Well, why? Mark MacWhite & Marc Iannacone consider the value proposition compared to alternative ‘make-do’ strategies.

‘Organisation A’ (let’s call them Org A) needs work to be done to either create, build, change or refine an existing employer brand. Org A considers the following alternate pathways:

  1. Use a standard marketing agency; stretching the consumer/external brand research and material to ‘cover-off’ perceived internal needs as discovered
  2. Use their incumbent design agency to build template style, master brand derivative work that you populate with different content for employment brand purposes
  3. Develop the employer brand completely from within. No external assistance, repurposing existing material with different messages

The above solutions sound appealing and have merits, at least on the surface. The project manager at Org A may be budget compromised or lack resources; the employer brand might not be considered a priority by Org A leadership; and it is simply less work to stick with a brand template approach. Sometimes pathways like this are thrust upon you.

Unfortunately, I’d say 80% of eBrands toughest projects (and some of our most intellectually rewarding truth be told) have arisen through helping clients who have previously made these types of choices and need to recover. Here are some of the potential caveats of those pathways:

Being serious and showing commitment requires more than a cosmetic approach. Populating a master brand template with stock shots of someone enjoying work life balance with kids in the park takes you into the same morass where 80% of other businesses live. This solution does not testify to the company/employee relationship and what it means. The evidence of a lack of commitment creates all sorts of symptoms, the most common being the loss of any message effectiveness due to a lack of resonance.

Employer brand projects require specialised skill sets. When done properly, the research – insight generation – engagement and project development patterns demanded by a successful project need deep organisational interaction. The navigation of internal stakeholder networks demands a sensitivity that’s not native to the ‘brief, and respond to brief’ dogma of a normal marketing agency.

The value of external perspective. Group thinking and unchallenged consensus can be the employer brand’s worst enemies. It can be hard to learn at the end of the process that the most cynical of all brand stakeholders is your fellow unengaged employee. This places demands on relationship management and insight capture skills that the majority of marketing agencies cannot deal with. A skilled employer brand agency will relish facing the contrary insights.

The project ownership structure is different. Our fundamental approach is that the employer brand is essentially the employees’ version of the truth. It creates a great platform for employee participation in the project – so the agency must have a collaborative and knowledge sharing mind-set that many design firms are simply not exposed too.

The large gap between traditional brand design knowledge, and HR and organisational psychology. At a base level, knowledge of language and the environment and how it relates to project outcomes. At an advanced level, knowing how internal values relate to behaviours, and how employment brand outcomes relate to human resource metrics, is something that ‘the creatives that know photoshop’ won’t have much time to understand.

Employment brands, like any brands, do not do well with short-term fixes. Sincerity, Transparency and Clarity are not things that you can gamble with; and patchwork solutions that touch on your ‘reason for being’ do nothing but devalue emotional capital investment.

Employment branding is a distinct discipline that requires its own craftsmen and women and it deserves real respect. If the employment brand & the employer/employee relationship is not a core organisational priority – that in itself speaks of issues that ‘Org A’ will have to face now and in the future.

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