Two Brand Leaders Tell Us Why Storytelling Is the Beating Heart of Employer Branding

April 22, 2021 • 5 min read

Two Brand Leaders Tell Us Why Storytelling Is the Beating Heart of Employer Branding

Employee Brandwagon Contributors

Employer Brandwagon Contributors

Employee stories are about inspiration, celebration, challenges, friction, hope and continuous learning. They’re authentic moments of humanity that show the value and connection between brands, geography and languages, and in doing so, they amplify our sense of belonging. 

Humans have been telling stories for thousands of years, and it’s important to understand the strength of this age-old tool within the context of effective employer branding.

We welcomed Thomas Reneau, Employer Brand Manager at Ritchie Bros., and Priti Soni, Recruitment Marketing Manager at Publicis Sapient, for a chat about what makes storytelling so integral to good employer branding. Here, they share with us how they’ve seen it bring their own employer branding to life, how they ensure it’s used to its greatest advantage, and what they focus on when creating authentic, resonant content that attracts the right candidates.

Hi Thomas and Priti. Let’s start off with some insight into the overall role of storytelling in EB.

Why is it such a core component of employer branding?

Thomas: My ‘aha!’ moment came while taking a course, Storytelling for Influence at Ideo U. I realised that designing stories is right at the core of the employer branding program because stories are the most relatable, authentic way to mobilise and motivate people. Our advocacy program at Ritchie Bros. is a wonderful demonstration of this – just a few weeks after we’d launched, our Glassdoor reviews had already increased by 42%!

Sharing stories is about being human and vulnerable. Being vulnerable at work takes a lot of courage, especially during the pandemic. Allowing employees to be themselves and not hold back on sharing their stories takes away the red tape that entangles so many companies.

Priti: People remember stories. They remember the emotions they evoked. There is real proven science behind the effectiveness and importance of using storytelling to connect with your audience – it’s about activating imagination and emotion by conveying a human experience.

What potential candidates perceive to be true through stories they read, see and hear will ultimately guide their actions and decision-making processes. If you create a story that provokes emotion, you will start building a deeper connection with your audience, and as we know, connection is a fundamental human need.

Priti, you touch on the fact there is a scientific basis to the power of storytelling. Can you explain that?

Priti: I highly recommend reading the book The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr.  Fundamentally, your brain is a story-processor, not a logic processor. It is hard-wired to connect with stories and respond to emotional connections and triggers. As we connect with a story, our brain releases oxytocin, often known as the “bonding” or “love” hormone.

Emotions heighten our ability to memorise experiences and help improve information processing. So effectively, stories make it easier for our brains to absorb information and store data for later retrieval.

How does storytelling improve content creation?

Priti: Storytelling is a key facet of content creation and it’s changing the way employers think about content marketing. CEOs are increasingly realising that candidates are so much more than just a ‘target audience’; they are real people with hopes, dreams and aspirations, and it’s more important than ever to tap into that with content that tells a story.

It’s so important to understand this as an EB specialist – that making people feel something makes them take action. In the employer branding world, there is nothing more important than sharing the right (and authentic) story to attract the right candidates.

Thomas: In short, storytelling is the most compelling and effective way to showcase our compelling UVP (unique value proposition).

Because we can tap into so many different business segments (tech, finance, operations, sales, HR, and so on), it creates a beautiful myriad-mosaic that through iteration, defines the identity and personality of our organisation.

Any examples of great storytelling-centred content from your own companies you can share?

Thomas: Part of our day-to-day work in EB is about capturing insights and data. It’s a science. So in our case, we’ve given the mic to our superheroes (aka employees) and created a framework to let our internal ambassadors express themselves through different channels we can curate. It’s very empowering and impactful. The external piece follows organically.

A story-sharing framework creates the right parameters through which to showcase genuine employee stories and influence applicants to make an important choice about their new job opportunity. It helps them answer questions like, “Is it the right culture?” “Do I fit in this environment?” “Are the core values aligned with mine?” “Does the day-to-day role resonate with me?”

Priti: Publicis Sapient currently has a dedicated podcast channel that aims to provide an accurate view of what it is like to work for us. There’s nothing as authentic as hearing directly from an employee’s mouth!

Earlier this year, we were also proud to announce the launch of our global careers blog page, which showcases our people through their personal journeys. Not only has this been a fantastic way to give candidates insight into the world of Publicis Sapient, but it also helps our employees build their own personal brand.

Since launching our blog page, podcast and local Instagram channels, the increase in monthly traffic to our careers site has indicated significant growth in the recognition of our employer brand.

How do you measure the quality or impact of EB storytelling?

Thomas: The impact at Ritchie Bros. has been both internal (we measure through eNPS surveys) and external (through our social media metrics, Google Analytics traffic, and a UTM tracker for each campaign to measure the candidate journey up to the conversion to hire).

Our Glassdoor reviews increased enormously after we launched our advocacy program. With this information, potential candidates can self-select before they apply, which leads to higher quality and fit, and in the long-term, engagement, productivity and performance. In fact, many of our new hires mention that one of their drivers for applying was a blog, video or social media post. This shows us that our stories and our company DNA is really connecting with people.

Priti: To me, measuring the quality comes down to three factors: engagement metrics (views, click-through-rates, interactions and so on), whether there’s been an increase in brand equity (for example, more followers) and the impact on your business in terms of how many qualified candidates have come through, retention rates and the impact on cost-per-hire.

Evidence-wise, there is plenty to support the fact that storytelling improves employer brand outcomes. People are 22% more likely to remember stories than they are to remember something presented with facts and figures alone, and this boosts conversion rates.

Sharing these stories without filters, with true heartfelt authenticity, on the right platforms, is what makes for effective storytelling and increased visibility of our employer brand at Publicis Sapient.

Thomas: The truth is, employees are amazing architects of an EB strategy. Through their stories, they articulate a brand in their own words and give it an entirely authentic voice – and there’s nothing more powerful than that.

About our contributors: 

Thomas Reneau: Thomas is passionate about human interactions and applying design-thinking at work in Employer Branding but also in life. He works alongside Talent Acquisition and stakeholders to attract, retain and engage talent through various programs and events. Through his work at Ritchie Bros, Thomas strives to co-create and disrupt the system, (re)set the goals and innovate.

Priti Soni: Priti is a Recruitment Marketing Lead who understands the value of storytelling, appreciates good design and copywriting. Working with Publicis Sapient and based in London, Priti is passionate about learning and personal growth not only in business but in life!