Publicity stunts get people talking. With enough money to throw at a good idea, brands and recruiters can make a name for themselves by catching people’s attention, then quickly guiding them to the name behind that stunt to get them thinking about buying or applying. On this front, recruiters could learn a lot of from marketers: get candidates talking about your company by pulling off something new and innovative, and they may consider working for you when they otherwise wouldn’t have.
If you don’t have the resources of a Fortune 500 company, what companies can you look to for guidance on how to get people excited about working for your organization? We offer these four stunts to highlight what you should (and shouldn’t) focus on when coming up with your next big recruiting tactic.
1. Hate-Shipping Glitter: a Surprisingly Popular Service
ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com tapped into a market many didn’t know existed: ruining people’s days by shipping them envelopes full of glitter — which is really, really hard to get rid of once it’s on you. The website received so many orders it had to shut down the day after it launched in order to fulfill them all.
This is a common issue that recruiters can learn from: anticipating how popular a position will be can be tricky, and when you’re overwhelmed by candidates, you have to cut the pipeline somewhere and work with what you have. For example, DuckDuckGo curbs applicant demand by forcing all prospects to ask for the job.
The lesson? Make sure you can scale with demand. While a stunt is a good idea, it’s only as good as your ability to deliver (literally) once you’ve got the public’s attention.
ShipYourEnemiesGlitter.com is currently stable, and is now using PayPal to process its orders, meaning the company was able to follow up after the initial demand. There’s another lesson for you! Use third-party systems to do the things you know you can’t handle.
2. An Ad Stunt You Shouldn’t Cook Up
A steakhouse in Russia decided to get a little risky in order to attract some attention: it decided to literally burn one of its ads.
It’s a nice stunt, since it got people talking, but if you’re looking to learn something from this, use it as a cautionary tale: not all stunts are created equal, and it’s easy to get a little carried away when trying to think outside the box. Burning a billboard may work for a steakhouse in Russia, but overdoing it when it comes to attracting candidates could end up making you look desperate, as though your company doesn’t have much to offer and has to resort to gimmicks to get people interested. For example, here’s Uber desperately using underhanded tactics to poach Lyft drivers.
(Lighting things on fire is also more frowned upon here in the U.S.)
The lesson? If your recruiting endeavors are hyper-local or could be misunderstood outside your market, save your money (and your time) for something a little safer.
3. An Ice-Cold P.R. Stunt that Raised Millions
The ALS Association created a viral sensation last year with the Ice Bucket Challenge. As far as P.R. stunts go, you can’t do much better than the ALS Association did: it raised awareness of Lou Gehrig’s disease, earned the nonprofit association over $100 million, and created a viral sensation as people dared their friends to dump cold water on their heads.
Spreading the word didn’t cost much per person — though there still had to be a marketing campaign to go with the viral spread of the challenge — and the Ice Bucket Challenge wasn’t as dangerous as, say, burning a billboard. Not every company can do something on this level, but it goes to show a good idea doesn’t have to be expensive to catch on, and recruiters shouldn’t be afraid to think big with small budgets when trying to attract candidates. (Check out Rice University’s unorthodox method of sending letters to the cats of athletes it wants to recruit.)
The lesson? Peer pressure isn’t just for middle school. Not only did the ALS Association hit the red-hot intersection of social good and peer pressure, the organization also had a solid plan for what it would do with the money raised by the Ice Bucket Challenge, which helped it to weather the inevitable backlash much more easily.
4. If You’re Proud, Say It Loud
In an effort to support the LGBT community, a Burger King in San Francisco debuted the “Proud Whopper,” which bore a rainbow wrapper. It was a great gesture, especially when you consider that burger itself was no different from a normal Whopper (emphasizing the point that on the inside, all people are the same).
Burger King was able to get people talking about its product simply by rebranding it for a couple of days, and in that sense, the stunt was a success. However, as critics have pointed out, the effort was pretty half-hearted, especially when one considers the company’s other efforts in supporting equality.
The lesson? Recruiters shouldn’t be afraid to tap new channels when looking for candidates, but going into new ventures half-heartedly will only backfire. Candidates can smell a disingenuous employer from a mile away. Once you have an idea you’re confident about, go all in with it!