Stacey Penn on Digital Branding & Culture for Successful Recruiting

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John: Hey everyone, welcome to Life is Digital.

I am your host, John Bianchi. Get ready to learn about digital marketing as we share our knowledge and perspectives on current trends, best practices and actionable tips to help you grow your business in the digital age. I am so excited. I am here this morning with Stacey Penn, a long-time friend and the owner of the SAY Group. How are you doing this morning?

Stacey: Doing great, John, thank you for having me.

John: We always have such great conversations, and I was so excited that you accepted the invite to be on the podcast this morning.

Industry fact about recruiting 

John: I wanted to kick off our conversation today, we were talking a little bit before the show, and I thought maybe you could share a relevant, interesting industry fact about the recruiting and hiring space that maybe our listeners don’t really know about.

What do you think you could share with them today that they might find really interesting and a different perspective from what they might do as business owners on the day-to-day basis?

Stacey: Well, I find that the clients that we work with are so focused on hiring and recruiting that they miss a big element to hiring, which is the employment branding piece, and something that in our business, we are really helping our customers talking and working with them on their brand and on their digital brand on LinkedIn as an example, and how they’re portraying their culture, especially now in 2020 with diversity hiring and Black Lives Matter, we have an initiative where we are helping our customers with their branding.

About Say Group 

John: That’s fascinating, and I think that’s a great tie-in to what we talk about here on the podcast, is how important your digital presence and your digital story is to attracting individuals to, like you said, your brand. Because sometimes that’s not just customers, but in your case, that’s the hiring space, attracting great talent to want to work in your organization. I love that you mentioned that. I want you to maybe tell the story of Say Group. What it is that you do and what makes you so unique and different because I’m always fascinated by this. We think of the traditional hiring is you put out a bunch of postings and you get some resumes and then you kindly make a blind choice and you’re like, I hope this makes sense, hold on for two years, and then you have growth in your company or not, and you make a change if it doesn’t work out. But, I’m sure there’s a better process and I think you’ve come up with that. So, tell me a little bit about Say Group and what you guys do differently?

Stacey: Thanks, John, that was a great intro there. So over 20 years ago, I was able to get my recruiting experience through an employment agency where it’s the fast pace, the super aggressive, very competitive, just hiring only with our clients.

John: that type of culture and that type of experience. How did that impact those businesses?

Stacey: So, then I was transitioning from the agency world over to the corporate space and being a corporate recruiting partner, and as a recruiting partner within a corporation, obviously you’re building relationships and embedding yourself within the business to not only help them with just a fill, but also with everything that comes with the hiring, from the candidate experience, to the branding piece, to the technology piece, to how folks are actually applying for the job, also with behavioral interviewing and how hiring managers may only hire someone once in a blue moon, and how we realized that hiring managers need continual training and how to work and be part of the hiring process.

So, hence, 15 years ago, started Say Group, with bringing a combination of that fire in the belly, aggressive recruiting experience, combining with that relational aspect and really trying to educate and train and bring best practices into our customers. We now have a business where we enable our clients to be able to do recruiting best practices on their own, be it from workforce planning all the way to onboard and candidates, and there’s so many pieces involved that it’s literally… Recruiting today is more than just a fill, there’s responsibilities from the hiring manager, there’s responsibilities from the senior leadership and vision to what they’re putting on their LinkedIn, to the videos that they’re making, and the culture that companies are portraying today.

How important is it for a business to position themselves online when it comes to hiring?

John: I love that because it reminds me of the phrase, if you teach a man to fish, he’ll eat forever. If you give a man a fish, he’ll eat for one day. So, it’s the idea that you’re actually helping train the hiring managers and the individuals at these companies build a sustainable foundation and culture for themselves, so that they can actually take those tools and continue to work with their team and develop that over time, and obviously attract great talent. So, I love that because you’re taking an approach of saying, “Hey, yes, we can do the actual work for you, but we’re also going to train you on how to do your jobs better.” So, it’s almost as if you’re taking that next step and you really are with really almost doing that corporate training, which I think is great, That’s something that’s so invaluable for companies today, so I think when we think about this idea of corporate branding, maybe we could talk about this a little bit more. I know you and I are going to be working on even some of these things for Say Group, so how important is it for a business to position themselves well, well-branded, an accurate and developed story in terms of maybe not even just in the hiring space, but as a corporate entity in America today? How important is that?

Stacey: Well, it’s huge. And the first thing we do with our clients is, Do you have a LinkedIn page? What is your presence online look like? And, how is their brand being portrayed? Because it’s just a click here, and a click there. And not only the company, but the employees that work for the company, we’re looking at the employees. Do they even have the company they work for listed? Do they have anything to promote the company that they work in, because obviously in the age of social media and all of the digital online marketing, candidates are doing a lot of homework and digging and seeing how far they can go with people they may know and looking at individuals’ LinkedIn profiles. So, that’s really where we start. We start with, “Well, no wonder you’re not getting any applicants, you don’t have a story here, you don’t have anything exciting at all, you don’t have any videos on your page to show what it’s like to work for your company.” And honestly, it’s the landing for where people are going, and then if you don’t have links to things for the candidates to learn, it can hurt the company and their hire.

