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In the latest episode of the “Hiring Talks” podcast, we had an exciting discussion with the PR department representatives from Boosta. Our topic is “PR in employer branding.”

Boosta is an international IT company that builds and develops digital businesses. The company's portfolio includes loads of successful IT products, performance marketing projects, and its own investment fund Burner. Nowadays, Boosta is an international IT company that employs more than 600 specialists.  

Let’s ask our guests from Boosta - Head of PR Anastasia Hovorun and PR Manager Alina Fedotova - to answer the question - “Should PR and HR work together?”.

Should PR and HR work together? Boosta's experience

Tell us what we should know about Boosta

Alina: Today, we are an international ІТ company with over 600 professionals working in 39 countries worldwide. And despite Boosta being a remote-first company, we have four offices, three of which are in Ukraine and one in Warsaw, Poland.

Boosta's story began in 2014 when two guys, Dmytro Bondar, and Yaroslav Baklan, decided to create their own company. Back then, their first office was the kitchen in Yaroslav's apartment. We often tell the story that in order to hire the first developer, our founders had to write a written commitment that the company would exist for at least six months and would pay him a salary during that time.

Incredibly, today we have successfully existed for nine years, and we receive many responses and letters from candidates who want to join Boosta every day. This is because now we have a skilled team, many exciting projects, and, of course, a strong employer brand, which we are happy to talk about with you today.

Share some facts about your professional background. How did your journey in PR start? And how did you find out about Boosta?  

Anastasia: My name is Anastasia, and I am the Head of PR at Boosta. I joined the company five years ago, having previously worked in other tech companies such as Genesis, De Novo, and Improvement Service. But my professional path in Public Relations started in an entirely different field. I started my career as a PR manager in Louise Bridal. It is a wedding dress manufacturer. And it was love at first sight. So now I’ve been working in this field for over 8 years. When I joined Boosta in 2018, the company was at the stage of being a "growing startup," where there was no centralized focus on employer branding and communication before that. However, the employer brand is closely related to all other processes happening in the company.

So, where did our work begin? It started with an audit – to understand the current state of our employer brand. For this purpose, we introduced employee satisfaction surveys and conducted research among employees and candidates. Then, we formed our strategy: who we are and who we want to see as our candidates. The next step was to work on recognition and delivering our messages to our target audience.

A super-high dynamic of processes and rapid development has always characterized Boosta. Over five years, we have grown significantly and transformed. We have come a long way from a small and intimate atmosphere with evening gatherings in the office to hosting grand corporate events with 350+ people in the best hotels in Turkey.

In 2022, we realized we needed to grow our current brand concept. And it applied to both the conceptual part (as Boosta started with just one educational product and now has dozens of products, projects, niches, and even our investment fund) and the visual part. That's why we embarked on a massive rebranding initiative to showcase ourselves as we are today. Alina, by the way, joined us precisely during this exciting moment of transformation.

Alina: I joined the company a year ago after working in PR agencies with international clients such as KLM AirFrance, Huawei, ABInBevEfes, and others. I decided on my future profession while I was at school. I bet everything on PR and didn't make a mistake. Today I have  specialized education and 5 years of experience in this field.

And I can say that when I was choosing Boosta, my decision was directly influenced by the well-established employer brand. I knew that Boosta is a company of opportunities that values its professionals and provides excellent working conditions. It's a constantly evolving company, so there's never a dull moment here. Instead, it's sometimes challenging but always exciting. And now, it's been a year since I've been involved in developing the Boosta employer brand.

When I joined, I immediately had a deep dive into the Boosta brand as the company was undergoing its rebranding, the first one in the eight years of Boosta's existence.

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You have already touched on the topic of rebranding. Tell us more about it. How was the process? How long did it take to work on it?

Anastasia: As a child grows, gradually, their clothes become too small for them. Something similar happened with our branding. At some point, we realized that our positioning no longer encompassed all the directions that Boosta is currently engaged in. Moreover, the visual concept had strict limitations that started to blur with the introduction of new and diverse projects. Therefore, it became clear that it was time for us to consider rebranding.

Of course, we started by outlining our requirements and conducted a large-scale tender. We considered 28 contractors, looking for the perfect "match" with whom we could collaborate. Eventually, we chose the agency "Spilka," which we consider one of the best agencies in Ukraine. Overall, from the beginning of the tender to the launch, the entire process took over a year.

