Why great storytelling will super-charge your employer brand.
Let’s face it. Many employer brands look and feel pretty much the same. And one the one hand, that’s understandable as every employer is essentially selling the same product – a job and a career within their organisation. There’s no hugely differentiating brand promise or product breakthrough on offer. There’s no next generation technology that’s going to revolutionise your life, make you look 10 years younger and increase your sex appeal ten-fold.
No. What’s on offer is a good job and a good career with a good employer. And that in itself is not going to set pulses racing or leave us in an adrenaline-fuelled fever. What’s more, we want our brand to be authentic, so we can’t dress our career website to reflect that the world of work is a technicolor 24 hour party. It needs to reflect a certain amount of corporate sobriety that perhaps just isn’t that sexy.
So, yes, maybe it’s understandable that employer brands sometimes look and feel similarly corporate.
But on the other hand, it isn’t understandable – because every employer is completely different. I’ve worked with dozens of clients over the years and it’s always struck me that no two organisations are ever the same. They’re like families, with their own unique, wonderful and peculiar personalities and cultures. So why do we end up portraying them as homogenised environments that are more or less identical to experience as an employee?
I have a theory. I think it’s because employer brands are largely specified and developed by HR and Resourcing folk. Don’t get me wrong, they are usually talented and excellent people. But their DNA is different to that of more naturally-bred Brand Marketeers. Marketeers will always be looking to shine a light on what makes their brand unique and different to the rest. But HR and Resourcing is generally a discipline built on structure, conformity and uniformity – focused on making sure policies and rules are in place to be followed. So the leaning is often towards “safety-first”. When it comes to employer brand development, we tend to be more comfortable replicating what we’ve seen elsewhere rather than differentiating.
Another tendency we tend to have in Resourcing is the creation of lists. We tend to think that by listing out our remuneration and corporate benefits, we will automatically win the hearts and minds of our candidates. The problem is that most company benefits are the same and one offer therefore looks much the same as another. Moreover, there will always be someone paying more than you.
In my eyes, the first consideration for any employer brand project needs to be “is this genuine and authentic in its portrayal of our workplace?” But the second should be “is it unique and does it differentiate from the competition?” That’s what branding is all about – creating a unique proposition that cuts through the noise and strikes an emotional connection.
So, how do we create memorable and differentiated employer brands when our instincts are telling us that “being like everyone else is safe” and “list out the benefits and they will come”?
Well, one way to bring your employer brand to life is through great storytelling. That’s because we all love a good story. From cave paintings to the bible to social media “Your story” feeds, we all love to engage with a story that takes us on an emotional journey. We’re in an age where everything seems to have a narrative.
And there’s a good reason for that. It’s been proven that storytelling has a profound impact on the brain, causing it to release more dopamine and engaging parts of the brain that are not activated by mere facts and instructions. And the release of dopamine gives a small boost of excitement – not unlike the effect your phone has on you when it pings to notify you of activity.
Like Pavlov’s dogs, we are hard-wired to react to a good story. As a result, we are far more likely to remember the content it’s trying to impart and far more likely to feel a positive emotional connection. So in employer brand terms, having a strong narrative theme means that the reader will more likely feel a positive reaction towards your offer than your “same as all the others” competitors. In short, you need to tell a good story.
So, my advice is to think carefully about your narrative. Think about how your business came to be where it is. Think about what the vision for the future is. Think about the individual personalities who knit together to create alchemic magic. Think about the stories that make your people unique and amazing. Think about how you are going to connect emotionally with your candidates and employees. Then tell these stories with clarity, imagination and consistency using your career site, social media feeds and internal communication platforms.
Creating that emotional connection will help you to capture the attention of the talent that you need to give you a competitive edge.