3 powerful ways to build your recruitment agency brand

by Paul MacKenzie-Cummins

The Recruitment Agency Expo is one of the largest trade events for the UK Recruitment sector. It’s a great opportunity for those within the sector to listen and learn from a wealth of speakers who share their insights into the sort of things that recruiters care most about.

I was fortunate to be asked to speak about how agencies can build their brand and, in doing so, boost their appeal (and profits) as an agency of choice. Here is the presentation that I delivered which, it is hoped, will provide a wee nugget or two that you the reader can take away and apply to your agency business.

  • The fact you are sat here about to listen to this presentation is indicative of where the market is right now.
  • During the recession, around 1 in 5 agencies shut up shop but by 2012, growth had returned with 12,500 recruitment businesses registered in the UK.
  • Today, however, that number is ever so slightly higher!

There are currently almost 40,000 agencies operating in the UK…no wonder you’re wanting to know how you can raise your agency’s profile!

In fact, in the first six months of 2018, 1,000+ new agencies opened their doors for the first time. We know this because we obtain the raw data from Companies House and have been publishing these figures for the last two years.

Why such growth?

  • Employer hiring intentions are strong
  • The shrinking talent pool is making it harder for employers to find the skills they need. This is driving demand for recruiters – around 6 in 10 jobs will be filled by agencies this year compared to 4 in 10 in 2015/6
  • Barriers to entry as an agency owner have almost been completely removed. Indeed, the rise in alternative finance, off-the-shelf websites that no longer require a degree in software engineering to set up, along with the rise in cloud-based ATSs and CRMs, have combined to enable recruiters to set up shop quickly and relatively easily
So, who the heck am I to stand in front of you to talk about this stuff? Give me 30 seconds:
  • Clearly is one of a tiny (and we mean tiny) number of PR firms in the UK specialising in the Recruitment sector
  • We’re also the biggest Content Marketing agency for the Recruitment industry, having created 2,500+ original articles over the last 12 months. Each month, we produce over 1,000 social media posts for our recruitment agency clients
  • We also publish the only online magazine dedicated to helping agencies raise their profile, called Recruiter imPRint. With over 300 articles packed with insights taken from our 10+ years in supporting recruitment firms and job boards, the magazine and dedicated website is purely about sharing best practice based on real-world solutions. Check it out at recruiterimprint.com

There are three key steps to building your agency brand, but it all starts with positioning. What do we mean by that?

  • It’s the way in which your clients, candidates and employees perceive you – what do you want to be known for? Is this being communicated effectively?
  • For example, if a couple of your consultants attended a networking event and had conversations with various people in the room, would they describe the business in the same way or would one differ from the other? Does everyone’s LinkedIn profile match the way in which you want to be described?

Think about what makes you different – how do you stand out from your competition? Do you operate in a niche within a niche, for example.

  • CASE STUDY: In 2017, we were at the final stages of a pitch to win a great recruitment agency as a new client. But there was something not quite getting us over the line and sealing the deal – not until the prospect asked one question: What’s the vision for Clearly PR?
  • The answer was simple because I have always been clear (no pun intended). I said: “I want to position Clearly as the PR and Content Marketing agency of choice for the Recruitment industry.” But, I added, “we can only achieve this by partnering with clients like you, doing a great job by you and taking you with us on the journey.” This, I stressed, “would mean that we’ll work harder to meet and exceed your expectations of us – your business will probably mean more to us than it will to our competitors.”
  • With this the deal was done because the prospect could see how much value we placed on their business and in return, they understood the positive impact they can have in helping us to achieve our objectives. This prospect has since become our third highest spending client, having originally come on board as one of our lowest.
  • Don’t ignore the reason ‘why’ people do business with you.

Word of warning…be mindful of what you say about yourselves. Be careful of what words you use to describe your agency.

  • For instance, if you think you’re ‘innovative’ what do you actually do that is original and way ahead of your peers?
  • Similarly, don’t ever call yourselves the ‘market leader’ unless you have the greatest share of the market and highest billings, of course
  • And avoid what we call in the trade ‘bollocks statements’ – things like that final bullet on the slide above will not only confuse the hell out of people trying to figure out what you’re on about, it makes you and the agency you represent look like a bunch of pretentious eejits…by the way, this is a genuine job description one agency use on LinkedIn!

