HRworks has built its business over the past decade by developing a recruitment strategy that is more than just headhunting for one-off job openings. The Atlanta-based company assigns a team of recruiters to fill its clients' hiring needs, which can range from a single executive opening to multiple open positions (the firm calls its hiring procedure Recruitment Process Outsourcing).
Moreover, the firm has a number of singular specialties: job placement in accordance with The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs' (OFCCP) guidelines for nondiscrimination and affirmative action; finding talent when a private-equity firm launches or becomes involved with a merger, acquisition, or reorganization; and helping members of the military transition into new jobs.
"We have a lot of experience in the marketplace, but felt it was important to raise the visibility of the company," says Kurt Ronn, president and founder of HRworks. "We needed to raise the level [of awareness] to get credit for [our work] on a national basis."
In 2005, HRworks began working with AOR Ketchum on a branding push that included a new logo and Web site redesign. In 2007, the company embarked on a full-scale PR effort to generate media attention. To that point, media hits were nonexistent.
The move into media relations was, in large part, due to the OFCCP guideline change.
"[The] OFCCP opened the door for HRworks to take a stance about what it means to the industry," says Meredith Fletcher, managing account supervisor at Ketchum. "It was a great entry point for us to go forward and speak."
The company drew on its unique experience in recruiting to position itself as a thought-leader. Moreover, it sought a target beyond the typical client or prospect-driven audience of the past, aiming for both HR titles and general business-media outlets.
"The early indications for us are that expert opinion and a focused message is critical," says Ronn. "In a professional-services industry like ours, it's a better strategy than running a massive national ad campaign."
While client and firm were certain of the proper approach, there were challenges. Some of HRworks' more arcane areas of expertise don't necessarily interest the press.
"[Some things] can fly under the radar [of] local papers," says Ronn, "like the [OFCCP] government compliance change."
A key strategy for making the connection between HRworks' expertise and larger business implications was a focus on current events. Things like the closing of America's Job Bank, which was a database of national job openings that shut down in July 2007, and the US' changing demographics due to aging baby boomers and the movement of Generation Y into the workforce became key touch points. The economy's impact also has significant strategic implications for employers. Many people across businesses may use the news of rampant layoffs as an impetus to take a lax approach to hiring when, HRworks asserts, they shouldn't.
"We're messaging strongly that you need to take advantage of these dips," says Ronn. "If you're waiting until the economy comes back, you'll be in a war for talent."
Likewise, HRworks' focus on the military as a wellspring of potential employees draws on the organization's goal of taking a different recruitment perspective.
"We need to get the message out to hiring managers and employers to consider this alternate pool of candidates," says Ronn. "We sell a unique solution in the space, a precision approach. So it's important for us to represent, in essence, an innovative solution [to] recruitment."
Since launching this strategy, HRworks has had more than 65 media placements in HR trade titles, local publications like the Atlanta Business Chronicle, and national business outlets such as The Wall Street Journal and MarketWatch. In addition to becoming a source for recruiting information, Ronn has authored columns for BusinessWeek.com.
"It's been very successful for us... for the other nine years," he says, "so it's not like we broke onto the scene. What we did do was focus our messaging."
The recruiting firm also wanted its CSR efforts recognized. CHARITYworks, its internal philanthropic organization, launched in 2001. It's an employee-driven endeavor, with staff choosing to participate in one event per month from across a wide variety of groups and causes, such as Habitat for Humanity and Special Olympics Georgia.
Besides garnering media attention, Ronn says CHARITYworks has served as a model for other recruiters.
"We've found [that] the HR industry is always trying to find [ways] to do this aspect better," he adds, "so the industry is interested in our work."
While the sudden media buzz may give the impression that HRworks came out of nowhere in 2007, Ronn is adamant to point out its much longer history.
"We've been in business for 10 years now," he notes. "[This is] a natural extension of what we've already been doing. [We've been] honing these messages all along."
At a glance
President and founder: Kurt Ronn
Key trade titles: Workforce Management, Human Resource Executive, Talent Management
Marcomms budget: Undisclosed
PR Agency: Ketchum