Brand Strategy Employee Communications

4 Employer Branding Insights from HR, Marketing, and the C-Suite

By Caitlin New


Employer branding has become an extremely important issue for companies amid trends like the Great Resignation, or what LinkedIn branded the Great Reshuffle, where employees are leaving their jobs and considering other opportunities in record numbers. Companies are recognizing the need to elevate employees and candidates to a top priority audience for brand and communications.

In the simplest terms, an employer brand answers the questions, “Why work here, and why stay?” Strong employer brands aid in recruitment, engagement, and retention for companies that want to develop close relationships with their employees and appeal to candidates who will come, stay, and add value to their organization.

The PRSA Austin Chapter recently hosted an expert panel to discuss how employer branding can attract and retain strong teams. Panelists included Starr Million Baker, INK’s own CEO and co-founder; Trisha McDonell, Director of Global Brand Marketing at NI (formerly National Instruments); and Ed Coats, VP of Benefits and Compensation at Texas Mutual Insurance.

Here are four major takeaways from the panel’s discussion for marketers, HR professionals, and business leaders looking to lead their companies into a more formal approach to an employer branding program.

1. Employer Branding is a Cross-Functional Partnership

First and foremost – an employer branding strategy won’t be successful without collaboration and ownership across functions, including executive leadership, marketing and communications, and human resources (HR).

Leadership must be involved with setting a clear mission, vision, and values as the bedrock of the company. Then they need to back up those promises and walk the talk. These company values should guide marketing strategies from product offerings to high-level brand and inform the way you communicate with priority audiences. These values should also align to your employer brand and the type of culture you want to have as a company. And with HR’s goal to bring in new hires and retain talent, they’re directly engaging employees and candidates with the company’s employer brand, on platforms like Indeed and Glassdoor, in the interview process, throughout onboarding, and during an employee’s entire tenure at a company.

2. Start with Data, Put Pen to Paper, Then Close the Feedback Loop

For those who want to start building a stronger employer brand but aren’t sure where to start: Data is power. Begin with a research phase to understand where you’re starting from and establish a baseline. Consider focus groups, surveys, or 1:1 conversations to learn where people are, what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling, and what they’re looking for. You’ll receive both positive and negative feedback – don’t focus only on the positive. Constructive criticism from employees offers the most growth potential.

When you’ve gathered input, analyzed it, and discussed it with that cross-functional employer branding group of executive leadership, marketing, and HR, move on to the brand building phase. Put everything down in writing – your mission, values, company philosophies, what it means to work at your company, an employee value proposition, or the promise your company is making to employees. Write down the proof points that back up that value proposition, and what differentiates your company as an employer. Get all of this down in writing so you can get everyone aligned on it and using it to communicate the value of working at your company.

Then, return to your research phase participants and get feedback on the brand elements you’ve built. Does the employee value proposition resonate with them? Does it feel too aspirational and not based in reality? This step will help get employees on board with solidifying and advocating for your company’s employer brand.

3. Communicate Internally and Externally with Long-Time Employees, New Hires, and Candidates

When it comes to sharing and promoting an employer brand, treat employees and candidates like any other priority audience to whom you communicate strategically.

For internal communications, use all the channels at your disposal – intranet, newsletters, email, video, live broadcasts and discussions, town halls, staff meetings, and employee brand ambassadors. And remember, anything internal is external. Approach internal communications under the assumption that it could be shared externally.

Consider both new hires and long-time employees. In the same way you’d onboard new employees, re-engage, or even re-onboard employees who have been with the company for years. Remind them of the company mission, the value of working there, and even share the training and “welcome” perks that come along with joining a new company.

When communicating externally for talent acquisition, remember candidates are researching extensively before they apply – and not only on the company website. They’re looking at Glassdoor, LinkedIn, executives’ social media channels, news articles, and more.

4. Candidates Are Looking Beyond the Job Description

Those research habits underscore how today’s job seekers are not solely focused on what a role entails. A recent Talentegy study found that nearly half of candidates spend at least 1-2 hours researching a company before applying for a job there. In an incredibly competitive job market, employers should promote and back up their value holistically, including factors such as:

  • Company culture, especially as it relates to management and leadership
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Organizational and career growth paths
  • Competitive compensation and benefits
  • Work flexibility
  • Community involvement and volunteering
  • Diversity, equity, and inclusion commitment and efforts
  • Stance on social issues, backed up by tangible actions

Thank you to Starr, Trisha, and Ed for sharing their expertise and first-hand experiences with building and maintaining employer brands for companies large and small. Like many other HR and marketing initiatives, the process is ongoing and evolving. The most important step is to get started, making a long-term commitment to strengthen employer value and engagement with current and future employees.