5 Steps to Plan Your 2017 Employer Brand Activation Strategy

5 Steps to Plan Your 2017 Employer Brand Activation Strategy

Regardless of how you feel 2016 went, its time to get ready for 2017. To attract and persuade talent to join your organization, you need to not only invest in your employer brand, you need to establish a smart strategy to maximize that investment.

Based on our research, research from other sources, and examples spanning many different companies, here are our recommendations for how to get the most value from your employer brand and recruitment marketing spend.

1: Quality, Not Quantity

In 2016, we have used that phrase dozens of times with our clients. Fewer blog posts. Fewer Facebook posts. Fewer tweets. Less publishing, but using that energy to build better materials.

This isn’t just our opinion. In a survey of more than 1,000 content professionals released last week, Andy Crestodina and Orbit Media found that the trend across the board is less output while focusing on telling the best story or delivering maximum value. This is clearly in reaction to the tsunami of content being published every minute, where spamming Google and one’s users leads to penalization and lower engagement rates.

Did you know that in October, Starbucks posted only eight times on Facebook? Deep into another pumpkin spice latte frenzy (go look at #psl on your social network of choice for confirmation), this massive retail brand — one you’d expect to be publishing every minute — published only twice a week. And they say they ended up with more engagement overall. [Source: Social Media Week Chicago, 2016]

Remember: no one ever unfollowed someone for not publishing enough. But they will leave in droves for receiving too much stuff that isn’t useful to them (some people call that “spam”).

2: Say Something

Quality isn’t measured in level of production quality. It isn’t measured in the polished nature of words or video, but in saying something that the audience can use. The millionth pretty picture of your building isn’t quality. Describing how that building meets LEED standards isn’t quality. Having the lead architect and green engineer talk to each other about some of the unusual choices that were made in that building is interesting, thus it is quality.

If you think an interview between an architect and civil engineer isn’t going to support your employer brand, ask yourself: is “conversation and ecology” part of your employer brand? Is “caring about the extended family?” Or “Quality of detail?” If it is, that level of detail, getting into the real-world nitty-gritty of the development of that building is what will attract and engage your prospects.

Saying something, and saying something meaningful, is a form of differentiation. Trying to appeal to everyone and thus watering down your message isn’t saying something. It’s filling blank space on your page and social channels. You might be worried about driving people away by taking a stand, but those are people who wouldn’t have fit anyway. Taking a clear stand and saying something true about your organization or teams helps people self-select in or out.

2a: Who’s the Hero?

On almost everyone’s career site is a nice big pretty image, usually of some people who work for you. That image is often called the “hero image.” The goal is to make this person, all glossy and pretty, to look like the hero of a story that involves a growing career and personal satisfaction. That way a prospect can look at the image and think, “that could be me!” It’s a great marketing and communication strategy.

However, if you read a lot of career sites like we do, you know that most companies are building stories that make themselves the hero. Big pretty buildings, logos and product shots put the building, logo and product as the hero, not the people who made them. Worse yet, people coming by the site can’t see themselves in these situations. They aren’t the hero of your story.

Brands that talk at their audience and only push out self-serving content, are fighting an uphill battle. A video about your specific volunteer policy will not go viral but a video about the benefits of volunteering could. Find out what your audience is interested in and create content that provides them value beyond selling the job. Yes, the goal is still to get them to apply but that’s not going to happen the first time they interact with your brand. Instead, give jobseekers something visceral they can connect to right away and want to share with their network.

We recommend creating content that aligns with your audience’s values. For example, if you have a great parental leave benefits package, why not put it into perspective to make the benefit that much more powerful. Create content using data and images to tell the history of parental benefits in America and why it’s more important than ever that parents have more time to spend with their kids. It makes the reader the hero, someone who spends more time with their family. Then at the end, include a CTA that ties back to your brand.

3: Get Visual

You all know the power of infographics. They have long shelf lives, they are attractive, they can be shared easily, they are perfectly branded, and can really support any number of recruitment campaigns. But what’s beyond that?

