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In A PR Crisis, The Employer Brand Must Go On

For those in talent acquisition, a brand crisis is a juncture, a pivotal moment, and a time for action. Being prepared before a crisis hits is the only insurance policy that will pay off. Why does this matter now more than ever? Because bad news happens in realtime, oftentimes as fast as thumbs can type. In the hypercompetitive race to attract and win the best talent, a quick stumble and redirect is preferable to an agonizing fall. The brand must go on. Under Armour’s familiar slogan, “Protect This House,” sums it up well. Your talent acquisition team needs a protection plan as an operating philosophy long before a PR crisis hits.

The known knowns:

  • Your talent brand is inextricably linked to your company’s brand
  • Bad news comes in many forms, travels fast, and can have lasting effects
  • Short-term (e.g. a bad marketing campaign)
  • Mid-term (e.g. company failed to report adverse effects of a drug)
  • Long-term (e.g. sustained core business deficiency or fraud)

So, what do you do?

1: Build a Strong Foundation as a Crisis Shield

Begin with some fundamentals; set a strong talent acquisition foundation. Your brand needs to be bigger than any crisis, which speaks to a focus on positioning. Your talent acquisition brand lives at the intersection of candidate, company, and competition. It lives there every day, day in and day out. The four pillars that BNO recommends for an employer brand will help to clarify what a strong foundation actually looks like.

Employer Branding Tips

2: Understand Crisis Management in a Real-Time World

In today’s socially-connected world, everything happens at light speed. But there is another aspect to crisis psychology: authenticity. When we view the reporting of crisis, particularly through the lens of individuals on social media, there is an authenticity that is inherent in un-edited reporting. When a company responds in a less than transparent way, it only adds fuel to the fire. So, hypertransparency is the baseline expectation from a corporate response team. Dialogue is as important as message delivery.

3: Become Familiar with the Anatomy of a Crisis

Talent Acquisition Anatomy of a Crisis

4: Develop a Response Strategy

Bad news spreads faster than ever before due to the rise of Twitter, Facebook, and our collective “lifestreams.” Because of this, your response time needs to be faster than ever (hours, not days), and you need to monitor all consumer-generated media – not just the traditional kind. General tips for dealing with these fast-moving streams include:

  • Have a streamlined approach and a team in place
  • Experience in social media will help you respond fast
  • Consumers crave two-way conversation and brand engagement
  • If you don’t lead the conversation, others will
  • Communicating solely through press releases and scripted interactions doesn’t satisfy
  • A transparent, empathy-driven response strategy is key
  • Own, correct, and/or reframe negative feedback that is lodged in search results.

If your company finds itself in a crisis scenario and is being taken to task in mainstream media and social media, lean into current happy and proud employees to combat the negative press. Potential employees give more weight to what current employees say than what company spokespeople or HR have to say.

5: Action Steps

Finally, it’s important to take action steps in order to ensure you maximize your strategy. Examples of these steps include:

  • Monitoring brand reputation (using automated or manual tools)
  • Drafting a crisis management framework and response strategy
  • Lobbying for TA team engagement in corporate PR/crisis strategy (or finding out if your company has a crisis team)
  • Arming recruiters with guidelines and flexible, empathetic talking points


By catching the crisis environment early, addressing it properly, and reframing negative feedback, you can minimize the impact of bad PR on your employer brand and still attract well-qualified candidates to your company.

Last month, we presented a webinar on this subject for the Association of Talent Acquisition Professionals (ATAP), covering everything from building a strong brand foundation to the current state of media. To learn more about ATAP, visit their website at

Interested in building a bulletproof employer brand? Give us a shout – we’d love to assist. Contact us today.