The term “branding” is commonly used when speaking about an organization’s marketing strategy, but the value of a brand as it relates to human resources should not be overlooked. Our Human Capital Management (HCM) expert and Scott Kolbe, a creative director with The Agency at Sikich Marketing & Communications, discussed the value of branding and how organizations benefit from a well-defined and carefully managed brand.
Who Owns a Company’s Brand?
HCM Expert: Great question. Ownership lies from the top down. Every single employee needs to own, understand, and embrace the brand, in order to have a cohesive message, mission, and vision. Success occurs when the brand is known and imbedded throughout the organization and to the clients, customers, and constituents that they serve via the business.
Scott Kolbe (SK): I agree, everyone has a part in the brand. The brand is an activity, it’s not a thing. It’s how we interact with the customers on a daily basis, and every single interaction can have a great affect on a brand and the way a company is perceived.
You Both Work With Companies to Help Them Grow. How Do You Talk About Branding in the Recruitment Process, and In the Sales and Marketing Processes?
HCM: Focusing from the recruitment perspective, it’s no secret that we are engaging in the war on talent. It’s most definitely an employee’s market currently, and you need to have things that differentiate you from your competitor. The days of offering solid compensation and good benefits are now the norm in every organization. The differentiators are those intangible things: What is your brand? How does the employee buy into your mission, vision, and values – how do they correlate? That can be a huge differentiator – from the start of your recruitment campaign, throughout the recruitment process, through the on-boarding process.
SK: I agree, like Joy said, just offering solid benefits and some hours flexibility isn’t going to set you apart from your competition. When you are trying to attract the best talent out there, it is the brand, the culture – the mindset of the organization. How does everyone work together for that common goal? Helping organizations brand themselves, as the employer of choice, is really no different than helping them become the distributor, or service provider of choice. Different target market – prospective employees vs. prospective customers, but brand is important to both groups.
How Have You Used an Organization’s Brand to Help Them Overcome a Talent Shortage?
HCM: From my perspective, the branding of your recruitment efforts is just as critical as the branding of the product or service you deliver. The days of “post and pray, “where you post a position and pray that the right candidates respond, no longer exist. Candidates are driven to company websites and collateral material. The impact and messaging of these can be the differentiators that give them a genuine interest in your open position, or drive them to explore the competition.
SK: When we work with organizations to create their messaging: defining who they are, who they serve, their product or service features and benefits, and why customers should believe them – we can apply that well-crafted messaging throughout a website. And not just the “About Us” page, but the “Careers” section as well. Messages and visuals help candidates understand an organization’s identity, who they really are, their culture, their brand – what they stand for, not just what they sell.
What Advice Do You Give to Organizations Looking to Leverage Social Media to Further Enhance Their Brand?
HCM: Today, social media is an integral part of our lives. One of the biggest mistakes I see organizations make is smattering their brand around and diminishing the value of it. The social media touch point may be a candidate’s first introduction to an organization, and first impressions count. Making sure that all social media posts are appropriate and relevant is critical. I recognize that most organizations do not have a dedicated social media expert. If that work is not being outsourced to a qualified provider, every company, regardless of size, needs to be strategic about how they are publicizing their brand on social media. The last thing you want is to diminish your brand in the eyes of your customers, employees, or recruits.
SK: I would expand on that. Consistency of the brand is key. Consistent application of a brand, in visuals and messaging is critical to build the desired reputation, and that is what a brand really is. That ties back to the point about brand being an activity. If you don’t have frequency of your social media activity, that’s going to weaken your brand. Social media demands consistency and frequency.
Any Best Practices You Want to Share On Branding?
HCM: From a recruiting standpoint, you need to know your target audience. Are you looking to hire a candidate with 1-3 years of experience, or one with 10-12 years experience? Those are different audiences. Make sure you are strategic in your messaging, and selecting the appropriate channels to reach them. Consistently the best way to attract candidates that “fit” your organization is leveraging current employees. They are your best brand ambassadors – who better to talk about your organization, your brand, your culture? Too often, employees are overlooked as brand advocates. Encourage employees to be active on social media to help fill your candidate pipeline with high quality recruits. Circling back to where we started, companies experience high return on investment in their recruiting process when their employees understand the brand and live a company’s values because they become 1:1 brand ambassadors.
SK: Hiring employees that match the culture of your organization makes the process of understanding a brand so much easier. Including branding in the internal messaging and involving employees from the onset makes the buy-in that much greater. Employees are much more likely to “police” the brand, take pride in that brand, and live it.
For more information about our branding services, please contact The Agency at Sikich. Our Human Capital Management department can also help with recruiting, retaining and compliance. For HR assistance or audits, please contact our Human Capital Management Services team.
ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Scott Kolbe is a creative director with The Agency at Sikich with more than 22 years of experience in graphic design and marketing. His responsibilities include client relations, marketing development strategy and brand development.