UTS Library




PR Company: 

Impact Communications Australia

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2004 H 8



Executive Summary: 

In 2003 IMPACT Communications Australia was hired by SHL, the worlds leading psychometric testing firm, to raise the profile of psychometric testing amongst the HR and business communities. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

After benchmarking the company and its media share, IMPACT created a schedule of sound PR activities to present the company as a thought leader in HR and psychometric testing.

At the same time, IMPACT had to manage the medias scepticism about psychometric testing and dispel myths regarding its use.

Overall IMPACT raised SHLs media coverage by 1825%, with 58% of coverage appearing in key HR media, 23% in the business press and 15% in the news media.

The program successfully positioned SHL as the market leader whilst demonstrating the business case for psychometric testing. As a result, the company has enjoyed improved profile and reputation while securing new clients.

Situation Analysis: 

SHL is a global firm providing psychometric assessment to HR companies and managers. Its tests can be used for recruitment, to measure employee effectiveness and motivation as well as for management and leadership development. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

SHL believes that psychometric testing creates an objective and fair platform from which HR decisions can be made. Despite this, psychometric testing has been received with scepticism in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Australia.

In particular the media were very sceptical of SHL and its products because:

  • Most journalists (especially senior journalists) had not been through a intensive recruitment process and therefore had not been exposed to psychometric testing
  • In 1999 a psychometric test was used to sack a senior staff member at the ABC. This was well remembered by journalists.

SHL was formerly known as Saville & Holdsworth, a well known company. Awareness of the company and its services dropped when it changed its name to SHL (its London Stock Exchange code).  SHL hired IMPACT in 2002 after the name change and re-branding. At that time, it had received only four clips prior, some of which IMPACT had generated while promoting a client of SHL.

This entry is for the campaign from January 2003 to June 2004.


At the start of the campaign, IMPACT undertook a comprehensive media research campaign to benchmark SHL in terms of:<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

  • Share of media voice in comparison to competitors, and
  • Perception of psychometric testing amongst the media

This project aimed to provide a basis for developing key messages, a base from which the campaign could be evaluated, and guide PR tactics.

The research project reviewed media coverage for six months prior to IMPACTs appointment. IMPACT did not evaluate the commercial audience (HR) as a separate market research project was undertaken.

Overall the research provided IMPACT with an understanding of which;

  • companies and individuals were SHLs competitors in the media
  • media outlets that were interested in psychometric testing, and
  • key issues in the media relating to psychometric testing.

Key findings regarding media perceptions included:


Ramifications for campaign

While journalists were sceptical, articles were mostly positive,indicating those truly opposed to psychometric testing didnt cover it.

·        IMPACT needed to broaden the range of journalists covering psychometric testing to counter negative perceptions.

·        SHL could take advantage of a media environment more positive than anticipated.

Most journalists know about Myers-Briggs testing, mentioning it twice as much as any other psychometric test.

·        IMPACT could take advantage of this by outlining fairer assessment tests.

Few journalists had first hand experience of psychometric tests.

·        IMPACT needed to offer famils so journalists could sit psychometric tests and demystify the process.

The majority (68%) of articles on psychometric testing are about recruitment.

·        IMPACT needed to generate coverage about other applications of psychometric testing

Target Policies: 

Given budget restrictions, IMPACT was focused in targeting potential customers rather than taking a scattergun approach. Our audiences were as follows. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Primary audiences

·        Buyers of psychometric tests including:

o       Senior HR practitioners

o       HR Managers and staff

o       C level executives

o       Recruitment consultants/advisers

o       Middle managers making employment decisions

o       Small to medium enterprises including owner/managers

·        Media including:

o       Recruitment, business and workplace (IR) writers on metropolitan and national newspapers

o       Business magazines, television and radio programs

o       HR and recruitment specific publications

Secondary audiences:

·        Industry groups who could add credibility to psychometric testing, including Australian Human Resources Institute (AHRI) and Recruitment Consulting Services Association (RCSA)

·        SHL staff

Communication Strategy: 

IMPACTs strategy was to position SHL as a thought leader in terms of human resources and psychometric testing. Not only did we want to highlight SHLs expertise, we wanted SHL to be the company media came to for ALL psychometric testing information. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

The public relations campaign was limited by two main issues:

·        It was to be the primary branding vehicle for SHL, and

·        A moderate budget was allocated to the campaign.

As a result IMPACTs focus was targeted. We aimed for quality coverage in relevant, appropriate publications. Thus the campaign had very little leakage with all activities targeting segments of the target audience.

Our understanding of the market indicated that psychometric testing would a potentially controversial subject and that issues management would be required. The benchmark report confirmed this.

While IMPACT and SHL were happy to encourage discussion of psychometric testing and its application, we were careful to manage the media to prevent negative stories about SHL appearing.


