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Edinburgh & Glasgow HR industries gets their own wikileaks scandal

Last week was great interesting for the professional services in terms of social media – we were asking if banks should use social media, then there was Twittergate with the legal profession (this is the comprehensive must-read on that) and late Friday pm, an Edinburgh/Glasgow HR company saw financial details – which weren’t flattering – thrown up on LinkedIn.

And given the state of the accounts, it’s a bit of a PR disaster. So how do they get out of this?

According to the leak of details for Change Recruitment (and it didn’t take long for all online leaks to be dubbed wikileaks did it? I suppose it’s better than ‘-gate’ at the end of everything)…

  • Turnover decreased by 15.7% to £9,600,000.
  • Losses increased to £1,635,547 (2009 losses of £1,049,841, 2008 losses of £282,892).
  • Gross Profit down to £4,801,506 (2009 £6,717,359, 2008 £9,482,035) 50.60% reduction since 2008.
  • Employee numbers decreased to 85 from 138 in 2008
  • Profit and loss account – negative £3.1m.
  • Current obligations to private equity owners and bank debt to be paid by 2016 = £19,039,000. or 8.5x its debtor book value. No impairment of the value of the business has been made
  • Current trading is profitable at only Ebitda level. When interest is taken into account the business continues to run at a loss.

Now, I spoke to financial experts who said that on the face of it, without any other information and if the accounts are real, those figures aren’t good for a company at all and it looks hard to see how they’re going to repay or refinance the debt (note, the company name wasn’t revealed to the accountants, just the figures).

As with all great crises, this one broke on late Friday afternoon and it’s been the private chat of Linkedin’ers ever since. You can see why, especially when HR recruitment is a very cut-throat and competitive business.

They could get out of this though. Their site already has some handy stuff – news, tips and testimonial – but it could be so much more…

PR and social media steps to recover when the P’n’L has been leaked

Don’t try to get it pulled because people will have made copies. Acknowledge it, move on. Statement to press if you feel the need, but the priority should be to bury it with fresher content. Respond to where this is placed but don’t go being proactive and advertising it. Unless it’s fake, then shout out to the world that these are fake.

Get a social media presence up and running – Twitter, LinkedIn, blog, YouTube/Vimeo in this case. Google Alerts too (especially if you have articles on your site about the importance of social media).

If you want to be really skilled, get a presence up for each sector you work in.

Pull together a quick statement so you have something to issue to all and anyone speaking about it. Do a quick video too. If feeling skilled, get a SlideShare presentation together too.

Any mention anywhere – get the response out there. Offer the person who covers it all sorts of access to turn this round (making sure your teams are PR briefed in the first place).

Turn this round from being a leak to an agenda setter. Point out your figures – but also highlight any strengths that you have – and place it in the context of the recession. Bring other HR firms into it – don’t name them, but if everyone’s finding it tough, point that out. Then get this out everywhere – a State of the Industry report  – and have it in every relevant place online (and don’t forget traditional press too).

Find something positive

Say what you’re going to do in 2011 that’s going to make it better than 2010.

Get case studies – video, slides, quotes – from people you’ve helped find work and get them up on the web. Play to that positive. Use the network you’ve already created. And use some decent SEO to help.

Be all over HR advice on LinkedIn and Quora.

From a HR point of view, turn this round to a mentality of “we’re all in this together and we’re going for it” instead of “we’re doomed.” Use that outlook to tint everything you do. Be Avis.

(Behind the scenes of course, find out who the leaker is and deal with them)

Moving past the crisis

Have  a HR policy in place for using social media. Be really smart and make it free to others.

Offer SM policy advice as a freemium product.

Start a podcast talking about the latest trends in HR, also set up a podcast or video for tips on how to get the perfect job, CV advice, LinkedIn pointers, interview tips and so on. Take what they do just now and 2.0 it. Add in a mailing list too, build up that database.

Set up some kind of Twitter chat around the same. HR is a busy hastag on Twitter so you could set up something along those lines –  #hrchat – or localise it so you only get UK/Scots/Edinburghers.

Review HR books – using affiliate links you could make money out of it but again it also shows confidence and expertise.

Do a piece on a week on clients you’ve placed – where are they now sort of thing.

For fun, run twitter commentary alongside a show that features HR issues or has a HR person in it.

Do fictional HR articles – what would it be like being the HR guy in Star Trek? the HR guy for Hogwarts? (What’s the point of these last two? It shows confidence and expertise. It’s also quirky and can bring in new viewers/readers – after all, no one would blend a phone in the real world but it worked for one company).

Set up events for bloggers.

Retweet your competitors job postings and info. Appear on their blog posts. Not only is this great for SEO, but it also really throws people (in this case, the competition) as they really don’t know who to react. Meanwhile to job hunting people they see that you are THE link to follow as you are posting all the job details out there, not just your own.

Could you use Foursquare to set up alerts to jobs as people walk past a building?

Be creative.

The HR sector isn’t one that I’ve spent a lot of time in, so if anyone out there can suggest other tips or great sites/podcasts to follow in the sector I’m sure it would be gratefully appreciated by the other readers.

UPDATE: It appears that the original post has been pulled from LinkedIn, which means it was spotted quick, but I hear copies have been getting made and spread round HR circles like wildfire.

UPDATE 2: Change have been in touch and, while not disputing the figures, have asked me to point out this article which states 58% fee income growth in the first eight months of their latest financial year while permanent recruitment is up 40% and the oil and gas unit has trebled in size so well done to Change and I assume that as we speak they’re spreading that good news out to all the avenues which were hit by the original leak. (Actually, reading that data and how it’s presented, that would make for an awesome social media news release.)

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