One of the best ways to tap into authentic and relatable marketing to attract the right kinds of customers and future hires as well as fostering a healthy working culture is valuing employee branding.
What your employees think about their place of work not only affects their performance but also how they represent you to the outside world, how they talk about the brand and feel loyalty towards it.
What is employee branding?
In it’s essence, employee branding is a strategy for PR and HR marketing. It is both external and internal.
Employee branding can be seen as part of it by getting the employees on board with the company culture, mission, vision, values, and goals.
And it is part of the image that browsing applicants get during their research.
How appealing, inclusive and inviting is the company really?
Members of staff aren’t just some replaceable cogs in the company wheel.
To really create a productive company environment where innovation, proper team play and healthy management styles can be practiced, employees need to live this. And they need to feel it.
- Onboarding manuals outlining toxic positivity for a perceived happy environment don’t count.
- Managers dictating team play but micro managing and discouraging feedback don’t cut it.
- Company culture is the lived experience.
But it’s not a matter of writing it down and it’s done.
Do employees actually believe all this? Will they generally and very happily talk about the company to their friends and families?
Companies can only control their employees so much. But each and every employee is a sort of representative. They should be seen and treated as such.
“Cringe” Company Culture
The concept of “here at our company, we are a family” is well overdone and has become icky for potential applications. What future employees are really looking for, especially those in the millennial and Gen Z age groups, are companies that treat their staff not as a human resource but as actual people and with respect.
Incentives are great but company culture is more crucial.
Fancy copy, clean cut corporate imagery and stick figure animation explainer videos are outdated and scream corporate. And not in a good way. They lack appeal, they lack authenticity and they lack the information applicants are looking for.
- What do the offices really look like?
- What is a typical day to day?
- How complex and rigid is the hierarchical system?
- What is the lived company culture (not just the copy)?
- What are actual employees like and what do they personally like about the company?
- How does the application and onboarding process work?
The simplest way to answer all of this is by asking and letting employees speak themselves.
So often I see websites fall into the trap of presenting themselves in a professional corporate light on cookie-cutter websites. Stock imagery here, generic video there.
Team photos are generally included, if only for a few people. And often even here, Ii find websites with corporate photography being all over the place.
What good brand photography can do for employee happiness
I get it, people don’t want to put their face online unnecessarily. And most corporate photos or, heaven forbid, quick snaps for in-house ID cards are, quite frankly, boring and unflattering. Add to that irregular updates of company photos and by different photographers, and you get a confused visual representation of a company.
What if brands valued their employees in a way to hire corporate photographers that would take their time to make all branded photography look high class and their subjects feel at ease. (It really shows in photos.)
The thing is: company culture plays a role here. People need to be animated, not subjected to yet another “side quest” during their busy days.
Why is this necessary? There already is a photo (even if people did complain how they already looked – the lack of trust in good looking imagery is hard to shake if aldl productions have been handled like a rush job before.)
At its core, high quality employee photography is a sign that the company values and invests in its employees. That it listens to them (by extension of a photographer who does during the shoot).
Corporate photography sessions themselves can and should be tied to employee brand training.
It is important to actively listen to and monitor employees’ lived work experience, providing guidance and workshops on how to talk about the company, restate brand values and provide information on any structural changes and updates.
At the same time, employees will feel valued through the opportunity for trainings to gain more clarity and being asked for feedback.
This doesn’t have to be a stuffy corporate training day, it can be an event. A bonding opportunity.
This can also help loosen up employees that haven’t felt comfortable sharing or engaging in company hangouts, casual meetings and networking. (introverts, I’m looking at you)
By creating an environment tailored to different types of people and opening up space, companies can show how they interpret their values and what their ideal company culture should feel like.
Genuine Employee Marketing
Working environments in themselves are an entirely different beast to tackle. And won’t be covered in this article.
But where employee branding comes in is in incorporating the voices of those already working for and with the company.
- This can be through testimonials, as a sort of word-of-mouth marketing.
- These in turn can be woven into a brand or recruiting video.
- Then, they can be shared as vertical video and graphics content on social media
- They can be incorporated into newsletters, blog posts and website copy
All of this lends more diverse voices to represent the company and provide actual human faces delivering the messages.
Bonus points if there is no script that people read. It looks forced and uninspired.
Not everyone is a natural in front of the camera and most people turn awkward when they get filmed or photographed – even if they are indeed genuine fans of their company.
Again, a professional photographer and video producer that focuses on both the experience and final product is key. I am very happy to chat with you about this and my services if this is of interest.
Distinction to Employee Branding
There is a good amount of overlap between employee and employer branding.
Essentially, employee branding is internal and developed passively.
Employer branding is external and developed actively.
- Employer branding is targeted towards representation for future hires and customers.
- Employee branding is mapped out by the HR and communications team, the company manifest and mission, coaching and workshops, as well as by the sentiment of the employees towards their employer overall.
However, both can be used for external corporate marketing and branding.
Such an overlap can be seen through employees appearing as company ambassadors to talk to potential applicants, such as in recruiting videos, at job fairs or universities
External and Internal Employee Branding
When employees are happy, the visuals authentically represent this and the overall company branding ties in seamlessly with the employee branding, magic happens.
The company not only offers a much richer experience for anyone checking out their online appearance. But it has created it’s very unique branding, a UPS that isn’t really replicable.
By daring to be different, handing over the microphone and highlighting individual stories and qualities, the company suddenly stops being faceless and gets a sympathy factor.
It’s important to note that branding overall needs to tie into this.
I have mentioned it before but it needs saying again. Employee branding is a brilliant, effective and smart way to create relatable content for social media as well.
Social media is about creating community, opening a channel for communication. It’s not (just) a billboard. But more often than not, companies use it exactly as that.
Again: either outdated imagery that is all over the place (please stop with the Instagram filters) or too clean corporate imagery.
Do you want to impress the competition or the clients?
By including employee voices into the branding process, valuable feedback can be gleamed as well. This helps human resources monitor and track employee satisfaction, provides ideas for leaner management and innovative ideas.
And it can feel more inviting than by being called in for a one-on-one review, which can feel intimidating.
What does Employee Branding look like?
In short, employee branding should include a good balance and mix of copy, photography and video while still being in line with company branding visuals (i.e. not be so individual as to look all over the place.)
This should include employee’s own words and experience through testimonials, feedback forms or interviews.
Next, this should be translated into cohesive copy and imagery. All of them, every time. Everyone takes in information differently, some like to read more, others need visuals. Make it easy to take in and retain the information.
Sound and pacing help with video and eliciting certain emotions and actions.
This should be done for, to list a few examples:
- Team member profiles
- Bespoke company visuals instead of stock imagery
- Employee testimonials
- Onboarding video guidelines
- Recruiting steps and trainee programs
- Office tours
- Recap of events
- Yearly company summary (growth, goals, highlights)
- Internal trainings
The value of Employee Branding
To summarise, employee branding stems from a company nurturing their company culture and valuing their employee input. It is sourcing the voices of its own team members to provide an outside picture that is in line with a brand’s mission and marketing guidelines.
It helps foster employee involvement, happiness and entices future hires. By focusing on employee branding, a company can take advantage of additional feedback rounds, additional content and provide an extremely unique online appearance that naturally stands out in the best way.
If you are interested in discussing more how your company comes across online (website, social media, newsletters etc), where there may be discrepancies with desired outcomes and how to bridge that gap, schedule a free call with me. I may be able to offer guidance through my professional employer branding services and am always happy to connect.