We recommend starting with visuals that have impact. Rather than leaning on over-polished stock images or using the same image the 12th time, build images that grab people’s attention.

For example, have you played with Prisma yet? Unlike Photoshop or Instagram filters, which serve to change the emotional tenor of an image by playing with subtle things like contrast and light, Prisma can turn any picture into a painting, a drawing or a mosaic. If you haven’t tried it, download it to your phone and I guarantee you will be impressed by the results. These images are interesting and arresting. You should work with your creative director to see which (if any) of the filters go against your brand standards, and then test to see if these images drive more engagement on your social channels.

Beyond filters, this is a world awash in animated gifs. Since your legal team probably won’t let you take a clip from The Walking Dead and add your clever text on top of it, making your own animated images has been difficult. But a number of tools that make well-branded animated gifs easy to make have landed in your phone store of choice. We’ve been playing with Ripl and love how it takes even the most boring and overused image and gives it new life.

And here is where you say, “Okay, so now that I’ve got great stories that are well illustrated, now what? What should I do with those stories?” Excellent segue, thank you.

4: Yes, You Need to Promote

A tree that falls in the forest with no one to hear it may or may not make a sound, but there’s no question no one will care. A great story hidden on your career site is almost as bad as no content at all. So you need to distribute and promote it. The next steps will focus on getting your message out to new and existing audiences in ways that will engage them and drive them one step closer to your jobs.

5: Get Creative With Distribution

Chances are, all of you link to your new story from Facebook and Twitter. Maybe you also link from LinkedIn and Glassdoor. A handful might even use Instagram. Great. But it’s 2017 and you need to do something more.

We have been living in a model of digital marketing where the Facebook post was a commercial for the content. That is, you posted a link and Facebook grabbed a description and image from the metadata. Maybe you annotated it with a comment, and threw on a headline, but the goal was to use that post to pique interest and have the user click the link, driving them to another site.

This model has been true for years, but it is starting to show its age. Instead of a hub-and-spoke approach, where every post drives directly to the center hub of your career site, trends show that people want more content where they are, not to be moved to another place.

To that end, we suggest republishing great stories on Medium and tagging them to attract attention of prospects. (Don’t worry about Google punishing you for reusing content on multiple sources — Google’s gotten pretty good at understanding that the content on your career site is canonical and that other copies are just ways of reaching out to new audiences.) If you’ve got a story worth reading and sharing, there are millions of people waiting to read what you have to say.

buzzfeed logoPlaces like Buzzfeed and LinkedIn have robust blogging tools. Buzzfeed even has Buzzfeedy things like quiz-builders that let you augment your story easily. And don’t forget Quora, though for that platform, you need to reform your story into the shape of an answer to a question. The trick is to find the question your story answers.

Or you could re-build the page inside a Facebook Canvas. Canvas is a mobile-only way of building content on the Facebook platform. This is still relatively new and we’re unsure how effective this will be in the long run, but re-publishing your content on a platform with 1.6 billion people is an idea worth testing on your specific audience.

All these platforms make it easy and free to distribute your content to people who likely wouldn’t find it otherwise, extending your employer brand to audiences who don’t know much about you yet.

So there it is: how you are going to develop an employer brand and recruitment marketing strategy for 2017 that takes advantages of all the new trends and tools coming on line. Remember, that we are all always changing, so don’t be afraid to try new things. Just try them with intention (don’t go throwing them against the wall to see what sticks) and integrate them into what you’re already doing to see their value increase significantly.

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Allison Kelley
Written by Allison Kelley

Allison Kelley is on the Marketing team at TMP Worldwide Chicago. Since 2009, she has worked to tell brand stories for a variety of industries including nonprofit, HR, digital marketing, small business, entrepreneurship, travel, and B2B. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post and Chicagoist, among others. You can contact Allison at Allison.Kelley@tmp.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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