UTS Library

Are you ready for a challenge?

Client: 

Department of Public Works

PR Company: 

Department of Public Works

Award Category: 

Award Type: 

Call Number: 

2007 C9 - 5

Year: 

2007

Executive Summary: 

How do you promote a program that students don’t know about, on behalf of an organisation that has low brand awareness, in a buoyant employment market, with only two months to execute a strategy? In a market saturated with blue chip organisations offering attractive salaries, the challenge was to create awareness of Project Services as a potential employer, create a contemporary public face, and dispel the perception that working for government is routine and without challenge.

Primary publics were identified as:

  • Penultimate, final and postgraduate students studying built environment related disciplines at Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology and the University of Queensland
  • University careers advisors
  • Project Services’ staff – the Board of Directors, Discipline Principals, Project Services’ Human Resources staff and Project Services’ staff currently in, or about to exit, the graduate program.

Public relations goals centred on raising the profile of Project Services by:

  • Capitalising on events (graduate open days) to raise awareness of graduate opportunities and promote Project Services’ core business operations
  • Positioning Project Services as an employer of choice by promoting its unique work conditions
  • Raising awareness within the university community about Project Services’ career opportunities.

Tangible outcomes as a result of public relations efforts include: increased awareness of Project Services and its business operations amongst university careers advisors; a 500% increase in applications for advertised positions; and development of “legacy” marketing collateral.

Situation Analysis: 


“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got” - Krishna


In a buoyant construction market where competition for built environment graduates is intense, Project Services’ graduate recruitment drive was non-existent. Marketing and public relations efforts for years was limited to black and white advertising in metropolitan and regional newspapers a month prior to applications closing and text listings on university career hubs.

This approach was attracting limited numbers of applicants in all disciplines (17 in 2005) and an anecdotally lower than desired calibre of applicants.

In a market saturated with well known blue chip organisations offering attractive salaries, the challenge was to create awareness of Project Services as a potential employer, create a contemporary public face (and point of differentiation) through Gen Y targeted branding elements, and dispel the perception that working for government is routine and without challenge.

The group targeted for the graduate recruitment strategy was19 - 21 year olds who marketers and social researchers categorise as Gen Y. According to research, the trend is for business savvy graduates to assess organisations against whether they offer:

  • Training and development
  • Early responsibility
  • Preferred job location
  • Job security
  • Opportunity to travel
  • Work/life balance.

Research: 

Preliminary research was undertaken to establish Project Services’ position in relation to like competitors. Subsequent research comprising qualitative and quantitative research and SWOT analysis (see Appendix A) was completed to enable setting of measurable objectives, strategies and targeted tactics.

Research included, but was not limited to:

  • Desktop audit of existing graduate program material
  • Review of 2006 Project Services Workforce Planning Strategy document
  • Competitor analysis (reviewof websites, graduate skewed publications and promotional materials) from the private and public sectors
  • Questionnaire administered to graduate staff currently working for Project Services to determine its unique selling point(s)
  • Personal contact and website review of universities related to targeted disciplines
  • One-on-one interviews and copy testing of materials
  • Questionnaires administered to careers advisors and Project Services’ staff involved in open days.

Target Policies: 

Primary audiences for the 2006 campaign were broken down into the following segments:

  • Penultimate, final and postgraduate students studying built environment related disciplines at Griffith, QUT and UQ referred to subsequently in this submission as students
  • Careers advisors at Griffith, UQ and QUT who might act in a referral capacity subsequently referred to subsequently in this submission as careers officers
  • Project Services’ Directorate, Discipline Principals, HR and Project Services’ staff currently in, or about to exit, the graduate program.

Secondary audiences included:

  • All university students at Griffith, QUT and UQ
  • All staff at Project Services.

Communication Strategy: 

A review was undertaken of all possible communication methods including media releases, paid advertising, talks at universities, and personal visits to university student groups. But how do you promote a program that students don’t know about, on behalf of an organisation that has low brand awareness in a buoyant employment market, with only two months to execute a strategy? Among other things, throw a party (or two) and tell everyone about it!

With a limited timeframe, open day events were deemed most likely to persuade students straight away by offering calculable incentives including the opportunity to meet senior staff, the ability to apply for jobs on the spot, free food, and refreshments. The events would effectively launch Project Services’ 2007 graduate recruitment and provide an opportunity to publicise Project Services to external primary audiences – students and careers officers.

Marketing materials were developed to support discipline specific events and generally publicise working for Project Services. Through event branding, both events were promoted as fun and akin to a rock concert. An interactive ticket invite was forwarded to graduates inviting them to SMS their details (encouraging interaction and appealing to the Gen Y dependence on text as a primary form of communication) or telephone a number as a form of RSVP. Event lanyards, and posters carried a distinct branding theme. To promote a call to action, a sense of urgency was promoted on all communication devices. Places were limited to the first 50 applicants.

