Employer branding is dead. Long live employer brand!

Good session this morning in London where SAS presented a view on where organisations can go from here when it comes to employer brand, brand and employee engagement.

I don’t think we presented anything earthshattering, but did put a broader context around the questions…

How does corporate brand interact with employer and consumer brands?

How can we more effectively address the internal comms vs HR vs marketing vs change communication agenda to JOIN THINGS UP?

How do we improve authenticity and trust, and use employees as “the new black” in marketing?

Great presentations from Richard Lloyd (liked his point that the key skills are patience, influencing and believing in yourself and the concept) and Stephen Mulvenna from Coca-Cola who not only gave a presentation but was cracking in the Q&A.

Fun, well done.


Coverage from Ri5 here.


Can your organisation walk and chew gum at the same time?

Regular visitors will know the tired drumhead I beat is about connecting internal communications to extenal communications, while not losing sight of the HR necessities that glue it all together.  All too often our professional (over-) specialisation into marketing, HR or internal communications tactics and techniques blinds us to the bigger picture.

Gallup has published some interesting stuff in the past 6 months about where their Human Sigma(TM) product meets their Q12(TM) product.

In essence, in a study of 2,000 units across 10 companies, units with superior customer engagement (e.g. brand loyalty) outperformed the baseline by 170%.  Those units with superior employee engagement (e.g., brand engagement) outperformed the baseline by a similar 170%.

However, things got interesting for the units that were above average (not leading, necessarily) in BOTH customer and employee engagement – with their performance at 340% above baseline.

This all links nicely to the Vivaldi study in 2002 that had these metrics at 160% and 320% respectively — more than coincidence? Probably not.

The point?  If you can align your brand and marketing efforts with your internal communication and HR efforts, both your customers and your people benefit, and you make more money.  Again, it’s the AND that is more important than the OR.  Marketing alone is an OR.  Employee engagement alone is an OR.

Or, in other words, employee engagement is OF EQUAL IMPORTANCE TO EXTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS in business performance.  Are the budgets equal?

Admission. And, speaking at Eurocomm 2008.

I re-read some of my posts from 2008 to chart my observations over the previous year.  How’s that for pure vanity?

In hindsight, I was pretty rough on the recruitment advertising industry and the recruitment industry.  I think most of it was fair comment.  On the other hand, you can’t blame people for changing and adapting their offer, their strategies and their business models to face the challenges and changes of their marketplace. 

Maybe this brings me full circle.  Employer brand is the sum total of the content and the experience of the employee’s journey through your attraction, recruitment, retention and development process.  It’s the glue that goes between ads, web forms and databases. That’s the reason why, perhaps, I rail against recruitment agencies and recruitment marketing agencies periodically.  And, I must admit they are getting better.  Any business in that arena should be acquiring talent and building capability like mad if they want to stay in the game.  

I’ve also learned a lot this year, and to be honest my biggest learnings and insights have been about the linkages between recruitment and its role in attraction and, more importantly, retention.  Now, I know that sounds blindingly obvious; and I feel well adept at brand engagement with existing employees.  But I believe the insight is that the mechanics of recruitment — attracting, filtering, assessing, hiring, on boarding people — is still too disconnected from the brand building elements of it.  This is, of course, the essence of employer branding.  And even well-known recruitment marketing and recruitment agencies are delivering only half of the story — sometimes dressed up in very clever and creative design work, but still not a strategically viable employer brand.

I have a client opportunity for a really interesting, near £1billion business, so I’ve done some sniffing around their competitors’ websites to suss out their “employer brands.”  Some sites are good, some are pretty poor, all have terrible usability, but all of them are about getting “bums in seats” — filling roles in an environment of hard-to-find quality candidates.  You can search for vacancies by role and by geography, download CV templates to fill in and upload, and use some pretty sophisticated technology.

Mechanically, they are virtually identical in form and function.

But they aren’t selling the employer.  They aren’t selling their difference, and why that difference matters.  They are wasting golden opportunities at every stage of the process to tell their story and make emotional connections, not just “I want a job” connections.


I’ve been asked to speak at Eurocomm 2008 – the International Association of Business Communictors (IABC) Annual European Conference.  There are some great speakers lined up, so I feel like a bit of a pinch-hitter as I’m filling in for a speaker who has had to pull out.  I’m presenting two quite interesting case studies from SAS clients that show how audience focus (all too often forgotten in the mix these days) can really shape your communications.  (Another obvious comment, I know).

 Talk about selling the sizzle, not the sausage, try this on for size:

Have YOU been communicating with a fictitious construct?According to the Wikipedia, an audience is a group of people who participate in an experience or encounter a work of art, literature, theatre, music or academics in any medium. Audience members participate in different ways in different kinds of media; some events invite overt audience participation and others allowing only modest interaction, criticism and reception.  With a specific focus on rhetoric, which is generally understood to be the art or technique of persuasion through the use of oral, visual, or written language, some have suggested that the audience is a construct made up by the rhetoric and the rhetorical situation the communication is addressing. Others say communicators actually can target their communication to address a real audience. Still others try to mingle these two approaches and create situations where audience is “fictionalized,” but in recognition of some real attributes of the actual audience.As deliberately academic and theoretical as this sounds, too often in business communication we forget that audiences are not actually who we define them to be. Kevin will walk through some interesting internal communication solutions several leading organisations have used to address the audience segmentation dilemma. That gives me a real challenge – living up to that advert…

Annual Top 5 Predictions for 2008

Last year it was three, but Top Ten sounds too much like hard work, so here are my predictions for the landsape I survey in 2008:

 1.  Monolothic brands operating in heterogenous (e.g. global) environments are going to have to flex their guidelines and rules if they are to succeed in the employer brand space.  We’re going to see more variation in expression of corporate brands.  Otherwise they cannot differentiate and appeal to specific people segments.

2.  Employer brand will become an embedded and specific role in smart organisations to overcome the inertia created by the internal communications – human resources – marketing impasse that many experience. 

3.  Developing economies will move even further into the centre stage of opportunity.

4.  There will be a social media backlash as people grapple with the issues around work-public-private boundries.   It will not be a severe one. Second Life will lose momentum and new niche players will devour their market with more focussed/segmented/pragmatic offers in the social media space. 

5.  We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of the subprime fiasco and its long-term impacts on the global economy.  Combined with 8 years progressive mismanagement of the U.S. economy, it will not be an easy year and there will be some profound longer-term issues, making this election a poisoned chalice.  Although the exchange rate is great from a UK perspective…