Human Resources Today

Is Apple more than just the last iPhone you purchased? Is P&G more than the tube of Crest? Is Starbucks more than a cup of coffee? Is there a difference between product marketing and consumer brand?

Is there a difference between recruitment marketing and employer brand?

On the surface, it may seem like a simple question with a straightforward answer. As a talent acquisition professional with two decades of experience, I can tell you it’s not. There is much debate and confusion! Some experts advocate there’s no difference and use the terms interchangeably, while others like me, disagree. In fact, there’s still quite a bit of uncertainty between:

  1. Workplace Culture

  2. Employer Value Proposition (EVP)

  3. Employer Brand

  4. Recruitment Marketing

At exaqueo, we believe there is a difference between all four. They build from one another. They coexist. But they’re each unique in their own way. (Check out this primer from our CEO, Susan LaMotte, to easily understand the difference between culture, EVP, and employer brand.) For the sake of this post, let’s focus squarely on the employer brand and recruitment marketing.

What is an employer brand? Your employer brand is who you are and what you offer as an employer throughout the entire employment experience, internally to your employees and externally to candidates. Just like companies brand and market to attract and keep customers, you need to do the same with your employer brand. Your products, services, and employment experience are different than direct competitors and every other company out there. No two organizations are exactly alike -- when it comes to business or employment.

Employer brand is holistic. It transcends talent attraction all the way through to employee engagement and retention. At a high-level, to uncover and define your organization’s employer brand you have to understand the entirety of the employment experience. And the only way to do that is to understand what’s inside the hearts and minds of your employees:

  • Why do employees choose to work at your company?

  • Why do some candidates decline offers?

  • What makes employees stay?

  • Why do some employees think about leaving?

Employer branding is then how your organization communicates and markets its unique, authentic employment experience to attract and retain talent. It’s the actions you take to connect your employer brand to all stages and touchpoints of the candidate and employee lifecycle, including attraction, recruitment, interview, onboarding, career management, recognition, even departure and alumni networks.  It’s creating awareness of your organization as an employer. It’s managing your employer reputation. It’s influencing perceptions of what it’s like to work there. It’s staying true to the promise you make to your people. And delivering on what you promise.

What are some of the elements that build, manage, and drive an employer brand?

Employer Branding: Example Actions & Activities

  1. Audit all candidate and employee touch points and work to ensure they align and deliver on your brand message

  2. Develop a creative, visual identity that aligns to the brand and is authentic to your organization

  3. Craft key messages to anchor candidate and employee communications

  4. Produce videos about what it’s like to work at your company

  5. Build, manage, and write for your careers website

  6. Develop brand ambassador programs

  7. Respond to ratings and review sites

  8. Post employment experience social updates

  9. Recognize employees who thrive inside your company

  10. Host an employee photo shoot and build a library of real images

  11. Infuse the brand into executive, investor, and internal communications

  12. Source and share employee stories via employee newsletter or external blog

Employer brand includes all of the elements you use to brand, share, and promote the entirety of the employment experience.

exaqueo’s Holistic Employer Brand Lifecycle

© 2019 exaqueo; cannot be copied, shared, or otherwise repurposed without express written permission from exaqueo.

© 2019 exaqueo; cannot be copied, shared, or otherwise repurposed without express written permission from exaqueo.

Now that you see how employer brand is the entire employment experience, it’s easier to understand how recruitment marketing is a subset of the brand. (<--click to tweet this!) It’s the activation of the brand, laser-focused on talent attraction and recruitment with messages targeted to specific candidates, job seekers, and other influential audiences (i.e., people who may influence a candidate or job seeker to consider a specific job.)

Before you can market your company as a place to work, you have to know what to say, where to say it, and what goals you’re trying to achieve. For example, imagine you want to market the employment experience at a tech company to newly transitioning military personnel. Before you can market to that audience you need to know how to sell more than just the position. You need to know what motivates the audience to consider your organization for employment, why they’re looking, and what matters most to them.

Recruitment marketing means you take the employer brand for your organization and highlight the messages that best resonate with that audience. Then, you focus on activating those messages in where that audience spends time. Examples of recruitment marketing initiatives and tactics may include:

  1. Understand organizational hiring needs and goals, and talent supply and demand

  2. Write, post, and promote job postings

  3. Write candidate and ATS communications

  4. Produce job-specific videos

  5. Send outreach emails to candidates

  6. Post job and hiring-specific social updates

  7. Develop recruitment brochures and collateral

  8. Promote an employee referral program/contest  

  9. Build and source talent communities

  10. Launch programmatic, retargeting, and/or SMS recruitment campaigns

  11. Attend career fairs and host networking events

  12. Manage job board contracts, partnerships, and postings

So, is there a difference between employer branding and recruitment marketing? Isn’t your company more than just your open requisitions? Yes, and yes. Building an employer brand and brand strategy simply allows you to market and recruit more effectively! (<--click to tweet this!)

It’s time to think about employer branding and recruitment marketing like a consumer marketer and architect a strong employer brand strategy (positioning, pillars, creative, messaging) before going to market.

Strategy, then execution. Why? Because before you write a job posting, you need to holistically understand your organization as an employer. Before you attend a career fair, recruiters need to know how to communicate and represent your unique employment experience. Before you can post a social update to Facebook or LinkedIn, you have to know what to say and how to say it. The difference between employer brand and recruitment marketing matters. And understanding the difference will show in your strategy and results.


Shannon Smedstad (@shannonsmedstad) is an Engagement Director and Principal Employer Brand Strategist for exaqueo, an employer brand experience firm building employer brands and the talent strategies that drive them through research, consulting, and creative and digital execution. Contact exaqueo to learn more about our employer brand innovation, workforce research, and recruitment strategy offerings.

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