General publication content was based on key findings from the SWOT analysis. The onus was on differentiating Project Services by selling the benefits of working for government. Key messages overtly communicated in online and printed literature included:

  • Opportunities for training and development
  • Early responsibility
  • Preferred job location
  • Job security
  • Opportunity to travel
  • Work for a credible organisation
  • Project Services is innovative and award winning.

Tactical elements to “sell” Project Services and promote both events included:


STUDENTS

  • Develop new dedicated graduate recruitment area on Project Services website with testimonials, FAQs, Events page, online registration form etc
  • Develop graduate handbook which can be left at universities and Project Services’ HR area
  • Publicise vacancies for positions available in Project Services on all relevant university career hub sites
  • Hold open day events involving graduate champions, senior discipline and HR staff
  • Develop a multi-purpose range of merchandise with a distinctive and contemporary branding/logo
  • Create and distribute posters publicising open day events.


CAREERS OFFICERS

  • Produce handy reference fact sheet for all university careers advisors highlighting key dates, salary and working conditions etc
  • Visit careers advisors and leave an information kit comprising 20 copies of: Project Services’ capability statement, graduate handbook, A4 DL brochure and Project Services’ 2005-2006 Profile.


STAFF

  • Report at Directors meeting about marketing intents
  • HR consultant to visit all discipline principals to discuss graduate recruitment and open days
  • Email communiqué to all regional managers/Directors advising of program, intended visits and pdf copy of handbooks
  • Story about graduate program to appear in staff internal newsletter.

Implementation: 

Planning was driven by time. By August, students in their final year of study had either received a job offer or had compiled a shortlist of potential employers. Competitors recruited twice a year; in May and in August. Events would be held in the critical first two weeks of student’s return in second semester and would be supported by public relations and marketing efforts in the preceding months and were timed to coincide with Project Services’ 2007 graduate recruitment drive.

Due to the compressed timeframe between formal approval in May, June/July tactical rollout, and proposed August advertising for intakes, a project management chart outlining an integrated marketing communications approach was devised according to primary publics. A copy is contained in Appendix A.

April 2006  Benchmark research

May 2006 Development of a public relations plan

June – July 2006 Development of all public relations materials

19, 20 & 21 July 2006 Visits to careers advisors

25 July 2006 Direct mail letter and accompanying ticket sent (Built Environment Open Day (see Appendix A)

25 July 2006 Emailed invitation to engineers sent

31 July 2006 Posters advertising the open day events were sent to careers advisors and placed on student noticeboards by Project Services graduate staff (see Appendix A)

30 July 2006 Advertising on university career hubs

10 August 2006 Engineering Open Day

22 August 2006 Built Environment Open Day

August – December Post event research

Results: 

The goals and tangible objectives of the campaign reached:

Applications for graduate positions in 2006 increased by 500%. The Human Resources section of Project Services and senior design staff were reportedly happy with the quantity and quality of applicants. Notable increases are as follows:

POSITION TITLE

NO. OF
APPLICANTS 2005

NO. OF
APPLICANTS 2006

DIFFERENCE IN 2006

Accountant

25

110

85+

Interior Designer

3

44

41+

Contracts Manager

2

13

11+

Project Manager

3

24

21+

Surveyor

3

1

2-

Quantity Surveyor

4

6

2+

Electrical Engineer

7

27

20+

Mechanical Engineer

6

29

23+

Structural Engineer

4

6

2+

Civil Engineer

2

26

24+

Architect

3

16

13+

Environmental Engineer

 

14

14+

Building Surveyor

 

3

3+

Town Planner

 

24

24+

Total Applicants

62

343

281+

  • Engineers Open Day attendance target exceeded (40 attendees)
  • Built Environment Open Day attendance target exceeded (53 attendees)
  • Unsolicited applications for graduate vacation work received through generic email address exceeded 100 (from August to December 2006)
  • Verbal feedback from participants attending the open days indicated that on the basis of what was on show, “Project Services looked like a good employer with conditions relative to other work places” and “…visiting Project Services helped counter perceptions of the public service culture”
  • Development of a full suite of branded recruitment materials that could be used together or as standalone documents.

Evaluation: 

Evaluation was done on the basis of recording attitudinal and behavioural changes in primary publics and how successfully the key objectives of the program were met.

This included the following observations/results:


Key Objectives

  • Measurable objectives set for each primary public was exceeded (see above)


Attitudinal

  • Following the events, a lichert scale questionnaire was administered to 20 staff. Eighty-five percent of staff rated the events from good to very good
  • Qualitative survey of careers advisors confirmed that awareness levels of job opportunities within Project Services had risen.


Behavioural

  • None of the careers advisors had heard of Project Services prior to my visit but when polled indicated that they were “happy to recommend Project Services as an employer of choice” and were now aware of the job opportunities available.