3 Categories of a Well-Balanced Employer Brand
When considering the best tactics for your employment branding program, you soon discover that there are lots of options—so many, in fact, that things can get confusing. It helps to have simple guidelines in mind so that you can compare individual choices effectively without losing sight of the larger picture.
An easy but useful way to do this is to break your employment branding plan down into three categories—awareness, interaction, and application. This has three important benefits. First, it reminds you that employment branding is a process—a conversation—with several steps involved. Individual job seekers will pass through this process in different ways and at their own pace, but in general it always starts with awareness and progresses on to interaction before some prospects apply and become active candidates while others simply move on.
Second, thinking of individual opportunities as belonging to one (or more) of these categories prompts you to examine why you have chosen that tactic in the first place. What do you expect to achieve, and is this the best way of achieving it? Finally, categorizing makes it easier to see whether you have done a good job of balancing your efforts between the three categories, or phases, of the process.
A balanced approach provides job seekers with diverse and plentiful opportunities to discover, experience, and develop a preference for your employment brand. Remember that some attraction methods may fall into more than one category to help achieve multiple goals of increasing awareness, providing interaction opportunities and encouraging job application (for more about this progression, take a look at our blog series, “Getting a Grip on Recruitment Marketing”). Within each of the three categories, here are the primary attraction methods you will need to consider:
As the name implies, this is where job seekers go from being functionally unaware of you as a potential employer to having their first conscious encounter with your employment brand. Creating awareness typically involves three specific marketing activities: advertising, search and email marketing. The goal is to establish your message and generate sufficient share of voice to get noticed.
This is also where you will cast the widest net, reaching out to passive candidates as well as active job seekers. They may or may not know that your company exists. They may not have thought of you as having jobs in their geographic or professional areas of interest. They may have had some peripheral exposure to your message before, but no reason to take notice. The right message strategy and enough repetition will get you on your prospects’ radar—and convince many of them to seek out more information. Make sure your call to action gives them someplace to go. Thus begins the next step.
Interaction is the broadest, most diverse category of this process. Though you have already “narrowed the funnel” somewhat from the Awareness stage, Interaction is where you give prospects more options—and more control—to create whatever kind of experience they want or need. Messaging still rests on the foundation that you established during the Awareness phase, but now the communication is two-way and much more personalized. Prospects are not simply absorbing your marketing messages. They are carrying on conversations, asking questions, and building relationships. They are talking directly with each other and with your most valuable ambassadors—your current employees.
The centerpiece of the Interaction category is your career website. The rest of the tactics consist of anything and everything that gets people—candidates, current employees, thought leaders and more—inside your career site and engaged in the conversation. This includes all the tools from the Awareness phase, as well as social media, video, and internal communications with existing staff. These tools should help reinforce your organizational story to both internal and external audiences, and seek to recognize cultural bearers and storytellers within your organization. The goal is extremely straightforward: once you have someone’s awareness, get them to engage—then keep them there. Continue providing more information, interaction and entertainment so that their interest, knowledge, preference, and connection grow. In truth, this phase never really ends. Ultimately, though, you want to cultivate the most attracted (and attractive) candidates to the point where they take the next step—applying for a job.
This is where individual people take the initiative to move beyond being prospects and become candidates. The application category offers better opportunities and forums to interact with your existing employees and recruiters, and provides them with clear action to apply. Using strategic methods like job postings, live events and job sites can provide powerful ways to help move the talent pool from attraction to application. It can also help provide clear and concise messaging that drives candidates to the talent gateway, while reinforcing your organizational culture. For those who go on to become new hires, the application phase should effect a seamless transition. In hindsight, it is almost like the first step in their onboarding process.
By thinking of employment branding as a continuous process and considering how the tactics in each category lead candidates on to the next stage, you can maintain the big-picture view of the entire process while assessing the specific pros and cons of individual tactics. Consider the basic activities in each category, and what they are intended to do. In time, your organization will feel the cumulative, interrelated benefits of a mature, well-balanced employment branding program.