Talking Best and Next Practices in Talent Attraction Marketing at SEDC 2017September 7, 2017
“It’s the talent, stupid” was the title of a presentation I had the pleasure of giving at the Southern Economic Development Council (SEDC) conference last month in Charlotte. While the U.S. South has seen a resurgence of investment in the past few years, it has not been immune to the nation’s talent challenges.
In addition to presenting the latest findings from our talent research, Talent Wars (you can read a recap of three talent myths and “busted” truths in our recent talent blog here), we also presented best and next practices in talent attraction marketing from four very different communities in the South: Dallas, Texas; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Chattanooga, Tennessee; and Cleveland County, North Carolina. Here’s four talent attraction best practices we can learn from these communities:
BEST PRACTICE #1: USE EXISTING TALENT
While “big” comes to mind when you think of Dallas, the Dallas Regional Chamber wanted to make a big splash with their talent attraction marketing campaign without blowing a big budget. Instead, Jessica Heer, Senior Vice President of Talent Attraction for the Dallas Regional Chamber says the key to success is to “think like a startup.” In order to ensure the “Say Yes to Dallas” campaign was done on budget and as quickly as possible, Heer made the most of local resources.
For example, the chamber tapped into the local university and creative community to find young web developers and videographers looking to grow their own portfolios and take on projects for little or no cost (www.sayyestodallas.com was created in eight weeks by a local developer, their event recap videos were captured by a local university intern, their focus groups were done by the local community college, and their launch video features 100% donated footage). The Dallas Regional Chamber even looked to local investor and ambassador, Mark Cuban, to help propel the campaign. Cuban agreed to do a testimonial video for the Say Yes to Dallas campaign at no cost. The results so far? The Say Yes to Dallas website saw a 722% increase in traffic the seven days after launching the video.
BEST PRACTICE #2: CREATE A TALENT CONCIERGE
If talent attraction marketing builds awareness, what creates “conversion” of talent “leads?” Customer service. Case in point, the Baton Rouge Area Chamber (BRAC) hired a full-time employee that acts as a “talent concierge” for local employers such as IBM, ExxonMobil and others. BRAC’s Director of Talent Development, Melissa Thompson says “The company still focuses on marketing the job, we market the community.”
In addition to general awareness marketing through BRAC’s #thinkBR campaign, Thompson is responsible for creating creative solutions to fuel Baton Rouge’s talent pipeline – such as the InternBR program, which provides professional development to local students and exposes them to Baton Rouge, and Talent Tours, which show everything from where to live or where to get their hair cut. All discussions had on any community tours with BRAC are confidential. “The goal is to give people honest answers about any relocation concerns,” says Thompson. Baton Rouge has seen great success with this personal approach: of all the potential hires they take on the tour, a whopping 94% choose to relocate for the job in Baton Rouge after being offered the position. Thompson is usually their first phone call after they accept.
BEST PRACTICE #3: MAKE A BOLD CLAIM
Most community’s talent attraction marketing messaging starts and stops at “live, work, play.” Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce decided to cut through the cookie-cutter clutter and make a bold claim by launching a talent attraction campaign called “Literally Perfect.” The online video-driven campaign centers around a hilarious tongue-in-cheek musical, “CHA CHA Land,” about techies who chose Chattanooga over other bigger cities. After the campaign launched, Chattanooga saw that Facebook post engagements went up more than 1,000% and the video itself garnered more than 100,000 views. They also saw more engagement with the post from audiences outside of Chattanooga, like Denver and Silicon Valley.
But the campaign was so much more than a funny video. DCI wanted to make sure the world knew about why Chattanooga is “Literally Perfect” – so through strategic pitching we placed Chattanooga’s key messages (like its blazing-fast internet speeds and outdoor recreation opportunities) in multiple media outlets such as CityLab, Planetizen and Thrillist, generating millions of impressions.
BEST PRACTICE #4: STAY TARGETED
Let’s say you don’t have a Mark Cuban or a million-dollar marketing budget to get your message far and wide. Well, the smartest thing you can do is hone in on what type of talent you need and where they are, which is exactly what Cleveland County Economic Development Partnership (CCEDP) in North Carolina did. Cleveland County had what many communities consider to be a “good problem to have” – hundreds of manufacturing jobs.
To maximize their budget and limited name recognition, Cleveland County focused on one target industry – manufacturing – and one target market – Charlotte. Together with CCEDP, DCI developed a brand that used messaging that played up Cleveland County’s proximity to Charlotte – so instead of “Come to Cleveland County to live, work, play,” we said, “Find your dream job in Charlotte’s backyard.” And since we know jobs are the biggest selling point for talent, we worked to change perceptions of manufacturing jobs – highlighting that today’s manufacturing jobs are “Not Your Grandfather’s” and they come with good pay and great benefits and range from marketing to machine operation. This new messaging was incorporated into ads and brochures, which were heavily distributed at regional events like high school football games and the American Legion World Series, which attracted 20,000+ attendees. CCEDP also put the brochures in the hands of career counselors, teachers and displayed them in high-traffic areas in and around the community (think DMVs, restaurants, retailers, churches and more). Both the brochure and ad will drive to a new microsite with more job, real estate and other information that’s important to talent.