Take Charge of Your Employment Brand and Stand Out

Oracle’s Celinda Appleby talks about rising above the crowd to attract talent

By Roy Maurer Apr 18, 2016
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A strategically tailored employment brand can be a company’s best recruitment marketing tool.

When combined with a compelling value proposition, an employment brand that portrays company culture, career growth opportunities and benefits can position an organization as an employer of choice. About nine in 10 HR professionals agree that having a strong employment brand is more important today than it was five years ago and 60 percent said their company is investing more money in its employment brand, according to a 2016 report from the iCIMS Hire Expectations Institute.

Celindacropped.jpgCelinda Appleby, the head of global recruitment branding for Oracle, leads the computer technology company’s recruitment marketing and employment branding efforts.

Appleby discussed with SHRM Online why employer branding is critical for attracting today’s job seekers, how to tailor recruiting strategies to various social media channels, her love for Instagram and what she has learned from social branding fails.

SHRM Online: Why is employment branding important?

Appleby: People spend a good portion of their lives on social media or online. This means if you remotely have an idea to look for a job, you’re [not only] being served ads at most places you hang out online, but you also know what sites to tap into. In this busy social world, even if you aren’t [looking for] a job, your friends are posting about their awesome jobs and cool perks. It’s easy to get FOMO [fear of missing out]. Three-fourths of job seekers check out employers’ brands before applying, according to a 2015 Career Arc survey. That is a resounding number that should make anyone take their brand and online reputation seriously.

SHRM Online: Should you use employees in employment branding?

Appleby: I think it is critical to use employees in your recruitment marketing campaigns, for the same reason that Ford uses trucks in their ads. People identify with visuals. Featuring an employee and his or her career story outperforms a job ad by a long stretch.

Something else to note: We posted this [testimonial], but when the employee posted it herself, it outperformed us by a landslide, supporting LinkedIn survey results that found employee-generated content gets 10 times more views than branded posts.

SHRM Online: Have you ever had trouble controlling employee-generated content, to keep it in line with the company’s message?

Appleby: We don’t have a difficult time with employee testimonials, because the employees are genuinely excited about life at Oracle, their roles and their future here. We ask pointed questions and use their words. I also think that asking the right questions will help the employee share the best quotes. We like to start with easy ones like “What are you listening to?” or “What are you reading?” before we dive into the meaty ones.

SHRM Online: What is a mistake to avoid when launching employment branding?

Appleby: I think starting this without a strategy is very frustrating and creates empty pockets in branding efforts. If you are unclear as to the why, [then] the what and the how will not come together as nicely. Aligning yourself with a strategy aligned to a business outcome and starting small will help you win.

SHRM Online: How do you tailor your branding strategy to different social media outlets?

Appleby: Every channel serves a different purpose, and it’s critical to understand what your audience makeup is so that you can appeal to those individuals. I don’t buy the strategy that if you build it, they will come. It’s far too noisy these days. So you have to appeal to the fans you have and spend money to target the fans you need.

SHRM Online: Which outlets have worked best for you and why?

Appleby: Each outlet gives us different results. We ran a quiz over the winter holidays and that campaign did amazing on Facebook, with a little bit of spend behind it. LinkedIn does remarkably well in all regions, for targeted ads aligned to professionals. It also does [particularly] well in Latin America. I credit that to the fact that our content is very human and shows the fun side of the business, and also many companies in Latin America are not doing the same thing, so we have an advantage. I love Instagram: It’s visual, and it’s easy to engage. We’re having fun on this site.

SHRM Online: What effort surprised you the most with its success? And what flopped?

Appleby: Week over week, I am so impressed at how the user-generated content on Instagram, with minimal copy, performs so well. We can just repost an image and it outperforms content that we have planned weeks in advance. The site is increasingly popular and it’s easy for the employee to share a great story without having to write a ton of words. We search Instagram daily to see who is posting what and when. We find the best content on there. Also I love that hashtags are so popular, so that we are able to use trending tags like #transformationTuesday with our content.

As for a flop, I was tasked with attracting women in engineering for a new Oracle site in China. I was very new to Oracle at the time and the task was hard. It took some time to get the images and testimonials I needed to create the campaign. Plus, social is restricted there, so the campaign didn’t fare very well. Lessons learned were that it requires more than a nice image, you have to get your employees helping and you have to use the channels that are popular with your target audience.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him @SHRMRoy

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