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Keeping It Real: Getting Employer Branding Right

NEW YORK CITY—Organizations that succeed at employment branding don’t just tweet self-serving news about company awards or “We’re hiring!” posts. HR should take ownership of employment branding and ensure that job seekers get authentic and career-focused content on multiple social media platforms that shows off the organization’s space, culture and people.

“You need to keep it real when you’re putting your employment branding material out there because job seekers are looking for content that will help them make decisions,” Nando Rodriguez, head of employment branding & candidate experience at Horizon Media, a media services agency in New York City, told attendees Sept. 29, 2015, at a talent acquisition conference presented by The Conference Board.

Rodriquez said most active and passive job seekers will not follow a company on social media if posts are irrelevant, uninviting or all self-serving.

“You need to make it more about them and why they would be interested in working for your company,” he added.

Rodriguez, a former pharmaceutical staffing agency recruiter who later was head of North America employment branding for advertising giant Ogilvy & Mather, said educating senior leaders, marketing, HR and recruiters about employment branding can be a challenge, particularly given options that include infographics, videos, blogs, tweets, Facebook updates, Instagram posts and Snapchat.

One reason is that the marketing team is charged to sell the company to new clients and bring in leads. Marketing often works with public relations to send out e-mail blasts about company awards and news. HR and recruiting often get left off to the side.

On social media, employee-driven branding that helps tell a story of the culture and show that employees are engaged is key. Case in point? During a Q&A session, one attendee noted, “I don’t ever want to be in the hotel business but I follow Marriott because their employees seem really engaged and it seems like a cool place to work based on what they put out there.”

Here are a few steps to authentic employment branding:

Discover your identity/brand. What should your brand stand for when it comes to employees? What tone and voice will make the brand “come to life?”

At a recent LinkedIn conference, Rodriguez said an attendee said, “We’re a boring financial services firm and we don’t know how to make it sexy so do we suck at employment branding?” To the contrary: Rodriguez told him to keep it authentic and “find out what works for you.” Rodriguez learned the firm hadn’t had a layoff since the 1990s, has had a steady flow of jobs and consistent wage increases. “That’s your spin—that’s what you put out there because that’s what employees want to know about,” he said.

Create your strategy. Horizon Media’s strategy is: “With an executed employment branding strategy we can position Horizon Media as the number one media agency to work for in New York and Los Angeles.” The content should address:

  • People and culture—What it’s like to work at your company.
  • Employer reputation—What people think about your products or services.
  • Remuneration and advancement—This can include things like potential career paths. Show that John came in as a receptionist and has quickly risen through the ranks.
  • Job characteristics—What do people do every day on the job? What does someone’s office look like? Is there a window?
  • Miscellaneous—Show images or post videos of internal “Happy Fridays,” Cinco de Mayo celebrations or an employee Snapchat of Pope Francis’ recent visit.

Find ways to measure and track key performance indicators. It’s not easy but try to measure the kind of people you’ve hired, especially if you’re asking for funds for employment branding.

Horizon Media plans to track social media follower quality, number of brand advocates and spikes in the talent response rate. For example, the company had a slumber party and Rodriguez posted it on Snapchat the next day. Several Horizon Media recruiters had prospective employees say, “I have an interview with you guys in a few days and I just saw the entire feed of your party and can’t wait to work there.”

Other things to look for is a shortened time-to hire, applicant quality, and whether there is an increase in the number of offers accepted or an uptick in employee retention.

Consider using two channels to make the most of career-focused content. It helps to have a corporate Twitter feed and careers Twitter feed. There may be some overlap, but prospective employees shouldn’t have to search too hard for content. “You want to create engagement and excitement as opposed to frustrating them,” Rodriguez said.

Create a fan base of employees. Find ways for employees to be “brand ambassadors” by curating content that makes it easy for employees to share and “like” or comment on posts. Horizon Media uses the hashtag #horizonation on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. The company gets its recruiters to write blog posts and has even developed an infographic for employees that explains steps to break into social media. Get everybody involved, Rodriquez said.

Don’t try to do too much. Some job seekers may prefer video and some companies have a presence on Pinterest and YouTube. But don’t try to do everything at once. “I would say master two, possibly three [social media channels], and take ownership of those,” Rodriguez said.

Check out the competition. Consider looking outside your industry to see what “best in class” employment branding companies like Coca-Cola, Oracle, Marriott, AT&T and T-Mobile are doing to promote their people and culture.

Be visually engaging. The Horizon Media Careers page on Instagram is vivid and showcases the company’s culture, people and events. Find photographers in your organization who can help. Avoid taking boring photos of employees from bad angles or with poor lighting. “No one wants to see Barry all bloated at his desk with a piece of birthday cake,” Rodriguez said.

Pamela Babcock is a freelance writer based in the New York City area.


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