The Ri5 interview: Richard Purvis, Crunch Simply Digital

The Ri5 interview: Richard Purvis, Crunch Simply Digital

If you haven’t already heard of Crunch Simply Digital, you’ll almost certainly be aware of some of the work the company has been involved in. Some of the industry’s biggest recent recruitment and graduate campaigns have involved Crunch working its magic, albeit behind the scenes.

Simply put, Crunch Simply Digital helps clients, which include some of the biggest recruitment comms agencies, to reach their audiences using digital media. The ever-changing, and expanding, nature of digital media means it can be a complex area that requires significant resource. So, for many organisations, agencies included, it’s quicker, easier and more affordable to engage a provider like Crunch rather than trying to bring the responsibility in-house.

The company is clearly doing something right, with a roster of clients including a number of heavyweight recruitment comms agencies and a team that’s grown rapidly over the past 18 months.

Richard Purvis, technical director and founder of the company, set up Crunch in 2007, with the intention of offering training services to agencies and other organisations, helping them to market themselves across platforms which at the time were following in the wake left by MySpace. These platforms were offering recruiters and agencies new ways of promoting employer brands to significant audiences. 

Purvis has a job-board background, including stints at totaljobs, TipTopJob and StepStone; in his time at those companies he developed a passion for digital marketing – as well as noticing many in the industry were struggling to keep up with developments in the field.

Things soon changed when clients realised the levels of effort required to do this. “It’s a people-heavy business,” says Purvis, “more akin to the old days of pressing thousands of local job ads rather than nice, big branded media campaigns”. So, instead of carrying out the work themselves they began to ask Crunch to act as a service provider rather than purely as a training provider.

Over the years the business has evolved to become what Purvis describes as an on-demand digital media services company. Purvis says Crunch has developed since its 2007 start to become a ‘plug and play’ provider for agencies who can’t resource up as quickly as they can in order to meet the demands of the evolving landscape.

“We’ve worked with hundreds of brands, albeit indirectly through agencies. I can’t think of a financial institution or large engineering company that we haven’t worked with,” says Purvis.

“Because few people know the extent to which we’re used; we’re more akin to a media proposition than we are to an agency. The last thing we need to be is a recruitment comms agency – we’re working with some of the UK’s most established agencies and our value proposition is to be on-demand and continue to invest in technological solutions.”

He continues: “We supply end-to-end digital marketing services. Agencies use us when they need our expertise in accessing passive audiences, when they need to use high-end technology that agencies would rather not invest in, or when they’re faced with short-term staff shortages or limited resource due to growth. Some people treat us like a media supplier; others treat us like a part of their own team. It depends on the needs of the agency.”

Despite significant growth in recent years, Purvis sees further opportunity ahead, as the industry continues to grow helped by the improving wider economy.

He says: “As recruitment marketing picks up again to where it was during the early 2000s, we’re going to go back to the so-called ‘war for talent’ where demand for talent outstrips supply. That tends to push clients to do more to access passive markets in different ways. Plus, as the agencies come back up to full power they’ll find the way to deliver brand messages has fundamentally changed since the mid-2000s.

“The delivery of an EVP used to focus on channels such as TV, radio, outdoor and press, with digital marketing playing a supporting role. Now, however, the access to that passive market is being done digitally. The storytelling that forms an important part of employer brand and EVP has moved on significantly. It’s now experienced via social media, video and content marketing.

He adds: “These ways of delivering employer brand have turned into technology problems, rather than media problems. And we’re there to provide those technological solutions. That’s why I think the need for our services will grow, and it’s very much part of our future plans.

“To put it into perspective, my full time job is working on new technologies and developments – we continually innovate so our clients don’t have to.”

Purvis points out that Crunch is well placed to help agencies and recruiters navigate their way through the increasing ‘noise’ that is created by the growth in digital content and data, a responsibility so demanding that most organisations simply cannot resource it in-house.

“What’s happened in digital marketing over the past five years means people are accessing more media than ever before,” he says. “However, audiences choose where, when and how they consume content. This takes the power away from publishers controlling and monetising those audiences, which in turn causes problems for media buyers deciding where to place their adverts. People can access the same story on their phone and on the main news bulletins. So, identifying where these audiences are is a challenge.”

Of course, one of the big challenges for organisations is how to identify and approach passive candidates across this landscape without using direct recruitment channels like job boards. And that process also requires a soft touch to ensure passive candidates don’t feel they’re being targeted in the way direct candidates might be.

For this reason, Crunch is working with Nielsen and the other big third-party data companies to understand how people’s working lives affects their online behaviour. Using this data will allow recruiters to target passive candidates as effectively – and as appropriately - as they can target direct candidates through job boards, for example.

“We’re organising seminars and events to help clients with the storytelling side of things that’s involved in targeting passives,” he says. “It’s easy to fall into the trap of treating passives like actives, and we need to help organisations to avoid that.

“Maintaining that balance is essential to ensuring our work is successful. It’s not just about getting a message in front of someone – it’s also about making sure it has the right impact.”

Looking ahead, the company has ambitious plans for the future that match its achievements to date. Purvis acknowledges the improving economy, and its positive impact on the wider recruitment market, offers great opportunities for Crunch.

“We’ve been actively planning for the past 18 months. We’ve grown from a team of three to a team of 12 in that time, and we planned to do this in the belief the industry would get to this point. So far we’ve been proved right and we’ve partnered with more people in the past three months than we did in the past six years – which is a clear sign the recruitment market is coming alive again and they’re opening their eyes to the way things are changing.

And for someone who experienced the job board boom, Purvis is adamant the industry is set to witness an equally significant shift – one that Crunch can be at the heart of.

“Over the past 18 months, we’ve spent a lot of time analysing and listening to our agency clients to truly understand what technology solutions they need to support their clients.” He adds “We’ve made significant investments in ad technology and now have the best breed of adtech from the consumer market and repurposed it specifically for recruitment.”

“The way of delivering recruitment advertising outside direct channels has fundamentally changed,” he adds, “and I’m certain it’s going to be as big a change as it was back in 1999 when the job boards shook up the market.”

Thursday, 10 September 2015

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