Useful Employer Brand Tips for Chief Marketing Officers

Your employer brand is a sum of your company’s image and reputation in the market. It also includes every human association, feeling, and perception combined. The employer brand is your company’s “total truth” – good or bad. Employer branding includes all the different things you can do to tell others why your company is a great place to work.

You want people to think “I want to know this company” and become aware of your company. You want people to think “I want to be associated with this company” and connect with your company. You want people to think “I want to work inside this company” and apply to work inside your company. And you want people to think “I love this company” and stay committed to your company. Become a company able to get this right and you’ll gain a real competitive advantage.

Things that make you go hmmm

Strong employer brands break through the noise and get noticed. What do you think of when you hear “Just Do It” or “Don’t leave home without it”? 99% of all people think Nike or MasterCard. Most don’t think of Chase or Skora. There’s a reason for that.

Strong employer brands have category-cued salience. This means that whenever someone brings up a category like “search” most people think of Google. When people think of “chicken sandwich for lunch”, most will think about Chick-fil-A. When people think of the best new place to work building electric cars or rockets, what comes to mind? Tesla? SpaceX?

Our frame of reference is what comes to mind because of our past experiences. When people think of a company, most can’t help bringing up past experiences (and emotions) with that company. Some of us, when we think of Starbucks, imagine a great cup of coffee or that they provide great benefits to temporary workers. Others think about their low wages, burnt coffee and long lines. Our frame of reference plays a huge part in how we view a company.

It’s what people think that matters most

Brands trigger positive and negative reactions. What do you think of when you think “Apple”? Some of us process it like this: Jobs, computer, iPhone, iPad, easy-to-use, expensive, useful, feel good, beautiful, Southern Cal, new spaceship round office building, “wish I could work there” free lunches. Other people might process it differently and think: too expensive, elitist, silly, fake, conformity, lemming, would never work there – and so on. Point is,…our perspectives matter. It’s important for employers to understand these positive and negative reactions, fix what they can, and then and do all they can to define and promote positive attributes to their brand.

Consumer and employer brands have a lot in common

Consumer brand attributes might include: color, quality, origin, flavor. Employer brands are no different. Our employer brand attributes might include: fun, safe, professional, hard-working, career opportunity, exclusivity, unpretentious, ego, respect and so on. Employers should be in tune with their most salient attributes and work to promote them and keep them top of mind.

Employer brands are most believable when there is a consistency between two ideas. Our minds go to work examining the situation when we think about a company and there are two different messages or signals. It’s important to understand the good and bad about our brands so we can fix the bad and promote the good.

Discovering the truth will set you free

The best employers do employer brand audits to understand the positive and negative associates with their company. They take the time to ask top employees what they like most about the company, why they joined, and why they continue to stay committed. They work to uncover the right employer value propositions (EVPs) and attributes to share with the market. They understand the triggers and frames of reference. They take the time to fix negative characteristics – and work to turn real (and perceived) negatives into “positive truths”. And they speak and relate to the market in a way that helps to attract and keep the right talent. When they do this, voice and reality is consistent and people see and hear more clearly – and can relate more readily.

Creating a strong employer brand is not about pulling the wool over “gullible” peoples’ eyes. It’s about finding your true nature (or the most true truth) and doing all you can to improve the company. It’s about understanding your company and it’s value propositions, fixing what you can, and sharing it’s positive attributes with the market to attract others, and keep more of the right people in the organization. It’s more discovery and less push.

A good part of marketing – as it relates to employer branding – is to unchain or fix the negative associations, and then to promote the positive (associations and attributes) – and to make sure the right people take notice, maintain an affinity for your brand, and keep the company top of mind.

As a marketer, you can go as deep or wide as you want to build out your employer brand. Some keep it real simple. Others go deep and consider bandwagon effects, positive reinforcers, cuing, and more. The important thing to remember is that your employer brand is the truth about your company as an employer. It’s not something you should simple write and push out to the market and have them believe it. It comes alive when it’s an ongoing relationship between your company and everyone else – good or bad.

Take the time to fix the bad as best as you can. Work to understand and promote the good. It requires that you listen carefully and are able to connect in a powerful and truthful way.


CHRISTOPHER MENGEL brings over 20 years of insights to business owners and talent leaders inside emerging technology and professional services firms to implement new initiatives, develop new strategies for growth, carry out organizational and cultural change, manage complex projects, and fill business-critical roles. Have a challenge you want to solve? Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter and subscribe to his posts or contact him.


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