Employer Branding

How Employee Authored Content Can Build Employer Brand

Companies love it when their employees claim it’s the best place to work. Real opinions from real people really do matter, especially in the world of recruitment. So how do you make sure your company is the most talked-about for the right reasons? Well this week I’ve been speaking to Phil Strazzulla, founder of NextWave Hire who says it’s all about capitalising on employee authored content and he explains why.

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What is employee authored content?

So in my opinion, employee authored content is everything from somebody having a conversation in a bar with their friend about working at the company, to somebody posting something on Glassdoor, writing a blog post on an employee blog, or Snapchat. It’s basically any sort of information offline or online that talks about working at the company.

I think about the definition of employer branding in two parts. One is, what do people think it’s like to work for your company? The second is, what is it actually like to work at your company? And I think that employee authored content has implications for both. If you think about it from that perspective obviously, your employee voices are informing the world about what’s it like to work with the company, and they’re doing that on Glassdoor. They’re doing that in one-on-one conversations. Maybe they’re doing it in more formalized sorts of places that you’re curating, like a blog or a Snapchat channel or what have you and so, it is imperative to sort of understand that trend and get on it to make the most of it.

This is the way that you’re going to be able to attract and convert talent. And there’s a couple of different reasons why. Employee voices, in my opinion, are the most important aspect of your employer branding. If you look at the Edelman Trust Surveys, there is some data that says that your employees are more trusted than marketing, recruiting, C-level, or the company itself. And so, we look at employee voices as trusted sources of information as outsiders.

Employees also have really in-depth content. I think it’s something like 68% of those in talent acquisition don’t truly understand all the roles that they’re recruiting for and it’s not surprising. If you’re recruiting for 10 different roles, are you really going to understand the ins and outs of all those different roles? Probably not. But guess who does? The employees. And so, if we can leverage their voices to get at the specific pieces of information that candidates care about and get that information in the right places then that’s huge in terms of attracting and converting talent. Talent acquisition is only so many people within an organization, but employees make up the rest.

They make up the entire organization. They are so many more voices. And if we can do employee authored content in a way that gets the right information in a scalable way, distributed in scalable way, that makes it fun and easy. That’s huge. That is the biggest marketing channel that any company could ever have. And going back to that second part of the employer branding definition in terms of, what’s in it for the company? There are a lot of insights that you can glean from what people are saying about the business. And many times, when companies start thinking about their EVP and that outside facing thing they start to say ‘let’s do some employee focus groups,’ and let’s transform that message into something that is easily digestible etc. A bit like a marketing type of message, which I have opinions on but I won’t get into them now. But, essentially the outputs of those focus groups are the outputs of your Glassdoor views or the non-anonymous content that’s going on all over the place. That informs the second part of that definition which is, what’s it actually like to work at your company? And therefore, it’s super important because we always want to create an awesome place to work for the right person. That kind of gets our goals accomplished as a business.

What kind of employee authored content is the best?

My philosophy is that, a lot of times, what comes out of the kind of polished production quality, what’s it like to work in a company should actually be more of the raw information. I think that the reason that people go to Glassdoor, despite understanding that some of the content is quite biased, is because it is that raw unfiltered information that you can sort of interpret as a person and understand better what it’s like to work at the company.

I think that in many cases, companies will be well-served to do something similar on their own websites. We’ve actually just started this new experiment, which is proven to be really successful, where we essentially host chats. For example, one of our employees will talk about a particular project that they worked on. So maybe an engineer talking about how they just use Python to do some web scraping. Or just generally what’s it like to be an engineer, account executive, whatever, at our company. And it’s a pretty raw chat which is not filtered and there’s not a lot of moderation. The answers aren’t perfect, but I think that, that sort of transparency really resonates with people. And that’s the sort of thing that helps us to attract and convert talent.

What is your step by step guide to getting your employees to be the voices to build the brand?

