Employer Branding Isn’t about You – It’s about Your Audience

May 6, 2021 • 4 min read

Employer Branding Isn’t about You – It’s about Your Audience

Jonna Sjövall

Jonna Sjövall

Individuals and organisations can get lost in branding. It’s a personal thing. Naturally you’ll want your brand to reflect your organisation, and do so in a consistent, accurate, and ideally positive way.

But the truth about branding is that it doesn’t really matter what you want your brand to be about – all that matters is what your target audience thinks. You could think you have the best brand on earth, but if it doesn’t resonate with your intended audience, it’s worthless.

The need for distinct and personalised EB messaging

In employer branding we need to look at ourselves from the candidate’s viewpoint, and customise our message for each distinct audience that we’re trying to attract. While consistency is important, a one-size-fits-all approach tends to deliver a homogeneous group of candidates, which no forward-thinking organisation will want.

The process of dividing your audience up isn’t particularly complicated – it’s just a matter of asking the right questions to find interesting differences within the group as a whole. What situation are your current candidates in? What do their current employers offer them? What is your differentiator? Which aspects of your EVP apply to different sub-groups and audiences, and which do not?

Competition for talent has never been greater. If you are trying to be everything to everybody – and failing to tailor your message in the process – you’ll lack the competitive edge required to win the affections of that talent.

Imagine a solid company that offers product development roles with flexible hours, and customer service roles with more rigid hours. The messaging will be very different to these two groups: you might sell the flexibility of your company to product dev applicants, and the stability of your company to customer service applicants.

Competition for talent has never been greater. If you are trying to be everything to everybody – and failing to tailor your message in the process – you’ll lack the competitive edge required to win the affections of that talent.

Identifying what your audiences want

Leaving the safety, security and consistency of your carefully curated employer brand behind, how do you know what to say to each of your audiences? The first and most important point is to never guess what they want. If you think you know, you’re more than likely wrong.

If you don’t know the message you need to reinforce or the misconception you need to change, your efforts won’t have as great an impact as they perhaps could.

Begin to get a sense of your audience’s needs by talking to internal talent – your employees – that represents a similar audience. To get a broader and deeper sense of your audience’s needs, use external research, both on talent preferences and how you’re perceived. If you don’t know the message you need to reinforce or the misconception you need to change, your efforts won’t have as great an impact as they perhaps could.

This isn’t to say that you should toss your carefully constructed key messages to one side. It’s more a matter of repurposing your current brand into an EB stance; you want to stay true to your EVP and the core of your brand, but you also want to tweak it in a way that resonates with the type of candidate you’re after.

Tweaking the messaging to match the audience

How much should you tweak? Consider the identity, tone and personality of your brand, and ensure it is reflected in your EB messaging. At the same time you should think about how to be relevant to candidates. What is the give and the get? Why should they care about you?

The EVP should form the framework, and can be used as a starting point for the messaging directed at each audience. Customised messages can then be layered on top. What’s in it for the audience? Make this as clear and concise as possible. Don’t use buzzwords.

Your choice of channel is as important as your choice of content: you might have developed the most compelling communications ever, but they’ll count for nothing if your audience doesn’t receive them.

Messages developed, it’s time to deliver them. Your choice of channel is as important as your choice of content: you might have developed the most compelling communications ever, but they’ll count for nothing if your audience doesn’t receive them.

Choosing the right channels can be a difficult proposition. It’s important to look beyond typical channels, like those where your audience is actively looking for a job. If you get an interesting message to them on a channel that none of your competitors are using but that your audience uses a lot, it makes the communication all the more impactful.

Why not include all possible channels in your strategy? There are two main reasons:

  1. It will be too expensive.
  2. It requires too much work.

Try a few different channels, and focus on those that deliver the greatest initial returns. Keep in mind that the best channel isn’t necessarily the one that delivers the cheapest clicks; more expensive channels will often have far higher conversion rates, and hence be more cost-effective than those that initially seem cheaper.

Testing and measuring performance

The final piece of the puzzle is testing and measuring. From concept, to channel, and through to placement, getting a sense of your performance is critical to being able to improve it.

Once your content is published, track and enhance its performance with A/B testing. Take the time to set up different ad sets, and slowly get an understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

The initial testing, like proof of concept, can be quite informal. Bring together a reliable group of internal talent who can sanity check and vet your content. You might be surprised at the things that resonate and the things that don’t.

Once your content is published, track and enhance its performance with A/B testing. Take the time to set up different ad sets, and slowly get an understanding of what works and what doesn’t.

It doesn’t matter what you think – it matters what your target audience thinks. But it’s important to note that you can please them while also staying true to your brand. It’s just a matter of putting the right systems and processes in place.

About the author: Jonna thrives in her role as the Global Head of Employer Branding and Recruitment Marketing at UBS. She loves a good challenge, and navigating through strict compliance in the finance industry, as well as strong corporate brand guidelines, but still being creative and relevant to target candidates is what makes her excited to go to work each day!