(a)   Message development <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />


IMPACT met with SHLs senior management team to table the results of the benchmarking project in order to determine SHLs key messages.

A vigourous discussion took place outlining market trends, opportunities and challenges for SHL. In response, it was decided that media materials would present SHL as:

·                    Professional and scientifically rigorous

·                    Best products, practice, people and clients

·                    Improving clients organisational performance

(b)   Media workshop

IMPACT ran media workshops to help SHLs staff (predominately psychologists) understand the media, its particular requirements, deadlines, so on. We also produced a Media Handbook which outlined media procedures and responsibilities for all SHL staff.

(c)   Preparation of media backgrounders and materials:

IMPACT prepared the following media materials to provide background to journalists:

·        media backgrounders on the products and the company

·        biographies of spokespeople

·        photographs of spokespeople

·        explanations of testing techniques/situations

(d)   Media releases

IMPACT prepared a comprehensive list of media which included business and trade media. IMPACT drafted and distributed more than 22 media releases or available for comments dealing with:

·        emotional intelligence

·        best practice in HR, including proper use of psychometric testing

·        Use of psych tests to combat candidate shortages and the war for talent

·        Use of 360 degree testing

·        Use of psychometric testing to measure safety issues related to blue collar workforces.

Media releases aimed to demonstrate practical uses and benefits of psychometric testing. In particular, the media release on psychometric testing and safety was well received by the media who had not considered this application. It generated a front cover story in Human Capital magazine.

Interestingly we also prepared and placed a story in The Sydney Morning Herald on psychometric assessment from the candidates point of view. This was important to combat negative perceptions that psych testing is an unpleasant experience for job seekers.

(e)   One on one briefings

IMPACT prepared a list of top tier media for SHL and extended an invitation to sit a psych test, attend a one on one briefing or interview SHLs managing director, <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Sarah Kearney. Briefings were organised with (but not limited to):

·        The Herald Sun, twice (famil and briefing)

·        The Age (briefing)

·        The Canberra Times (famil and briefing)

·        Human Capital (briefing)

·        The Australian Financial Review (famil and briefing)

·        Human Resources, twice (famil and briefing)

·        BRW (interview and briefing)

·        Management Today (briefing)

In particular, SHL has developed a strong relationship with BRW. Managing Director, Sarah Kearney has been called on for interview for three different articles and was asked to provide nominations for BRWs Rising Star Female Executives issue.

(f)     Opportunistic PR/Issues Management

Given the number of misconceptions about psychometric testing, IMPACT felt that dispelling myths was an important part of the campaign. Thus we responded to a number of media items regarding psych testing. These included:

·        360-degree feedback: a vicious circle? CCH 9 May 2003. IMPACT drafted a response which resulted in an article appearing in CCH Daily Email Alert that goes to approximately 10 000 registered recipients. It was viewed 436 times by 406 different people.

·        Randwick Council debacle The Sun Herald 30 March 2003. IMPACT arranged for SHL to comment on recruitment problems at Randwick Council.

·        SHL commented on James Murdoch undergoing psych tests for a role at News Corp. This release resulted in extensive media coverage including an interview for John Bateson, SHLs worldwide CEO, with The Bulletin.

IMPACT also managed issues in the media to represent SHL positively and encourage informed discussion of psychometric testing.

When the Australian WorkersUnion (AWU) issued a statement criticising misuse of psychometric testing, IMPACT organised a face to face briefing with The Sydney Morning Herald. At this meeting, SHL was positioned as the leader in HR/psychometric testing by explaining proper use of testing and calling for greater regulation in the industry.

Following the news article in The Sydney Morning Herald titled Employers under the hammer, a readers poll was conducted online www.smh.com.au which resulted in industry comment. A range of radio interviews were organised off the back of the poll and SHLs stance.

The regulation message was warmly received by trade media including PrivacyAlert and callcentres.net which interviewed SHL about psych testing in the call centre industry.

(g)   Case studies and feature articles

In order to demonstrate the practical business applications of psychometric testing, IMPACT organised a number of case studies and feature articles, including:

·        Double page article on SHL client, Ernst and Young, in Human Resources

·        An article on SHL and its Capital Finance in The Sydney Morning Herald regarding psych testing for different positions in the organisation

·        HR Report included coverage of Arnotts use of psychometric testing amongst blue collar workers.

(h)   Features & special reports

IMPACT took advantage of features and special reports to generate media coverage of the practical applications for psych testing. We felt this was an important tactic to increase SHLs share of media voice and prevent competitors from stealing the limelight. Features appeared in Human Resources and HR Monthly.

(i)     Leveraging SHLs existing marketing initiatives.