Over time, a company's brand image may become outdated, stale, or disconnected from its target audience. What goals did you set for yourself in your rebranding?

Alina: It was important to us that the identity:

  • was aligned with our values, corporate culture, and company scale;
  • was versatile, practical and did not limit our creative space, unlike our previous brand style.

Branding is crucial in attracting professionals: a specific identity appeals to certain individuals. The corporate style should fully reveal and showcase the essence of the company and the character of its employees, reflecting its values and directions. Our previous identity was not as multifaceted, vibrant, and dynamic as we are. So it could have deterred candidates we were interested in.

Tell us more, what are the key fields in which PR and HR departments collaborate closely? How does PR contribute to shaping a company's employer brand?

Alina: Anastasia has already mentioned that the work on the employer brand begins with understanding our target audience and what we can offer them (our EVP - Employee Value Proposition). The next step in the employer branding process involves PR. Public Relations really plays a vital role in conveying key messages to our audience, ensuring they have heard about us, and, of course, creating a desire to work with us.

In our case, the close collaboration is even reflected in our organizational structure, as the PR division, which is responsible for internal and external communications and employer branding, is part of the HR department.

What strategies are effective in terms of Public Relations in HRM. How can PR professionals effectively communicate a company's employer value proposition?

Anastasia: Promoting the EVP itself aims to increase brand recognition among your target audience. Numerous channels, tools, and formats can be used, but generally, it falls under one of two strategies:

  1. The first one is Broad Coverage: You share your brand's message through mass channels such as television and large conferences like, for example, iforum in Ukraine, hoping that among the vast audience, there will be individuals who fit your target criteria for joining your team. This approach significantly boosts recognition but may not directly help you quickly and effectively fill specific vacancies.
  2. The second one is Niche Targeting: This involves working with a more specialized audience. You analyze your target audience, identify where and how to reach them, and then approach these channels with specific messages tailored to that audience.

We emphasize the second strategy, focusing on more targeted and tailored approaches. But sometimes, we engage in events aimed at a wider audience.

How do you use digital channels and media to enhance employer brand visibility?
Alina: All communication channels should be distinguished between internal and external since, in developing our employer brand, we communicate both with potential candidates and our internal employees. However, today, let's focus on external communications. In that direction, we actively work with various channels.

Firstly, it includes our company profiles on job portals. In Ukraine, we use platforms like DOU, Djinni, and Robota.ua. It also could be international platforms like Indeed, Jooble, and others. We ensure that candidates can find reliable information about our company directly on these job portals.

Additionally, we collaborate extensively with relevant media resources. Our employees often share their expertise through expert columns, participate in interviews, and provide comments.

We also actively manage our social media presence on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Telegram. We use these channels to share information about our company, publish valuable insights from our professionals, and post current job openings.

Moreover, we always take advantage of opportunities to participate in specialized events such as conferences, webinars, and workshops. These engagements allow us to establish ourselves in the industry further.

Recently, collaborations with various brands that resonate with our target audience have proven to be effective in promoting our employer brand.

Could you share some formulae for success in collaboration with media resources as a part of the employer branding strategy?

Alina: I believe the formula for success in media relations is: relevant content + relevant media outlets + proper timing.

Generating topics and selecting article formats that interest or are useful to your audience is essential. Also, it is crucial to understand that content overloaded with advertising inserts will simply be disregarded after 2 seconds of reading.

Relevant media outlets refer directly to those resources that your audience reads. By the way, these media don't necessarily have to be solely professional; they can also be certain lifestyle media that interest your audience.

There is a specific qualification for different communication channels, where traditional media falls into the "Earned." Something you have to earn. That's why publications in specialized media have a positive reputation impact on the employer brand. Candidates trust the companies presented in the media.

And, of course, media collaboration fulfills its basic purpose of informing about the company and its news, which is also a crucial component of the employer brand.

And what about social media? Do they require collaboration with the marketing department as well?