  1. Get buy-in from the C-level. We have a pretty robust onboarding process with our customers to make sure they’re successful. So, for example, we have just signed this customer which is a 400-person company, not huge. And within the first hour they had 100 pieces of employee content which is just crazy, literally within one hour. That onboarding process is something to the extent of, let’s get buy-in and hopefully buy-in from the C-level where it’s like, “Hey, culture is another weapon in our war for talent. We can use this to build our brand, to get the right people in, and really share what it’s really like to work at our company.” And getting that buy-in then translates at the high level to the employee level where the message might change a bit to really sharpen ‘what’s the business case? Why are we doing this? Why do employees have to do this? Why am I taking time out of my day to do this?’ Well, it’s because you’re special. It’s because you know what you do better than anybody else. Because we want more awesome people like you. We’re going to make you feel good about this thing. So it’s kind of like aligning that incentive.
  2. Make it super easy. I’ve seen a lot of companies with employee blogs that die over time because they’re asking employees, can you write 500 to 700 words about what you do within the company? And people are just like, “Oh, gosh. What do I write? How do I structure it? etc..” Most people aren’t great content creators but if you give them questions that they’ve probably already been asked when they’re interviewing somebody or that conversation at the bar with their friend and you allow them to answer them in really easy ways, like, on their phones or with quick videos or with pictures, that means that the barrier to create that content goes way, way down. And somebody in 10 minutes can answer five different questions in a really in-depth way and share information that is not necessarily going to get out there about most companies. So that’s sort of like the start of the playbook.
  3. Consider where we want to distribute this. We know that, from the research The Talent Board has done, and other organizations, your career page is basically the most important place to share your EVP, to share what’s it like to work at the company. And so, for us, the number one place that we put content is on the career site. And that could mean rebuilding the site, that could mean creating a culture site. It could just mean enhancing existing pages. But it really has to be there so that we can get it in front of the right audience. And then, of course, your other kind of places that you’re trying to build awareness could be LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or maybe you’re paying for a Glassdoor profile. Basically, all the different places where candidates are going to interact with this, and kind of mapping it to the candidate journey for your individual roles in your company.

Who decides which employee authored content gets shared, whether it’s good or bad?

I think we all live in the age of Glassdoor, and there is a visceral reaction for many people in talent acquisition when you mention the name Glassdoor. Within our platform you can approve the content before it goes live, and in fact, you have to approve it before it goes live. I think the stat is 98.5% of content is approved. And usually if it’s not it’s maybe because somebody rambled on a bit in a video, or maybe just wrote something that was very grammatically incorrect and you say ‘this doesn’t really make any sense.’ Very, very rarely do you find employees that are looking to rant and rave about their boss in that sort of format. I think that Glassdoor is almost designed in some ways to collect that sort of information, which in many ways is helpful for candidates to understand that side of the business as well. But in my experience, I’ve found very few times when this has backfired. A great example of this and if you want to know which companies are doing this well? One is Cisco. Cisco has a really great Snapchat channel. They get a ridiculous amount of views. I forget the exact numbers but it’s massive, and this is a fairly new initiative. And my understanding is that when they first started doing this they were very, very selective about who they would let take over the Snapchat channel for the day. And that’s the way that program works, is each day somebody gets to be the person who controls the Cisco Snapchat. And they’ve never really had a problem. And at first, it was like, “Oh, gosh. What if somebody does something really inappropriate? Well, I guess some Snapchats will go away really quickly. So we’re not taking that big of a risk.” But they’ve just built this audience and seen that it sounds like a huge ROI, especially considering that Snapchat is free, from doing this and they haven’t had a problem with somebody getting on there and saying something inappropriate.

What company is doing this well?

I think that the case study that I love, honestly, is the US military. And this was from a couple of years ago. It was at the height of the Iraq, Afghanistan wars. Recruitment was down, people weren’t signing up anymore. That initial burst of patriotism after 9/11 kind of went away, And it was like, how do we get more people to become soldiers? And this guy David Lee, he basically put out a call and he said, “Hey, I want you to submit stories from the front.” And they couldn’t send cameras to Iraq, It was too dangerous and it was too expensive. So they basically had people take videos on their phones and submit little letters. And I think they got over a thousand stories. And I don’t know the exact number, but their recruitment numbers went through the roof because people were going to this website. And there was just that personal humanizing connection with what was going on over there. Why it was important? What it’s like to do this job? And they were able to turn that deluge of stories into more and more applicants.

And I think that if the US military can do this, one of the most bureaucratic organizations in the world, and they can do this in a way that doesn’t violate security. I think they never changed a single story that was submitted, which is crazy. People were just submitting these on a form. They never had to change anything. There was no sort of security issues even though the war was going on. And if they can turn that into a positive ROI, in a time where it wasn’t that attractive to go and join the military, that just speaks volumes about the power of these individual personalized stories.

Follow Phil on Twitter @PhilStrazzulla and be sure to subscribe to the Employer Branding Podcast.