The second way has the power to totally transform your agency. Understanding why people visit your website in the first place can have a profound effect.

There are three types of people who visit your site:

  1. Proactive job seekers on the hunt for a new role in the here and now
  2. Passive candidates open to new opportunities, and
  3. Hiring managers with a role to fill

Each person is on a different journey. Take the following as a case in point:

  • The proactive job seeker sees a job on your site that they like, but before clicking the apply now button they pause – much like many of us do with our abandoned shopping carts on Amazon. Why?
  • They could be in need of help on how to create a CV or how to write a covering letter, for example. If there is no content on your site that has the answers to their questions they will simply go to Google and type in their search.
  • This is missed opportunity for you – what would happen if their search leads them to a competitor’s website who just so happens to advertise similar jobs to you?
  • Chances are you will miss out on this talent simply because you haven’t considered where they are at in the application process, what support they might need, or how you can help.

Share your expertise and insights with clients and candidates. Don’t be precious about giving away your knowledge and expertise – it gains you much more in return by way of word of mouth.

It also enables you to stand apart from other agencies who simply sell, sell, sell.

Work out what content works. There are four styles of content that have the greatest impact in driving engagement and brand awareness:

  1. INFORMATION – this is what happened
  2. ANALYSIS – this is what happened and this is what it means
  3. HELPFUL – the classic how to format
  4. ENTERTAINING – hey, every brand needs a personality, so show off yours!

Blogs have massive impacts and should never – ever – be overlooked. Not only do they drive traffic to your websites, they encourage repeat visitors and have been proven to consolidate client sales. Here’s an example:

  • A specialist legal recruitment firm ran an article arguing that it is possible to have a successful career within the profession without having to relocate to London. The article was read by a lawyer who then applied for a role that our client was recruiting – netting the client over £10k in fees.

Social media is another high impact yet often overlooked brand builder. And any PR agency that tells you otherwise either a) doesn’t ‘get’ it, or b) quite simply doesn’t know their arse from their elbow (NB: Word of advice – if you look to appoint a PR agency, always check their social media activity first; if they post little and often, then they don’t understand their own market so how can they build your online brand?!).

  • At the end of the first three months working together, our client reviewed the work we had done for them with particular attention given to the social media accounts we manage for them. They had seen a 49% increase in new visitors to their site coupled with a rise in new business enquiries as a direct result. Interestingly, the volume of traffic generated by the posts we created outperformed that which came from their paid LinkedIn advertising by 9:1.

Now it’s time to make yourselves famous! We’re talking PR.

When you show off your knowledge on a consistent basis, you also make it easier for the media to trust you – to value what you have to say.

When a journalist receives a press release or media pitch, the first thing they do is visit the website of the sender – if you write about this stuff, and often, they will be more likely to pay attention to you.

But is what you have to say a story at all? What makes a good PR story – do you have something to say that those outside the four walls of your office will give a hoot about? Here’s a few things to tickle the brain cells:

  • Rapid growth
  • Key influencer on your board who is a big name in their sector
  • New markets entered
  • Milestone
  • Latest research
  • Different

Be mindful of what you say to the media – by that I mean avoid sounding like every other Tom, Dick and Harry. For instance, if asked to provide your opinion to a local or national newspaper on how Brexit will affect the Recruitment industry, avoid sitting on the ‘Well, no one is certain what will happen’ fence. It’s dull and no editor worth their salt will publish that because it adds nothing to the debate.

Instead, offer an informed opinion. For example, last week I was interviewed by TalkRadio and asked that same question. My response was to say that we need to move away from the doom and gloom surrounding Brexit and use the present as an indicator for what may lie ahead.

I said that since the referendum vote two years ago, demand for the services we provide has increased significantly, with our business seeing a four-fold increase in billings over the last 12 months alone. Employer hiring, I argued, remains at an all-time high. This is driving demand for recruiters who in turn, are looking to PR and Content Marketing firms like ours to help raise their profiles as agencies of choice. There is no sign of this slowing down anytime soon: Brexit, if anything has been a catalyst for growth.

Are you looking for support in building your recruitment agency brand (and billings)? Check out our dedicated website, Recruiter imPRint – home to 300+ articles packed with hints and tips to guide you.

Or, contact Paul MacKenzie-Cummins, Managing Director, to see how the Clearly team can potentially help you. Email [email protected] or call 0333 207 9477.