Anastasia: It depends on your goals and organizational structure. A social media marketing manager is already a "marketing manager," so they promote the company on social media platforms. However, whether to apply to the marketing department depends on the specific tasks and the tools that need to be used. For example, SMM managers often work solely with social media pages and do not handle advertising setup in the Facebook Ads Manager. In such a case, if you need to launch an advertising campaign on social media, you must involve a PPC specialist. So that means that you’ll probably collaborate with the marketing department. However, there are also "universal soldiers" who can independently handle all tasks. Nevertheless, this is more feasible for small companies with limited workloads.

What role does reputation management play in employer branding, and how can PR professionals address negative online sentiment?

Anastasia: I would like to start answering this question with one metric we measure. It's the dynamics of the number of candidates who read company reviews before accepting a job offer. Our statistics show 71% of professionals search for reviews before deciding. Specifically, 64% of candidates from Ukraine read reviews on DOU. It indicates that the company's reputation and reviews about working with it directly influence candidates' collaboration decisions.

Consequently, when dealing with negative reviews (and negativity in general), it's crucial to address them and not ignore them. We follow this approach: first, understand the situation, discuss it with all parties involved, and determine if we made any mistakes or if it might be slander - unfortunately, this can happen. Based on this analysis, we develop an appropriate action plan. If mistakes are made, we analyze, learn from them, and make improvements to prevent such cases in the future. Open and honest communication about these actions is vital.

Of course, we continuously refine our processes to minimize the likelihood of receiving negative feedback. However, if it does happen, our priority is reacting and learning from our mistakes.

Tell us more about Human Resources vs Public Relations. How can PR and HR departments collaborate to address and manage crises or reputational challenges?

Alina: It's important to note that everything related to employer branding is always collaborative between Human Resources vs Public Relations teams. Sometimes, there are complex cases, and we assist in preparing responses to candidates.

We also conduct periodic communication training sessions. Together, we analyze reviews and create action plans to address any concerns or issues raised.

Anastasia: Another example of such collaboration was during the start of the full-scale war in Ukraine. Our HR team assisted employees with housing searches, relocations, and other arrangements. However, there were too many requests, and the process was chaotic. As the PR team, we created a dedicated communication channel called the "care line" where all employees needing assistance could reach out. We announced and communicated this to our employees, which helped streamline the requests, distribute them among team members, and provide quick and effective support. In 2022, we handled 152 requests from our employees using this channel.

Additionally, in high-stress conditions, we communicated with our employees daily (sometimes multiple times a day), providing updates on the company's situation. HR managers assisted us in gathering and preparing information for these communications.

We’ve already understood your role in EVP maintenance. What role does PR play in supporting HR initiatives such as talent acquisition and employee engagement?

Alina: PR is a loudspeaker. It's like the voice of your company. So, it affects talent attraction because, at the very least, it communicates the kind of professionals we are looking for and what we offer to them. A real example - if there's a need to attract, let's say, strong developers, PR can additionally participate in educational events that such specialists attend and promote the job vacancies there.

What common challenges arise when PR and HR departments don't work together effectively? Could you share some top practices to overcome them?

Anastasia: The lack of synchronization between HR and PR teams always leads to decreased effectiveness and efficiency, and in extreme cases, even to the emergence of crises.

For example, suppose the PR team actively develops the brand among students and people without work experience, while the hiring plans are focused only on experienced senior professionals. In that case, no expected results will be achieved. PR will generate a lot of interested candidates at the trainee level, with little to offer, while the recruiting team will struggle to fill the vacancies with experienced senior candidates.

Alina: If internal communications are not synchronized, in the best-case scenario, we may face information overload and low engagement rates among employees. In the worst case, employees may possess different sets of information, leading to confusion and misunderstandings.

And also, there can be a mismatch between candidates' expectations and the company's reality. Outdated or inaccurate information in public sources can mislead potential candidates. Opportunities can be lost simply because one team failed to pass information to another on time.

Could you share some top practices for such a mismatch?

Anastasia: How to work with this - first and foremost, through synchronizing goals and processes. The HR strategy, employer branding strategy, and PR strategies must be clearly synchronized and complement each other. At the tactical level, it is essential to have channels for information exchange and well-established processes for such communication.

We discovered that your company is included in many international rankings, TOP-100 IT employers in Ukraine, "TOP-25 employers open to talents under 25 years", and "Best onboarding practice." How can the company get an award? Should the PR department push different awards to be included in the ranking, or the award commissions do it independently?

