3 ways office culture can hamper your PR

Your workplace culture isn’t just an internal concern. A discordant atmosphere can become a PR problem, too.

Your brand reputation can be wounded by a bad work environment.

There was an HR software company (which we’ll leave nameless) that had an extremely unhealthy internal culture.

The company became infamous for its unprofessional staff that preferred to party at the office rather than do their jobs. When a new CEO stepped in, one of his first moves was announcing a large number of layoffs and a new approach.

He saw that the old culture was having a negative impact on the brand’s reputation because employees were not providing the best level of service to their clients.

Their shift in perspective allowed this company to make some changes and hire new professionals that shared the same vision. Their HR team only brought on qualified candidates that were dedicated to a culture of professionalism and a customer-centric approach to sales. As a result, the company was able to turn around their brand perception and become a shining example of why internal culture is so important to external success.

A study from Northwestern University found that customers had a better experience and a higher satisfaction rate when they purchased from a company with a highly engaged culture.

So, how exactly can a “culture fit” approach to hiring actually be a smart PR strategy?

1. Culture influences retention rate.

A high turnover rate is never a good thing.

A revolving door shows that employees are unhappy or treated unfairly, and thanks to social media and company review websites, this can certainly stir up some negative PR. On the other hand, businesses with a healthy culture tend to have employees that stick around for the long term.

Southwest Airlines is famous for their incredible company culture, and with a turnover rate of just 2 percent, it is easy to see that their happy employees want to stick around.

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We're trying something new called #TakeoverTuesday, featuring some of our best Employees, who also happen to have a knack for photography. Jason is an Employee who has been with Southwest for six years and when he's not working on the Ramp in Little Rock, he's snapping photos, or spending time with his wife and kids. Be sure to check out our story for a behind-the-scenes look at life on the Ramp. Like the series? Let us know, and we'll do more of them. . Jason: "When I capture my photos I try to get perspectives that most people who don't work at the airport get to see. I like to go for more of an artistic view. I use a lot of HDR (high dynamic range) editing because sometimes I like to give it that "painting" feel when I look at it. Here are a few of my favorite photos that I've shared on Instagram (@GulfstreamGuy). I hope you all enjoy them."

A post shared by Southwest Airlines (@southwestair) on

Southwest is also notoriously picky when it comes to hiring new staff. They break down their company’s values into three important qualities that their employees must possess: a warrior spirit, a servant’s heart and a fun-loving attitude.

Finding the right employees allows them to highlight these brand ambassadors on their social media and in other external communications.

2. It sets a standard for employee behavior.

How an employee acts outside of business hours can have a potentially dangerous impact on your company’s PR.

Employees are allowed to have their own personal lives outside of the office, but if their comments are offensive or contradictory to company values, it could affect your organization.

Social media has made just about everything a public matter. It’s easier than ever to pry into the lives of other people and make judgments about them based on their posts or overall “personal brand.” This can be dangerous for business because customers may judge a company based on its employee’s behavior.

Brand managers must find a way to make the company culture and values evident through their employee’s actions and attitudes. This standard of online social behavior should be apparent from the very beginning, which is why hiring practices are so important.

If a person’s values are conflicting or problematic from the start, it will only cause bigger problems later on.

There is some debate over whether companies have the right to monitor their employee’s social media behavior. However, the reality is that the social media activity of an employee is a public reflection on his or her employer.

To avoid potential catastrophe, a good place to start is by establishing a firm company code of ethics to supplement your efforts surrounding culture fit.

3. It supports a unified company vision.

A big part of culture fit is hiring people who share a similar vision. This is especially crucial in companies that aim to support social causes. For example, Patagonia is well-known for their commitment to putting the environment’s well-being first and creating quality products that allow people to enjoy nature.

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Off to the big leagues. Photo: @fmarmsaterphoto

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Patagonia wants their employees to love their products as much as their customers do, so workers are encouraged to spend time using Patagonia products on outdoor excursions. The company is also committed to creating a community within their business, and often hire based on employee referrals.

Your hiring team must be sure that each new employee not only understands the core values of the business but has the opportunity to get involved and become more passionate about it.

Hosting engagement-building events is one way to get people more connected to the business as a whole. The more people you have that are passionate about your vision, the stronger the message will be from an outside perspective.

Manish Dudharejia is the President and Co-Founder of E2M Solutions Inc, a San Diego Based Digital Agency that specializes in Website Design & Development and eCommerce SEO. A version of this article originally appeared on the Cision blog.

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