Building a brand inside and out: the importance of a human resources content marketing strategy

HR has always been a specialized communications department. In challenging moments, HR professionals handle timely and sensitive subject matter, directed toward a receptive or at times unengaged audience. While knowing your audience and specific context matters, the overall message can ripple through an organization (and beyond), shaping perceptions in lasting ways.

In this new era, what is HR content?

HR departments deal with more than just internal communications. In today’s climate, HR needs to consider employer awareness both on social channels and the digital web. Learning how to leverage these platforms can influence internal matters as well as external initiatives like recruitment. The public’s perception of the company is crucial and affect how current and prospective employees feel about an employer.

To quote the father of advertising, Claude Hopkins:

“Individuals may come and go, but they leave their records and ideas behind them. These become a part of the organization’s equipment, and a guide to all who follow. Thus, in the course of decades, such agencies become storehouses of advertising experiences, proved principles, and methods.” 

While Hopkins was talking about advertising agencies, this isn’t dissimilar from the reality that HR professionals face today. With the dawn of social and the rise of the digital mobile web, the public and employees have an impact on an employer’s brand. Online words can live on for a long time.

Engaging and communicating with employees is no longer about emails or meetings; it’s about having strong content and social strategies, event hashtags, and all. And so, while the practice of content marketing (methods, tactics, strategies, etc.) is used for lead generation and sales, it can also become a strategic tool for internal communication and recruitment. In other words, content marketing can help grow employee awareness and build on the employer brand as a “great place to work,” in the efforts to attract top talent.

Not only does this affect change internally, but it does so externally by helping build the employer brand inside and out. As a result, HR professionals must harness the mechanisms of the social web and modern content marketing and lead the way content is created.

Employee experience and harnessing content marketing

Much like the customer experience is to a marketing team, we’ve entered an era where employee experience has become a central focus for HR. Comparable to a customer journey, there are similar high-level phases for an employee: recruitment, engagement, retention, etc.

Much like a marketing team, human resources teams have to consider each of these phases when communicating to current and prospective employees.

The lines are blurring between HR and marketing […] The new objective is to create one employer brand which provides a seamless experience for current employees, potential employees, and consumers.

Jeanne Meister, Forbes, 2016

A great example of a brand that has harnessed content marketing to appeal to prospective employees while also building employer awareness is General Electric (GE). As an older company associated with industrial machinery, GE was finding it challenging to recruit engineers. GE then designed an ad campaign that highlighted the diverse work engineers do while speaking to the value of the GE brand for future employees.

After airing the campaign, Tony Denhart, University Relations Leader at GE Corporate, and Andy Goldberg, GE’s Chief Creative Officer, revealed the visits to GE’s online recruitment site increased 66 percent month over month. Creating a well-thought-out piece of advertising content not only generated more quantity of recruits, it improved the quality while helping GE’s brand back into the limelight.

By identifying shared goals related to brand awareness and engagement, both marketing and HR can provide value to each other. Heineken’s latest campaign embodies this sentiment. To improve its employer marketing, Heineken focused on employees’ stories as a way to create a sense of pride internally, and to raise awareness and engagement among prospective hires.

At a time where the tech talent wars have changed the recruitment landscape, employee experience and advocacy programs become a compelling way to attract top talent. While this climate pushes new strategies onto brands, keeping to that business’s core values and vision remains paramount. The future seems to be embracing this approach. According to Gartner, “by 2022, 75 percent of organizations will include employee experience improvement as a performance objective for HR and IT groups”.

Employee advocacy programs and the nature of social media

From job postings to product and employer updates, etc., social media is a tool that benefits HR departments. It’s intimate, and at times, instant nature allows prospective employees a peek behind the scenes—Zendesk’s Instagram is the embodiment of these sentiments. Their feed provides a glimpse into the life of a Zendesk employee serving not only as a channel that grows employer awareness, but it also helps future employees connect with current employees.

There’s something powerful about learning about an employer from the people that work there. People don’t always follow brands on LinkedIn; they follow the people who work there. So, it makes sense that the glowing review generated by current employees has more weight than an employer brand promoting itself.

Social media can affect employee and employer relations, creating employer awareness, and empowering employees to share their experiences. However, that shouldn’t stop brands from doing it themselves, especially after they’ve curated an active audience. After their “What’s the matter with Owen?” campaign, GE leveraged Facebook Live by running a series called Drone Week. The series had a drone visit a GE factory, giving people a bird’s eye view everyday for  five days streaming the activity live on Facebook.

This type of awareness requires building up an audience on social platforms by creating content that truly resonates. In the end, “so much of selling candidates on a position is about creating an emotional connection, and a templated message just isn’t going to do that.”

How Quietly sees the role of human resources and content

At Quietly, we see HR as a mini content marketing department. We’ve entered a world where transparency is vital. If brands and companies are now glass boxes (instead of black boxes), then the good ones are also magnifying glasses and prisms. In other words, the output of content generated by these companies and brands allows people to simultaneously look in, solving for transparency. And, if the content resonates, it’s shared, allowing the employer brand to grow its awareness.

A great example of this is Bench’s Culture Guide. They’ve done a fantastic job of illustrating their story, values, and vision of the future. This guide acts as a manifesto, attracting the attention of prospective employee and curious visitors alike.

Content marketing strategies implemented by HR departments don’t just influence internal matters they even go beyond serving as a brand awareness and recruitment tool. A well-implemented HR content marketing strategy is a unique brand-building tool, inside and out.

Content strategy as a sound investment

Engaged employees are the lifeblood of every successful business. Employee advocacy and employee experience programs should, therefore, be just as crucial as customer engagement and retention. As modern brands, we should be more sophisticated about how we engage with prospective and current employees—the bottom line is as dependent on their happiness as much as the consumers.

Content as a force multiplier 

Content is playing an increasingly important role outside of marketing and communications. We see the practice of content marketing act as a force multiplier between teams, departments, and channels, and this is especially true when it comes to HR—and perhaps we’re not alone?

As Benjamin Clark, Heineken’s Head of Global Talent Acquisition explains:

“Good employer branding is about good collaboration with other functions, the marketing function in particular. We can learn a lot from each other: us on the mechanics and concept-build, and our marketing colleagues about the challenges of hiring and managing talent.” 

In other words, a piece of content can have a significant effect, more than was intended when it was initially conceived.

If you’re not thinking about this, why not?

Image: Vince Fleming/Unsplash

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