Your Employer Brand Playbook: 2017

When was the last time you looked at the new year and said: "I guess I'll just do more of the same?"  Never. With every new year, we have resolutions, promises and plans to do more, be better and try harder. Why should your employer brand be any different?

Since social recruiting and recruitment technology picked up steam in the mid-2000s, we've buried our employer brand heads in the sands of execution. Sure, technology has given us many new opportunities: from automated social content to mass brand promotion. But that's just marketing.

What are you planning to do differently in 2017?

For many employer brand leaders and practitioners, the answer is more of the same. You're wading through tech demo after tech demo. You're burrowing through social statistics in the hopes of getting a handle on your metrics. And you're planning for more content. Lots and lots of content.

Wait, I'm confused. Are you an employer brand professional? Or an employer marketing professional? There's a difference. Marketing is execution. Brand is strategy. And it's essential to know the difference if you're truly an employer brand professional. Here's a really good way to think about it:

"The brand is ultimately what determines if you will become a loyal customer or not. The marketing may convince you to buy a particular Toyota, and maybe it’s the first foreign car you ever owned, but it is the brand that will determine if you will only buy Toyotas for the rest of your life."

If you really want to get better and be a true employer brand leader, here's your mandate for 2017: focus on your brand instead of just your marketing. >Click to tweet this! 

With that in mind, here's a playbook with four key plays for 2017 if you really want to up your brand game.

1) Build a brand, not just an identity

Employer brand professionals often assume brand is simply a look and feel: a solid brand guide with defined colors, image styles, fonts and ad or creative layouts. That's just the identity. It's a key part of the brand but it's not the whole brand. A brand is built on multiple components: the foundation, the pillars, the position, the personality, the voice and tone, the brand promise and the brandline (if you choose one). If you're only working from a style or identity guide, you'll have consistent colors and fonts, and a great way to get "buyers" in the door or cause momentary popularity. But there's no consistent heart and soul that makes them loyal for life. 

Ask yourself: Do I know what our employer brand is? Can I recite our core pillars and how we position ourselves against our talent competitors? Can our recruiters and hiring managers recite it? 

2) Put a hold on technology until you have a brand

There is no shortage of employer brand tech products and new tools out there. You're probably already scheduling demos for 2017. What if you stopped—cold turkey—and focused on your brand instead? Technology is great for execution. But if you're putting all your energy into technology you're forgetting the strategy that should drive your selection in the first place.

 Ask yourself: Does every piece of technology I am paying for support my brand? Or, is it just another means to execute my marketing?

3) Ladder your marketing up to your brand

From the mannequin challenge to Snapchat filters, it's easy to get caught up in fun stunts to get attention and even virality. And there's no doubt these tactics can drive up likes and views. But if they're not aligned to your brand (and that means you know what your brand is; see #1), your gains will be short-term at best and won't affect your long-term talent goals or brand value. Have an actual content plan or calendar and a litmus test for those fun stunts to see if they actually support the brand pillars and messages you're trying to reinforce.

Ask yourself: Are my recruitment marketing activities just about executing on the coolest, hippest trends? Or do they actually support the brand pillars and associated core messages for my employer brand?

4) Measure your brand instead of your marketing

It's the rare marketer that doesn't have a dashboard of measures. And in employer brand that typically means a combination of talent metrics and marketing metrics: source of hire and retweets or career site visitors and social media engagement. Helpful? Sure. But they're marketing measures. Classic brand measures—awareness, consideration, preference, value and usage—are the key components to ensuring your employer brand is consistent and lasting.

Ask yourself: Am I willing to take a risk and do a study of just brand measures and brand measures alone? For example, what would happen if I measured the level of brand awareness with target job seekers, candidates and new hires? 

It's your choice—2017 can be more of the same, or you can take a risk and make a name for yourself and your function inside your organization. You're more than just a marketing machine. I know what you want to do ... now go do it!

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