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August 27, 2010

Like It or Not, HR is PR.

Filed under: General HR Buzz2:47 pm

You’ve said it before as you’ve contemplated a tough move on the people front within your company…

“What will this look like to our employees and customers if we take this action?”

“What will this look like to the same groups if we don’t take action?”

Like Spike Lee, you always want to do the right thing.  However, it’s a tough world, and you have to think about how the move (or lack of a move, depending on the situation) is going to be perceived.

Face the facts – part of the job of good HR is good PR.  Want proof from the big leagues?  HP fires Mark Hurd, and one of the outcomes that came out after the fact was that a DC-based PR firm, named APCO Worldwide, was with the Board at HP every step of the way as they moved to the decision to separate Hurd from the company.  Here’s more from Fortune:

“It was PR strategists at APCO who helped the HP board decide how to handle sexual harassment charges against Hurd. Kent Jarrell, an APCO senior vice president who heads the firm’s litigation communication practice, presented a mock newspaper article that illustrated the potential damage to HP’s reputation if the board didn’t nip the imbroglio in the bud.

Global assignments from a broad range of clients–the UPS (UPS) Foundation (APCO’s oldest client), Freddie Mac, Pfizer (PFE), to name a few—helped spur the rapid expansion, as has Jarrell’s litigation work. He advised Merck (MRK) on its Vioxx lawsuits, WorldCom on its bankruptcy restructuring, and Ford (F) when its Explorer SUVs with Firestone tires were blamed for crashes. A former broadcast journalist at CBS (CBS), he is a PR man with a reporter sensibility — known for telling clients to “think like a journalist” while presenting mock stories or dummy TV reports to show how the press might treat their crisis.” Some of you are going to reject that on first sight.  “We don’t manage by approval polls”, you’ll say.  I get it.  But you do.  At times, you’re a PR person who does HR and Talent Management as a hobby.

Here’s five ways you’ve been a PR hack in the last week:

1. You’ve assessed the risk of terming an underperformer without taking another step in the progressive discipline process (What the PR person would ask, and what you’re asking: “What’s it going to look like down the road?”)

2. You’ve thought about internal candidates who will be interested in a new open position, but aren’t ready.  You’re thinking about what to tell them.

3. You got feedback on the way your CEO is perceived in one of your remote locations.  You’re assessing the creditability of the views and wondering if you should present the data to him/her, and you’re also wondering if the messenger will be killed.  You know your message has to be right to avoid that.

4. You just got the application pack for “Best Places to Work”.  You know your company offers sooo much to employees, but you also know it’s not a perfect place.  You’re wondering about the positive and negative impacts of chasing that designation.

5. You looked at your LinkedIn profile and think it could use some spice to enhance your recruiting effectiveness.  You’re thinking about what you’re going to write.

You think you’re not a PR person? Some would say you’re more PR than HR.

Roll with it.  If you’ve been in the game for awhile now, chances are you’re a pretty good PR pro.



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