Build a Real Employer Brand, Charlie Brown Style

Your mind might be on buying holiday gifts, but your to do list says "build a better employer brand." With unemployment in the U.S. staying steady at 5%, the issue isn't just finding talent, it's finding talent that fits with your culture and organization.

It's hard to imagine that the always-losing Charlie Brown would be able to help, but the story of the Peanuts Christmas special has a few hidden lessons that may get you thinking.

In 1965, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz, producer Lee Mendelson and animator Bill Melendez set out to create a risky holiday special. Sponsored by Coca-Cola, just a few days before the air date, they screened the special to a group of all-male Coca-Cola and advertising executives. They were less than pleased--they didn't really like it. As the only sponsor, Schulz and team were nervous to lose Coca-Cola and the TV potential for the Peanuts gang.

So Mendelson asked them to reconsider, and return to screen it again with their wives, girlfriends and children. This time, the new screening audience sang a different tune. The loved it. When the special actually aired on network TV, over 45% of the entire viewing audience tuned in--that was almost 15 million people at the team. 

Why were the execs so wrong about their opinion? Frankly, the special wasn't aimed at a bunch of old men.  Fifty years later this special still airs twice a holiday season. Talk about impact.

Want your employer brand to have that impact? Listen to Charlie. He can't kick a football but he sure knows how to win the hearts and minds of kids. Here's how:

1) Define your target audience: you can't measure whether your brand and marketing will be successful unless you have a clear definition of who your audience is. Define who it needs to resonate to. In the Peanuts' case it was moms and kids.

2) Create a market research strategy: Instead of putting your brand and marketing recommendations in front of executives, show them to your target audience, get feedback and share that with executives. Let the data and feedback from the buyer/target make your case for you instead of sitting around debating website colors and brandlines with a bunch of executives.

3) Go for hearts and minds: your engagement survey and employee satisfaction ratings tell you nothing about how your employees really feel. They give you a good baseline, but you need to talk to employees to get to the root of how they really feel. Conduct unbiased research real-time and add qualitative data gathering to your massive trough of quantitative statistics.

Your 2016 resolution? Don't be the Charlie Brown-iest and despair over building your brand. Market research may make all the difference. 

Susan LaMotte is the founder and CEO of exaqueo, a workforce consultancy that helps companies build cultures, employer brands and talent strategies. Contact exaqueo to learn how to better compete for talent by building honest, authentic employer brands and powerful talent attraction and retention programs.

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