When I first started out in the field of employer branding, I made some mistakes that could have been avoided. I was taken by the excitement and passion that came with working in the ‘people’ space. I didn't know any better. As a result, I often allowed this passion to inform how I run some of my employer brand campaigns.
I have since evolved and I feel confident enough to share what those mistakes were. Some of these will resonate with both aspiring and seasoned employer branding professionals. Either way, I hope that by sharing my experience, you can avoid making the same errors as me.
1. Creativity isn’t yours to own
This has undoubtedly caused me to put undue pressure on myself over the years. Only because as a marketer at heart, the consensus is: ‘marketers should be a magical well of creative ideas…All. The. Time’. Yes. But also, no! If your work as an employer brand professional is visible to your teams, there’s always great ideas in the ether. Leverage every opportunity you can (without being annoying, of course) to be curious about what your peers are working on and why it’s interesting to them. You’d be surprised how many ideas come alive, even in the most mundane of collaborative work tasks.
2. Strategy and execution are two arms of one body
The execution of a strategy isn't less important than the strategy itself. Great ideas are only great when they're put into action. Experience has taught me that it's always better to execute one idea rather than generate a lot of ideas. Many organizations and individuals rely too heavily on strategic planning without properly developing plans that are actionable and realistic. Planning is everything, but putting those plans into practice is what will ultimately move your employer brand forward.
3. You’re allowed to (respectfully) disagree with leadership
Understand how your organization operates, what areas you're in charge of, and how that factors into making employer branding decisions on behalf of the organization. Developing an understanding around all three things is critical to success when creating employer branding initiatives; it takes time, but it’s worth it in spades down the road. Your leadership team might suggest some great ideas, but the expertise to determine what may or may not work isn't solely up to them. They have an opinion, but so do you. Additionally, you can leverage your knowledge, your familiarity with the industry, insights from previous campaigns, your employer branding network and your experience in that space.
4. LinkedIn isn’t the “Magic 8 Ball” for employer branding
LinkedIn is a terrific professional networking tool where you can learn from your peers and even mentors in the space you operate. However, it isn’t the “Magic 8 Ball” for employer branding. You can set up a feed that gradually unlocks the secrets to success other professionals have stumbled upon. Due to this broad and ongoing access, it's too easy to think it's the key to all talent-related things. It's not. Be intentional with learning from what you observe around you, your colleagues and peers (in real life) whether it’s via Zoom calls, or face to face interactions. You can also upskill by doing employer branding courses.
5. Knowledge is power — just don't forget about personality!
Research is everything in the world of employer branding. You can never underestimate the power of research because the only constant with the world around us is change. Although blog posts are mostly people's personal opinions, there is much to learn from them, and reputable research organizations that offer useful insights into trends in any given market. If you haven't looked into employer branding research before, now is the time. Fair warning: some results are both scary and enlightening. As an example, if you're looking only to attract candidates with useful skills or experience, consumer research shows us that most hiring managers look for more than technical skill sets when making a hire; personality plays a big role in who gets called back after an interview too! The bottom line? Always conduct extensive research about relevant topics in employer branding so you can make informed decisions about best practices in attracting talent through social media channels.
6. Keep your friends close and your ‘enemies’ closer
Do not underestimate the competition. It is true that any organization, even pioneers in a brand new sector, have to keep competing. However, it is also true that because candidates and employees now know better than ever what they want and what they deserve, their options have increased. There may not be an obvious contender for the throne, but there is one. Your job as an employer brand professional is to look into and examine five to seven of your most thriving competitors. Once you’ve done your homework and determined how they trend; go a step further to check whether they’re actively promoting things that you’re not, if you offer similar programs, career opportunities. These insights will uncover opportunities for you to articulate your employer value proposition differently or even better.
7. Content is king — just don’t ignore the prince and princess
While I appreciate a water tight content strategy, I’ve learnt that the most engaging stories don't always need an 'angle'. Oftentimes, the best connections are drawn from micromoments that have not been 'produced'. Remote and hybrid working environments have demonstrated the evolution of workplace experience. So much so that employees are more confident about sharing their amazing (or not-so amazing) experiences about what it’s like to work for their organization. These unedited, authentic, often organic stories play a part in persuading other candidates to join. My mistake was spending too much time figuring out the perfect messaging and not enough time acting on it. I forgot that progress and perfection don’t share the same seat. Giving employees the space, encouragement and the platform to share stories on their own terms, at a convenient time via a preferred channel is invaluable.
In the end, we’re doing this for our audience -- candidates, prospective candidates, and current employees. Collectively, they have invaluable insights and their input will have a good impact on your organization.
Disclaimer: The statements and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Thoughtworks.