Insight

Branding and Recruiting Go Hand-in-Hand: Especially for Public Agencies

by Katie E. Rodgers

Government branding – a somewhat foreign concept merely a few years ago – has made its way into state and local agencies. Public entities have long known the benefits of hiring candidates from the private sector, and in today’s climate, more thought and strategy is necessary to attract those individuals to public organizations than ever before. Part of the reason for this is an increasingly diverse and ever-changing workforce that values flexibility, engagement, and visibility from the companies they are passionate about and, ultimately, want to join. Private sector companies excel at marketing their causes, technological innovations, and overall corporate brand. With brands acting as a reflection of internal culture, the public sector has had to adjust to remain competitive when it comes to their recruitment strategies.

In adapting their tactics, public agencies have found new ways to communicate the message that state and local governments are a great choice for people who want to make a difference in society. However, building a reputation around that message is proving to be a pain point. Many public agencies have turned to their human resources departments for leadership and innovation in this area to transform the agency from the inside-out. As a result, the focus has shifted to implementing principles and practices that encompass internal elements of the organization’s brand (the mission, vision, leadership philosophy, culture, and strategic values), and then, making those outward-facing in media to the general population.

What does this mean if you’re engaging in recruitment activities for public agencies? It means placing a greater emphasis on training and development. It means, if your organization hasn’t already done so, creating employee feedback channels so individuals can shape change internally throughout the organization. Why? Because it’s not enough to tell a new hire they will make an impact on society; they need to know they can – and that starts by seeing it internally. The message gets a candidate’s foot in the door, but the selling point is seeing it in action; it’s just an empty promise if the company culture (and brand) don’t quite reflect reality. Consequently, gathering direct feedback will also help you analyze ways to leverage change through the use of new technology, systems, and procedures which also stand to impact your recruitment efforts down the road. And, by engaging your current staff, you encourage them to play a more active role in attracting candidates.


What we’re seeing


Everything in the B2B world is becoming less transactional – we took that firm stance years ago and it has served us well. Recruiting during a time of low unemployment demands your company work on creating an experience; one that increases employee engagement and makes a commitment to professional development and learning. During our recent search experience with our public sector clients, we’ve paid attention to detail – crafting clear position descriptions and concise job postings that paint a picture of the brand for prospective candidates. And we’ve seen these clients use social media to put a face to the message; the face of their people, their team.

Some organizations have turned to contracting and outsourcing to reduce the time it takes to fill a vacancy. Although those are short-term solutions, they are beneficial sometimes when the market is limited. However, most public agencies understand that they need to be looking toward a long-term solution even while using a short-term one to get through the turbulent times. Therefore, as we’re seeing the roles of HR evolve, we’re seeing them collaborate more closely with the marketing team and hiring manager to build a pipeline of talent with the use of branding. HR is helping the hiring team to not overlook people due to bias, and instead to highlight individual areas of success as well as reach out to candidates through more creative channels. As they expand their brand and scope, these organizations are connecting with diverse people and this reach out, in-and-of-itself, stands to represent the difference your agency can make on society.


What you should focus on


For starters, recognizing your internal culture and crafting a brand that embodies it is step one. If you already have a strong brand, then work on your culture to ensure that your organization is a reflection of it. Implement brand strategies to shape public perception and increasingly attract talent, such as:

  • Authenticate your company social media content and pages with who you are and what you stand for: mission, vision, philosophy, strategy, etc.

  • Start a women’s/minority leadership program geared towards addressing how professional development looks different for different people.

  • Make your website mobile-friendly. See “Is Your Career Site Optimized for Mobile Devices?” for more information on how to accomplish this.

With an estimated 20% of the workforce retiring in the next 5 years, it’s crucial to build a pipeline for talent – starting now. If you’re a state or local government agency, vying for the attention of a wider pool of candidates, consider incorporating these initiatives into your recruitment strategy:

  • Offset the wage differences between public vs. private sector by opting for a total rewards system and educate your team on communicating it to their prospective hires. Check out “Not All Career Moves Are About Money” for more cost-effective retention strategies.

  • Use clear/concise position descriptions to create a clear path of progression for the ideal professional.

  • Pledge your commitment to diversity and inclusion. Read “Diversity is Just the Beginning” to learn how to remove bias from your recruitment and training efforts.


State and local government is poised for growth in the coming years. With that in mind, now is the time to be more proactive in your branding and recruiting efforts. Nurture every connection you make, and work on your internal culture so it matches your brand. Then your brand will speak for you.