.

Comment by Frank Strong

I work in marketing at an HR business. HR and marketing are actually much more similar disciplines than most people realise… They are both involved in summarising and influencing human behavior!

Comment by Mike Carden

Hi Amybeth,

I wrote a very long comment in adding some ideas. I decided to move it to a blog post because this is such an interesting topic.

Here is my blog post addition to yours: Blog Post on Recruiting = Marketing + Sales

I love your blog post.

Comment by Bryan Starbuck

Good topic Amybeth! I’ve been in the recruiting industry for about 10 years, and have owned and worked under my company General Lead for most of that time. It is a small business, and therefore, in addition to recruiting, I also wear the hats for marketing, advertising and public relations. I agree with a few other comments made above in that the line has become blurred with all three of those job functions. Marketing, advertising and public relations are almost one in the same for me at this point, but with slight differences.

You asked for advice to give to recruiters…so here is mine. I have always looked for new ways to promote my business, my brand and to attract talent. In order to do this, I have kept a close eye on emerging trends in the market, and became an early adopter of many things along the way. I found out quickly what worked for me, and what didn’t. About four years ago, LinkedIn was the new shiny toy, and I was one of the first out there learning about it. About two years ago, Twitter was a very small community of techies poking around. I signed up then and started kicking the tires. Now, mobile technologies is the new frontier, and I’m right there getting my hands dirty. A few recruiters in our industry are dabbling with mobile strategies, and will be rewarded for being the trendsetters and early adopters. I also see that AT&T has a great recruiting presence in mobile as well! My advice regarding this topic is to stay up to speed on emerging trends, and work strategies into your business that make sense. Don’t be afraid to try something new, even if you don’t know of anyone already doing it.

Comment by Geoff Peterson

The old rules of marketing and PR have weakened to the point that marketing encompasses all disciplines now because of the Internet and social media: marketing, PR and advertising. I’ve been in marketing communications for over 20 years and all roads lead to company growth – marketing is lead gen and recruitment and hiring and HR and communications and visibility and branding and performance management and leadership development and website traffic – it’s everything. Savvy recruiters who survived the bust began to understand this and noted the interchangeable parts. Marcom and PR professionals who hold on to the old rules and separate delineation will not survive in said professions. It’s not possible. All roads lead to growth and people are growth and companies that get that will eventually combine marketing with HR/recruiting. That’s where I believe it’s all going.

Comment by Kevin W. Grossman

I’m a headhunter, also host of Ask The Headhunter. This dialogue provides great insight on the PR aspects of HR and the search biz – thanks, Amybeth! But I thought some might like to see how recruiting is viewed from the other side (the “P” in PR) – the professional communities we recruit from. To me, this is where theory often falls apart, and common sense gets a bit lost. Take a look at the impact of recruiter behavior on company image:

Comment by Nick Corcodilos

A PR guy here.

As one of your earier commenters noted, PR is about influence, and in that arena, there’s a lot of crossover with recruiting. To be able to understand the motivations of your audience, to be able to change your strategy based on those motivations, and to come to a mutually-agreeable position, is the goal of both.

With exercising any kind of influence, transparency is key. In PR, we want to be up front and honest with our audiences (often, the media) and provide them the information they need to produce a piece that includes our messaging. In recruiting, you want to be honest when outreaching to candidates and provide them the information they need to come to a decision about their future career with your company.

Comment by EmDub

[…] 2, 2009, 7:00 am Filed under: Recruiting, Research There was a LOT of great feedback from my post on why recruiters should care about marketing, advertising, and PR. I hope that everyone who read it got some new knowledge and possibly some ideas on how to improve […]

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