The Rules for Protecting Your Brand

Employer branding is poised to take center stage in 2013, and will be a key priority as HR teams look to draw in top talent. While having a household name can certainly help, it doesn't impact job consideration as much as one might think.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013
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The digital age can make HR strategy feel a bit like a frontier these days, especially when it comes to managing employer brand.

Previously, HR teams communicated employer brand with glossy brochures given to job candidates during interviews. Then social media came along, arming active and passive candidates with a treasure trove of information created largely by current and past employees, not employers. Not surprisingly, candidates are fascinated to know what it's really like working at a company, especially when the message is straight from the mouths of their connections.

The result is that public perception can vary wildly from a company's brand message. Making it even more challenging for HR strategists, the rules keep changing as new platforms emerge and others evolve.  

Whether you and your team have embraced the new wild west of employer branding or are circling the wagons while you prepare to charge ahead, a few things are worth noting:

*           As many as 19 million employees, or 13 percent of the workforce, plan to change jobs this year, according to a recent survey by Cornerstone OnDemand.

*           The lack of employer brand awareness is considered one of the top three obstacles in recruiting, according to the latest LinkedIn State of Employer Branding report., employer branding is poised to take center stage in 2013, and will be a key priority as HR teams look to draw in top talent. While a household name can help, it doesn't impact job consideration as much as one might think. Merely having a good impression of a company's brand might lead a candidate to think it's a good place to work, but doesn't necessarily translate to genuine job consideration. On the other hand, a strong employer brand -- indicated by someone having a positive impression of a company specifically as a place to work -- is twice as likely to drive job consideration as its company brand.

In that case, what does a strategic approach to managing an employer brand look like?  We've talked with HR leaders around the world and consulted our in-house experts to help identify eight "golden rules" to guide you and your team as you share, post, tag, tweet, like or pin:

1. Look in the mirror. Make sure that what HR does (and doesn't do) is what you'd like employees to emulate. Employees are your company's unofficial marketers and recruiters, and you can show them the way. Set the tone with your team's public profiles and the updates you share.  2. Empower your team and employees. Lay out the goals, explain why their participation is valuable, and show them a clear, easy path to action.

Brent Amundson, global director of talent acquisition at Dell, worked with his team to establish a certification process known as SMaC University (Social Media and Communication) to help employees talk about the Dell brand on various platforms.

"We help build our external brand by giving employees the tools and guidelines they need to communicate on behalf of the company," says Amundson. "It's a lot of work, but the payoff is huge."

Strong executive support helped raise the program's profile, and since July 2010, more than 5,000 employees have been trained.

3. Inform your leadership. Use data to gain support, ease concerns and help explain your choice of platforms. It's easier to secure C-suite buy-in for employer brand focus when you can make a solid business case. And don't give up too soon - it may take time for your message to resonate.

Ravi Dasgupta, group head of human resources at Biocon in India, can attest to the benefit of buy-in from CEO Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw.

"Her support is integral to upholding our favorable reputation as an employer," he says. "She is extremely driven with an incredible entrepreneurial spirit, and is highly invested in maintaining the brand."

 4. Target your messages. We're in an age of unprecedented relevancy and personalization in marketing, and the principles are equally important for employer branding. The more relevant your message is to a particular audience, the greater its impact will be. Take advantage of targeting capabilities on the platforms you use. What matters to software engineers in Silicon Valley will differ greatly from the topics that interest marketers in Mumbai.

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 5. Go viral. For amplified results, find creative ways to get more people talking about your company's culture. Share authentic stories, pictures, and company events across a variety of media so your employees and followers can repost and drive viral discussion. achieved virality on LinkedIn at a time when the company needed to recruit account executives and sales engineers. Kate Israels, the company's program manager for talent acquisition, had asked CEO Marc Benioff for help. Inspired by one email from Marc, the sales team doubled their usual LinkedIn status updates in 24 hours, visible to 159,000 professionals at more than 40,000 companies, resulting in potential reach to 38,000 sales professionals. Employee referrals from the sales team spiked 60 percent in one week.

6. Make your culture shine. It's never just about jobs. Focus on your people, their stories and emotions. Today's best corporate career sites feature employees sharing what it's like to work there. Not only are stories more easily remembered, they can be motivational for the current employees you feature.

7. Be visual. Bold and colorful images, graphics, charts, and videos can bring your brand to life. Video can be particularly compelling; candidates become more deeply engaged if they hear real people tell their own stories. Under the leadership of senior HR manager Christa Foley, online retailer Zappos exemplifies this approach by devoting an entire YouTube channel to its culture, with many of the featured videos starring Zappos employees.

 8. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Show that your efforts are scalable and sustainable in one platform before moving on to another. Starting to use a social platform is the easy part. It can be much more challenging to stay on top of it and drive measurable results on an ongoing basis.

In the new world of employer brand, perception is reality. Whether or not your company is considered a great place to work can make all the difference in attracting and retaining the best and the brightest. When top talent comes in contact with your company, are they getting the right message?

Leela Srinivasan is group marketing manager for Mountain View, Calif.-based LinkedIn Talent Solutions. Based in Chapel Hill, N.C., she gathers best practices from LinkedIn Talent Solutions customers globally and spearheaded the development of LinkedIn's new Employer Brand Playbook: 5 Steps to Crafting a Highly Social Talent Brand.

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