Alina: Actually, both of the mentioned approaches are acceptable, as it depends on the format and conditions of the competition. There are rankings where companies are nominated independently, without prior agreement or involvement of the PR team. For example, recently, we received a letter stating that the Ukrainian business publication Delo.ua nominated us to participate in the "Top 100 Employer Companies" ranking. It was a pleasant surprise for us.

However, there are cases where involving the PR department is critical because applying to rankings requires preparing a company description and sharing a realized case study(some issues, solutions, and results). Typically, the PR department handles such tasks.

What are the must-haves of the company to be included in the ranking? Give some advice to growing companies.

Anastasia: I would highlight the following points:

  • Clarity and specificity of the descriptor, answering the question "Who we are?" It is not just about receiving awards; it's essentially a "primary" point regarding brand development.
  • High employee satisfaction and eNPS (Employee Net Promoter Score).
  • A certain level of recognition in the industry.
  • The presence of achievements and/or impressive case studies that deserve attention.

In simpler terms, to receive recognition or an award, there must be something worthy of this award.

How do recognitions impact talent acquisition?

Alina: It's so simple: great candidates want to work for great companies. And great companies receive awards. So, the award or ranking is an external validation that the company is moving in the right direction. It also serves as a comparison with other companies.
You can say multiple times that you have the best onboarding program, but when you receive the corresponding award, it directly confirms that the program is not just great but truly the best compared to other companies.

Also, we found on your website that you have Boosta Academy. How Boosta decided to start courses? Is this a part of your employer’s branding strategy?

Anastasia: I joined the company over five years ago, and at that time, the Boosta Academy already existed, but it was just starting to take shape. It began as an initiative of 5 or 6 proactive professionals who came up with the idea to create our own educational course. And all of them were hiring managers. I distinctly remember that their request was based on the following: from one side, it was challenging for us to hire SEO specialists (especially link builders as the entry-level role in this field), and from the other side, candidates found it also difficult to get their first job in SEO due to the lack of relevant knowledge and understanding of how this industry works in general. Therefore, our colleagues decided to share the necessary foundation for employment in entry-level positions. They understood that even if we couldn't hire all the candidates, with this knowledge, they could find jobs in other companies.

As the years passed, the Boosta Academy went through significant changes and transformations. Our experience and expertise grew, allowing us to share more advanced knowledge. Now, we offer courses even for senior-level professionals. Additionally, after the start of the full-scale invasion, we opened our courses to everyone interested, providing an opportunity for people who lost their jobs to reskill and restart their careers. In 2022, more than 22,000 students joined our platform. Consequently, while our training used to have a very individual approach, we also had to learn how to work with larger audiences.

What kind of role does the academy play among other hiring channels?

Alina: The Academy is not solely a hiring tool at the moment. Our goal is to share knowledge and our expertise, which can help entry-level professionals secure their first job and experienced experts reach new levels in their careers. However, each course concludes with the opportunity to apply for open positions at Boosta, so after every session, motivated candidates join our company.

How can PR professionals use event management to nurture relationships with key target audiences?

Anastasia: Most aspects related to employer branding should also be divided into internal and external categories. And it also concerns the events. External events mainly involve participating in industry conferences with a booth or job fairs. These tools allow us to directly convey information about ourselves to the target audience and attract interested candidates. It is classic outbound marketing.

Presentations, webinars, and other speaking engagements serve the function of indirect hiring. We talk about our products, processes, and achievements, and relevant candidates think, "Great, I want to be involved with this. I want to work with this product or with this expert." It is classic inbound marketing.
Additionally, internal events, recreational activities, team-building events, and corporate parties shape the company's corporate culture and influence the level of engagement, satisfaction, and eNPS among the current team.

Conclusion

So, this is the end of the main part of the Hiring Talks podcast. If you want to know more about Public Relations vs Human Resources, listen to our full podcast here. And don’t forget to like this podcast and set the notification to be the first to listen to the next episodes!

In this episode, we examined the potential advantages of fostering a collaborative relationship between HR vs PR. By aligning these two departments, they can synergize efforts to effectively communicate the organization's culture and values, bridging the gap between internal and external perceptions. This integration enables HR and PR to collectively enhance employee engagement, thereby bolstering the brand image and reputation in the market.

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