Leveraging your referral network

John: It makes absolute sense, what you are saying… And I think this kind of connects also a lot of what we talk about on this podcast as well, is that marketing and branding has to drive sales. We’re not just creating pretty pictures or putting things out there, it has to have an end goal. So, what you’re mentioning about the LinkedIn profile, the company and the LinkedIn profile of the individual being hired or is part of the corporate culture when they are hired. Does it all match? It really connects to, like you said, sales and referrals. This is something we’ve talked about as well, so I thought I wanted to maybe ask you this also is how do you leverage that referral network? Because, this is really something that I believe more businesses and business owners and sales people can do better and more effectively is leveraging a referral network. What are some things that you do to leverage a referral network?

Stacey: Well, it’s funny. I’ve been pretty lucky, John, because I’ve been working off of referrals and word of mouth for the last 15 years as a business owner, It’s only been recently in the last two to three years that we’ve realized we want to grow, and how are we going to grow the referral business as well as our marketing efforts. And, so we are now, as a company business objective, we are going to begin to work with you guys and building out a plan – a better plan. Right now, we work off of our referrals and we have a cadence of check-ins with them and asking them for business or other folks that could use our services, but in order for us to grow our business, we have to step our game with the marketing and with our digital platform as well.

John: That’s fantastic. And I think that we sometimes don’t realize how much possibility there is out there too. We take a lot of effort to get a new sale or acquire a new client, or like you said, acquire a new hire for a company but sometimes there’s so much value in developing your internal team, developing the relationships as you have, or maybe you worked with someone three years ago and just simple call or a text or an email just to see how they’re doing might lead to them saying, Hey, I’ve got someone that maybe you should work with, and I think developing that network and that relationship is invaluable for businesses as they grow and expand as you mentioned.

So thank you for sharing that.

Key Takeaways

John: As we come to a close day, I thought maybe you could leave our audience with a few key takeaways from our conversation, I know we’ve talked a little bit about referrals, we talked a little bit about marketing and branding, obviously some changes in the hiring space now. What’s maybe one or two or three key takeaways you would leave our audience with today that they can make an impact in the difference in their hiring and their corporate culture, maybe a few things that you think would be really important that you’d like to see more companies do on a day-to-day basis?

Stacey: So that’s a great question, it’s what we talk about every day, so whether you are a business owner, you’re in a senior leadership position, or a VP of HR or someone in a high HR position, hiring is more than just a fill. It’s more than just calling a recruiter to fill the job. It’s more than just calling down to your internal recruiter, whether you’re using an external or an internal, it’s more than just giving the job spec and then waiting. There’s so much more, there’s so much more that goes into the hiring, and I think if I’m passionate about anything right now in the recruiting industry is… are companies thinking about their employment branding? What are they doing to increase their culture and their awareness out there on their digital media space? And, then that all ties in to my number one, my favorite topic, which is the Candidate Experience. So the candidate experience, in my book starts digitally. It starts on that LinkedIn landing page or wherever they land, it starts right there, and the experience that the candidate feels right then before they even talk to anyone can create real excitement to want to work for the company or I’m just going to move on to the next one that has a bigger and better explanation.

So if anything, it’s getting CEOs to realize, it’s more than just a fill… It is really thinking about how they’re portrayed out there from an employment branding perspective.

John: That is so fascinating and I would say, I think along the same lines all the time, because if we could get CEOs like you said, and more, and I think there are a lot of great CEOs out there. If we can get business owners to understand that you’re branding and corporate culture, is so much more than a logo. It’s so much more than maybe the colors you chosen, it has to do with how you treat your employees, it has to do with how you’re perceived in the marketplace. Your customer service is huge. It’s critical. It’s a huge piece of your branding. Amazon didn’t become the smile company by not having two-day prime shipping, which makes us all smile. Things get delivered on time and efficiently, so I think they took that corporate brand to the next level to be the best at delivery. That’s their promise and that’s the key of their business, and consequently, they treat their employees fantastically, at least from some of the things that I’ve heard, hopefully.

Well, Stacey, I really appreciate you hopping on today. This was an amazing chat, really looking forward to obviously seeing the Say Group grow as I have over the last couple of years, I know we’ll be working together again on some more of these types of things. So, I’m really excited about that. Have a great rest of the week. For our audience, take this in mind. Think about your branding. Think about what sets you apart from the corporate perspective. Would someone want to work for your company? I think putting yourself in that mindset can really set you apart from some other organizations and be employee-focused as Stacey has said. That’s huge, and that’s critical especially as we make this shift culturally towards really considering overall what some of the big factors are in our society.

I appreciate you, Stacey for joining us. I appreciate you, the audience joining us for this episode of Life is Digital. Once again, I am your host, John Bianchi. Please remember to rate, review and subscribe to the show. There’s some links in the comment section below and share it on your social media as Stacey said. Until next time. Don’t stop marketing.

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