To maximise SHLs PR spend, IMPACT leveraged and supported internal marketing initiatives as follows:

(i)     Events/speakers platforms

SHL organises a number of client events, which IMPACT leveraged through involving media. IMPACT organised invitations and briefings regarding events with BRW, The Australian, HR Monthly, Boss, Management Today and The Age.

In particular IMPACT organised BOSS, The Sydney Morning Herald, HR Monthly, The Bulletin and Shortlist to attend a leadership seminar with worldwide CEO, John Bateson.

(ii)      Opening of Brisbane office

IMPACT prepared a news story on psychometric testing in the Queensland market which was distributed when SHL opened its Brisbane office. As a result media coverage appeared in The Courier Mail and on Radio 4BC.

(iii)    Pulse

SHL began producing a newsletter in house in January 2003. IMPACT provided feedback and advice on how to produce it.

(iv) Integration with global PR firm

A global PR firm was appointed to SHLs head office in September 2003. IMPACT commenced working with this company to encourage an exchange of ideas and information and feedback for a global PR handbook.


  • SHL gained 73 clippings*; 47 in 2003, 26 in 2004 <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

(This is the coverage provided by Media Monitors, IMPACT believes additional articles and interviews ran.)


Measured by:


Build media relationships and generate media coverage in the HR and business media

·            Numbers of repeat calls for information by journalists

·            Number of clippings in relevant media

·            67% of media coverage was by journalists who were introduced to SHL by IMPACT and went on to write multiple stories.

·            Of media coverage appeared:

o      58% in key HR media

o      23% in the business press

o      15% in the news media

·            All coverage was appropriate to the target audiences

Develop the reputation of SHL as a specialist and a source of information on psychometric testing

·            Use by the media of information from SHL

·            Media outlets to use SHL material include top tier publications such as The Australian Financial Review, BOSS, BRW, and The Australian. These quality publications are known for using only reliable data.

·            Message analysis reveals IMPACTs success:

o      27% of the media coverage named SHL as a thought leader.

o      43% sought SHLs advice on psych testing

o      27% asked SHl to comment on organisational performance

Develop recognition of psychometric testing as a valid and important HR/recruitment tool

·            Increase in media coverage regarding psychometric testing

·            The benchmark report identified 19 articles relating to psychometric testing in the six months prior to IMPACTs appointment.

·            IMPACTs campaign generated 74 articles in the last 18 months. An average of 25 articles every six months, representing an increase of 131% in media interest.

Encourage increased business & repeat business for SHL

·            Sales & enquiries to SHL

·            Feedback from SHL staff

·            SHL received new business leads in response to media coverage gained by IMPACT. Notably, SHL scored a contract in <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />Brisbane as a result of an interview on Radio 4BC at IMPACT organised to mark the opening of their new Brisbane office.

·            Clients provided feedback that they had seen media coverage to SHL staff, often asking questions about additional services or product.

·            In particular client in Queensland and Western Australia seemed to be faster at acknowledging media coverage than was Media Monitors!

Manage issues associated with the medias scepticism regarding psychometric testing

·            Numbers of media agreeing to famils and briefings

·            More than 11 individuals famils and briefings were organised. 

·            Positive media coverage

·          Negative clips decreased to 8% of coverage in 2004 (these clips were cirtical of psych testing, not SHL.)

·          Positive coverage improved to 76%.

(See appendix for detail)

IMPACT also measured whether the findings of the research campaign were implemented. The results are as follows:


Measured by


Broaden range of journalists covering psychometric testing

·            New journalists covering psychometric testing

·            70% of journalists writing stories about SHL were new to the psych testing. We estimate a further 10% were new to SHL.

Expose media to psych tests other than Myers Briggs

·            Media coverage of psych tests other than Myers Briggs

·            38% of coverage named tests other than Myers Briggs.

·            Myers Briggs was not named in conjunction with SHL at all.

Introduce journalists to psychometric testing

·            Numbers of journalists attending famils or briefings

·            More than 11 journalists attending famils or explanatory briefings. Another 8 attended SHL events.

Broaden journalists perception by generating media coverage of the psychometric testing

·            Range uses reflected in media coverage

·            97% of coverage related to the use of psych testing for a organisational performance, to measure motivate, safety so on.

·            Only 5% of the coverage directly related to recruitment.



IMPACT originally secured the SHL account for a six month period. After an evaluation of the results, we were retained on an ongoing basis.

IMPACT evaluated the campaign by reviewing the number of articles received, the media in which they appeared, the messages represented in the media coverage, the target audiences reached and total impressions.

A full media analysis appears in the appendix. Importantly we were able to evaluate our campaign against the benchmarking report. This enabled to measure SHLs media share against its competitors. As a result of the campaign, SHL secured its role as market leader.