Is transparency the key to building an effective employer brand and positive company culture? And how can you use employee generated content to shape your brand and provide an honest representation of the organisation that people will trust?

I had a chat with Lisa Cervenka and Jason Seiden of Brand Amper to find out how to turn employee stories into brand equity.

Listen to this episode on iTunes, SoundCloud or keep reading for a summary of our chat. And here’s how to play chess inside Facebook Messenger and Stephen Fry’s farewell to Twitter, as mentioned at the start of the podcast.

About Brand Amper:

Lisa: Brand Amper is a branding platform, and Jason and I developed it to really help companies engage employees in telling stories and shaping the brand based on what is true to employees today. So it’s really an employee-centric approach, like no other solution or tool that we’ve heard of or found. And we make sure that employees kind of really know what’s in it for them.

Why companies need employee generated content:

Jason: So simply put, it’s because that’s where candidates and prospects go to look to discover what’s real. We’ve been trained to go beyond the company’s party line. Corporate websites are great, but sites like Glassdoor are becoming the go-to for prospective employees.

One of the things that Lisa will often go back to is the hard numbers that are actually starting to come up around just how real this move to employee generated content is. So what makes somebody buy, or, in this case, buy into an idea, is determined far more now based on what people in your network say than what experts say, right? People are 90% more likely to trust their network than a brand. The gap between trusting an employee like me versus a CEO is significant. That trend is here to stay and we’re just watching the numbers grow year over year.

Bold transparency:

Jason: So bold transparency is, goes back to this idea that you’re letting your employees state what’s true on your behalf. You’re creating alignment between the employee and the company, and so instead of having to sell something, you’re simply replacing your walls with windows and letting people see what actually exists. And the power there is, not only is it a far more efficient way to be because you’re not constantly selling, but the feedback loop is immediate, because people can react to what they see to be true instantaneously.

Lisa: I think we call it bold transparency, because I think a lot of companies claim to provide transparency. They want candidates to see what life is really like get a look at their culture, however, they want it done in a very specific, compliant way. And so the idea of the bold is really we need to make a little bit of an improvement on what we’re calling transparent.

The risks of not having employee generated stories:

Lisa: First of all, you might be marketing a brand to prospects that really do not exist or resonate with current employees, because they can’t relate to it, so it’s more aspirational. So, unless you’re gathering their stories to validate whether or not what you think is true, is true, that could be a big problem. And there’s nothing worse than advertising a place to work falsely and not have it meet expectations for new employees. And then also, what if your competitions are offering these transparent compelling looks into the company culture, and all the other things like hard benefits are basically equal? You might be missing out on a really big differentiator. Recently, I’ve read a lot of articles about how people would rather get paid less and work for a company with a really good reputation that they could be proud of. So more and more it’s becoming an absolute differentiator.

The challenges with current methods of creating and sharing stories:

Jason: The reality is most of the current tools and solutions have everything backward, right? And this is what we saw long before we ever developed our tool. This was something that frustrated us for years. A lot of the solutions out there require company leadership to assume three things. One, that they know who their employee advocates are. Two, that the employee at large will care enough about the company to engage, right? Meaning that leadership does not think that they need to show employees what’s in it for them. And then three, that leadership can predict which content channels are most important.

And none of those three assumptions are true. And, because of that, your premise is only going to be as good as the assumptions it’s built on. So when they go in and they put in a solution or they develop a process built on thinking they know who their advocates are, thinking that people are going to jump up and partake, and thinking that they can predict where they should be sharing content, it means they end up with all kinds of problems, all kinds of mismatched incentives. And anyway, they all kind of snowball from there.

How to work with employees to create and share original and branded content:

Jason: The reality is, every company’s a little different, but what we’ll tell you is, people are the same. So there are some commonalities that absolutely should exist across every program anywhere. As long as there’s a human being in the program, there are some similarities that should percolate up. So the key to Brand Amper’s success is we give the employee the company brand and we say, “Here, use this to make yourself look better.” And then ask directly if the employee wants to share content.

Lisa: I think companies need to let go of this notion of, “On brand,” when it comes to employer branding. That’s something we hear all the time with consumer branding, and now we’re dealing with people. So I think we’d argue you need consistency, for sure, but not compliance. People need room to be able to customise and expand on ideas about the brand.

The most important social and digital channels:

Lisa: Well, first of all, I have to give the caveat that it’s different for every company. It’s like that marketing 101, where are your prospects looking to engage, and where are your employees actually willing to? So you have to start with that and I think companies make huge mistakes in launching five channels at once.

Jason: We mentioned Glassdoor before, we’re actually seeing Glassdoor in particular become increasingly important. It is the leader in employee generated content. Interestingly, if you had asked the question two years ago, we would have said it would have been LinkedIn. Now Glassdoor’s coming up. In two years we’re not sure what it’ll be two years from now. So our recommendation is focus on the foundational stuff, keep the end in mind, and then be responsive to which channels the people you care most about are using.

What brands inspire you on social at the moment?

Lisa: Well, you know it’s my favourite thing to talk about by far. And I am a bit of a fan girl when it comes to some of this stuff, but I would say Salesforce definitely. Their whole dream job campaign, especially on Instagram, is amazing and bold. I love what Cisco is doing, how they kind of revamped everything and they have the #WeAreCisco hashtag on Twitter and other places, and really trying to focus from careers at Cisco to who are the people and kind of giving the brand back to their employees.

The future:

Jason: I think we’re already starting to see more collaboration. Interestingly, we’ve talked about Glassdoor, let’s leave them on the shortlist of things that are going to be important, but I think that peer-to-peer networking also opens up ideas. We’re seeing something called Open Source HR, which just was launched this year by a couple of practitioners in the employment branding space, in the talent acquisition space, and it’s gaining traction. So I definitely think we’re going to see more people looking to people both at the employee level and then also amongst the practitioners. And our belief is making sure that as an individual you can actually let people know who you are is going to be a critical part of that, because if we’re looking to one another for support it means we need to know how and when to opt into one another.

Lisa: Yeah, and I think another thing that’s going to be huge this year is tools that put the candidate in charge of the interviewing process and the experience with the company. We have a friend, Ray, who founded a company called Great Hires. They were featured at this year’s HR Tech, the awesome new startup as we once were. And it’s a mobile app that facilitates a lot of transparency and control for candidates. So they get to download it, they see who’s going to be interviewing them, they can upload presentations theirs or samples of their work. It’s all kinds of stuff to say, “All right, let’s just make this as straightforward as possible and let the candidate feel like they’re in charge.” So I think we’re going to see a lot more of that too.

Follow Lisa, Jason & Brand Amper on Twitter: @BrandNRD, @Seiden & @BrandAmper.

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About Jörgen Sundberg

Founder of Undercover Recruiter & CEO at Link Humans, a social and digital marketing agency.

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