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Employer Branding 101 for Heads of Marketing

You’ve probably already heard somewhere that a corporate brand must be best in its class, have a unique set of attributes, or be the cheapest in it’s class – for it to be number one or two and to claim consumer “mind share”. If it doesn’t “own” one of these three perceptions, then it might be weak in the mind of the consumer.

It’s a bit different for the employer brand, but there are a few similarities. With some effort, you can “own” a position in the mind of certain candidates – especially if you are building an employer brand in smaller or niche markets.

Your Employer Brand Truth

Just like the company brand, your employer brand is the perceived emotional corporate image as a whole – and is more than colors and fonts and a logo. It must be authentic and stand for something and possess integrity. This must be true across the entire company, and it must aim to be true across all interactions with candidates and employees.

Your employer brand should be internally and externally consistent; we are who we say we are.

The Employer Brand Identity

Your employer brand identity is made up of all the visual aspects that form part of the overall brand. It is the sum of the parts that reach across the logo (the symbol of our entire identity/brand), stationery (letterhead, business cards, etc.), marketing collateral (brochures, sales decks, websites, etc.), product / service packaging, customer service, signage, communication and actions and personality of employees and the firm, and anything else that represents, or supports the brand.

The Employer Brand Essence

Your brand essence is the heart and soul of the employer brand, and most of the time we see it stated in one, two or three words in the pattern of “adjective adjective noun”. Just like the company’s brand essence – the employer brand essence is not something we write on our site or push out as content. It is more like a set of mental anchors. The employer brand essence is felt. Just like driving a Harley might make you feel independent or liberated and driving a Volvo might make you feel safe, the employer brand essence does not need to be spoken. When you think of Virgin (the company), we are made to subconsciously think “entrepreneurial spirit”. This carries over to the employer brand as well.

Employer Value Propositions (EVPs)

To build a strong USP, we need to define the key values and benefits that your customers receive from buying your services. We need to understand how customers feel after using your service. We need to clearly articulate how your company is different and stands out from competitors. And we need to explain how you would like customers to think about your company.

How we treat the employer brand is similar. It should speak clearly and directly to the right-fit active and passive candidates you want to hire most.

Weave in your most important employer value propositions (EVP). This can include anything you think is a key differentiator such as leadership that leads with trust, not a “command and control” style. Or you can mention the culture and it’s innovative spirit. You can even discuss how your company rewards taking chances and accepts, even encourages, the right kinds of failure.

The important thing is this: If you want to attract specific candidate characteristics into your company, you must connect your value propositions to the needs and desires of the candidates you want most.

The Employer Brand Promise

Your brand promise is usually stated as one clear sentence that communicates the one thing that the brand intends to own in the target customer’s mind. It must be understandable, believable, differentiating, and compelling. We want it to claim three ideal qualities: it must be important to the target customer, your company must be uniquely suited to deliver it, and competitors are not addressing it. The employer brand promise is very similar. Every good employer brand has a well-defined brand promise associated with it.