An integrated approach to employer brand communications strategy
This second article of a two part series (read part 1 click here) discusses how leading companies are deploying best practice employer branding communication initiatives to attract and engage talent.
Employer Brand International’s (EBI) 2011 Employer Branding Global Research study shows there are a plethora of channels being used by organisations to communicate their employer brand (see figure 1). The main channels include:
- Career website - 59%
- Induction process - 43%
- Online social networking sites - 41%
- Training and development programs - 40%
Figure 1 – The main communication channels companies are planning to utilize to communicate their Employer Brand during FY 2011/2012
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Source: © Employer Brand International
With the increasing number of channels available to communicate your employer brand the key is to ensure integration and brand messaging consistency across your most effective channels.
A few years ago, Philips, the multinational Dutch electronics corporation realised they needed to update their communication channels. Traditional media including, print advertising and online job postings was generating fewer and fewer response. Philips understood people increasingly prefer video over pictures and listening over reading. Above all, people like to hear an inside story directly from involved people.
Qualitative research with graduate students demonstrated the enormous impact that internships can have on the perception and opinions of their entire school class. A great internship experience is shared by students with many friends, and helps to build employer brand attractiveness. Conversely, a poor experience without challenge or support can easily damage the employer brand for an entire class of students. Along with promoting and coaching internships for improved outcomes, Philips aimed to bring this idea of communicating the Inside Story to more people (see figure 2).
Figure 2: Philips career website home page
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Philips created interactive video portraits for the website, with honest, open and unscripted personal stories from employees about their experiences at Philips (see figure 3). This was a great success, in particular because it introduced a new group of people to visit their website; over 50% of them were invited by friends. Being able to identify with (one of) the 18 talents portrayed helped people to develop their ideas about what it’s like to work at Philips. Within a year of launching the global portraits Philips supported three key markets (China, India and Russia) to create their own local versions. One platform let them scale the platform at low cost and in a consistent style and tone, while the productions were made in local languages with employees telling their own stories. As a result Philips saw significant increases in both career website traffic statistics as well as in user satisfaction and their Net Promoter Scores (NPS).
Figure 3: Philips career website– ‘The inside stories’
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Communicating your employer brand to your existing employees will require a coordinated employer brand communication plan. The most common methods used include: social media, emails, intranet, face-face-meetings, printed employer newsletters, virtual meetings, videos, podcasts, home mailings, etc. Companies such as IBM have used platforms such as ‘Second Life’ to conduct virtual meetings, saving thousands of dollars in travel costs, accommodation and carbon emissions. The downside is employees miss out on valuable face-face time so it’s important to deploy a mix of hi-touch and low-touch communication initiatives. Deloitte in Australia have had success in engaging their workforce using the instant messaging platform’ Yammer’ and global insurer, AXA have rolled out global forums with 59 countries and more than 53,000 employees posting more than 19,000 during the first forum sending a clear message to employees that the company is serious about listening to the opinions and ideas of their employees.
The major social networks
With more than 600 members, 60+ million status updates posted each day, more than 3 billion photos uploaded to the site each month and more than 5 billion pieces of content (web links, news stories, blog posts, notes, photo albums, etc.) shared each week, Facebook is the leading social networking platform. It’s clear to see that with a massive talent pool to draw upon companies are now starting to turn their radar towards social networks to connect and engage with talent. But a word of caution without a clear strategy that is supported by adequate staffing and financial resources you may be wasting your time.
A company that has experienced success with Facebook is Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Facebook is part of their highly successful employee referral programme. Even before launching its Facebook strategy, Enterprise Rent-a-Car was already attracting about 38 percent of UK recruits through employee referrals. Employees can now embed an application on their Facebook profile, showing friends where they work and how to apply for a job. This could further increase referral rates.
Within two to three days of rolling out the initiative to staff, applications began to come in from their Facebook friends. One of the key attractions of the approach is that it gives the ability to track referrals back to their source.
The world’s largest video site, YouTube has also become a popular platform for companies to leverage the power of video to showcase what it is like to work at their company.
A company effectively using YouTube in their employer brand communications strategy is Electronic Arts (EA) (see figure 4). The channel includes training videos on differing career paths and what the company looks for in job candidates. With more than 71,000 channel views, 270,000+ total upload views, and 3,709+ subscribers amassed since September 2008 the channel provides EA with an opportunity to network with its community and build its market reach at low cost.
Figure 4: EA YouTube channel
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Below is a list of recommendations to take into consideration when developing your employer brand communications plan.
Ensure strong collaborations between internal departments responsible for your employer, corporate and consumer brand strategies and external vendors. Ensure everyone is on the same page and working to achieve the same project objectives.
Conduct research with your internal and external audiences to determine how your employer brand is perceived by your target audience and whether it aligns with the memory structures and associations you are using to build your brand.
Develop creative for your brand assets including logos, slogans, tone, style, etc that reflect the associations you want your target audience to have about your employer brand.
Think about the channels which will give you the greatest reach. Be everywhere but be consistent. Identify where you get the best return on your recruitment advertising spend and allocate your resources to these channels and monitor. Internally think about how mobile technology can assist your ability to keep employees across the organisation informed of relevant issues and what can be used to engage them. Companies such as Deloitte, Pepsico and UnitedHealth Group have launched apps to engage with their external market.
Conduct regular communications to refresh the brand messages with your target audience. Avoid heavy campaigning followed by period of silence. If you are not communicating with your employees, your competitors probably are!
Engage in conversation
Allocate resources to facilitate two-way communication with your target audience especially on the social networks. Remember, not every conversation has to result in a hire, so take a long term view and continue to build employer brand equity.
And some final thoughts
..................Building a strong employer brand is built upon mental and physical availability so your creative should work towards building consistent associations you want your employees, candidates and market to have about your company and your strategy should work towards expanding your reach to your target audience using the most effective internal and external communication channels.