So the word is out – the economy contracted by 0.3% in the last quarter. Let’s put that in perspective. 0.3% of the solar system would be the equivalent of Rhode Island, 0.3% of time I spent studying in college would be the equivalent of the time it took to write this sentence, and 0.3% of quality television programming would be, well, impossible to determine since it’s mathematically impossible to divide by 0. Yet apparently this is enough of a change to send the economy into a tailspin. Ah, the mysteries of life.
It looks like the economy will continue to shrink over the next 1-2 quarters (I have it on authority of the online version of the Magic 8-ball (www.msu.edu/~vandrag2/8-ball.html).
With that in mind, should we abandon the employer brand? Of course, not (imagine haughty laughter). In fact, I would argue that we are faced with the convergence of something entirely new during this downturn that makes the need for well-managed employer brands more essential than ever. I’m speaking of business cycle meets social network.
Now you’re probably thinking I mean branding your organization on sites like Facebook, MySpace, or LinkedIn. That’s fine, but it’s not what I’m driving at.
I’m actually talking about incorporating our understanding of how social networks form, evolve, and thrive, above and beyond networking sites. Think sociometry. For those of you who didn’t put this on your summer reading, Wikipedia defines it in this way: Sociometry is a quantitative method for measuring social relationships. It was developed by psychotherapist Jacob L. Moreno in his studies of the relationship between social structures and psychological well-being. (Way to go, Jacob.)
A lot of it has to do with identifying nodes within the network – key points of intersection that bind people together – the same points of intersection that will drive opinion of the employment experience within your company, and therefore, outside of your company as well. Think of these nodes as network leaders, or for our purposes, the ideal employer brand evangelists.
Targeting these network leaders during a downturn is akin to identifying and communicating with trend leaders from a product adoption standpoint, key influencers that through their engagement, give everyone else permission to engage.
During a downturn, they are the most important audience you can imagine, and when the economy turns around, you’ll be in position to capitalize on the strong employer brand foundation you’ve created.
Random rave: to Ted Kirschner for my new blog photo. I feel so iconic now.