10 Common Mistakes to Avoid in Employer Branding

By Richard Mosley

Even when you’re doing everything right, employer branding involves a considerable amount of trial and error. After all, you’re dealing with people and with a host of factors that are subject to change — economic conditions, what employees value, how people conduct their job searches, and so on. However, you can lessen the amount of trial and error by avoiding the most common and serious mistakes.

Treating employer branding as a project

Companies often approach employer branding as a project — a single marketing push to boost the reach and reputation of the company as a great place to work. Unfortunately, as with any brand, developing a strong employer brand reputation requires consistent, long-term effort.

Take the same business-critical, long-term approach to building your employer brand as successful companies devote to building their customer brand. Monitor the long-term effects of your activities on your external employer brand reputation and internal brand engagement advocacy. Review and refresh on a regular basis to ensure you’re continually improving and building in the right direction.

Don’t be fooled into thinking that your work is over just because your brand has demonstrated positive momentum. With so many companies competing for people’s attention, as soon as you stop pumping energy and effort into your employer brand, you can lose relevance and interest very quickly.

Failing to focus on your employer brand

Complex organizations tend to spread rather than concentrate resources in order to placate many different stakeholders. They pursue multiple objectives that are unconnected with one another, or worse, that conflict with one another. As a result, the organization’s focus on employer branding becomes diluted, diminishing the impact of the company’s investment in the employer brand.

To avoid this common mistake, stress the importance of the system (strategy) over individual components (branding objectives or activities). Taking a systematic approach to employer branding ensures that all components work together and reinforce one another to maximize impact.

Focus is a product of strategy and leadership. Leadership is required to maintain a focus on strategy and ensure management is in place to coordinate efforts and evaluate outcomes.

Promising the sun, the moon, and the stars from your employer branding strategy

An ambitious plan to attract, engage, and retain talented individuals is admirable, but an overly ambitious plan will be counterproductive. If you promise employees the sun, the moon, and the stars and deliver only the sun and the moon, they won’t applaud your ambitions or even your efforts. Instead, they’ll feel cheated and disappointed. You’re more likely to lose brand advocates than gain them.

To avoid the common mistake of overpromising and underdelivering, have a plan in place to ensure you achieve and maintain a consistently high standard of delivery, as well as a few signature experiences to provide additional sizzle and spark.

Playing it too safe with your employer brand: Corporate bland or industry generic

After all the work is done, if you’re not careful, your employer brand can end up looking and sounding like everyone else’s. If you want your brand to stand out from the crowd, it’s important to understand how and why this happens and the steps you need to take to avoid corporate bland.

When refining your EVP, you typically end up with a collection of statements that outline the key qualities you want to highlight in your proposition. The initial purpose of this exercise is to define the right qualities, to focus and clarify rather than inspire. These descriptions may be perfectly agreeable, but very often these source materials become the final product and different companies end up using very similar descriptions.

After hammering out the key qualities you want to highlight in your EVP, you need to pump in some creativity. Step beyond the obvious and generic territories such as teamwork, empowerment, innovation, and development, and find a more unique and differentiating means to describe the place your company will occupy. This takes courage.

The logic of committees will always try to drag you back to words that everyone can agree to, but the words that everyone agrees to are the words every company tends to use. For this reason, it’s better to regard the final EVP definition as a creative exercise best suited to one or two people, with the final say of a decisive leader, than a team exercise requiring committee approval.

Getting obsessed with the tagline for your employer brand

A clever tagline provides a great focal point for deploying a consistent, overarching campaign message. If you’re trying to build brand awareness, focusing your efforts on a single advertising tagline, rather than taking a more varied approach to messaging, may initially deliver greater impact and help you stand out from your competitors. However, if you take this too far, it can backfire.

After you’ve won people’s attention, they need richer, more varied content to hold their interest and build engagement. If you just continue serving up the same message in the same way, initial interest will soon drift away.

Over-policing your local employer brand teams

A brand becomes a brand through the consistent and coherent application of brand elements, such as logos, colors, and core benefits, so consistency is a key to branding success. However, if you police brands too tightly, you inevitably squeeze the life out of them. Unless a brand adapts and flexes to the different environments in which it needs to operate, it will generally lose relevance.

The strongest brands apply consistent design standards to maintain a coherent frame, but constantly adapt the content of the communication to stay fresh and relevant to different audiences. They also recognize that a consistent realization of the desired brand benefits among different target audiences generally requires the brand to be delivered in different ways.

Local teams are closer to their audience than you are. Establish branding guidelines, but give your local teams some license in tailoring the content and messaging for their purpose and audience.

Underestimating the resources required to create quality content for your employer brand

Creating the content required to build a strong employer brand requires a considerable and continual investment. To do it right, you need to post fresh, relevant content online at least twice a week on every website and social channel on which you decide to establish a presence. To ease the burden of content creation, here are a few suggestions:

  • Use a social media management tool, such as Hootsuite, to schedule and coordinate content development and delivery.
  • Distribute the responsibilities of content development throughout your organization. Every department should be involved in creating content.
  • Repurpose content your organization has already developed for other purposes that may be relevant to employees and prospects.
  • Hire third-party content developers or editors who are skilled in polishing raw content to make it suitable for publication.
  • Use tools like RSS feeds to help you find, aggregate, and share external content related to your industry or other fields of interest with your ideal candidates.
  • Follow and amplify employee social media posts.

Don’t overlook resources required for engagement. One or more people need to monitor your career-based social properties for comments and respond when appropriate.

Forgetting to connect communication with experience

Employer branding involves creating a great place to work and then ensuring all the right people find out it’s a great place to work. Unfortunately, too often, the two initiatives are self-contained, with HR taking the lead on the first and recruitment marketing in charge of the second. As a result, a disconnect often arises between the actual work experience and communication, which results in two problems:

  • The employer promise fails to align with the employee experience leading to disgruntled employees.
  • Employer brand messaging fails to capture and convey the essence of the actual work experience and the spirit of the company’s employees.

The solution is to maintain a connection with employees:

  • Obtain employee input, through surveys and focus groups, when developing the EVP, to ensure that employer promises align with the employment experience.
  • Monitor and evaluate the employee experience on a continual basis and make adjustments as necessary to ensure that the company is delivering on its promises.
  • Involve employees in content creation to give prospects a more genuine perception of what working at the company is really like.

Turning off your employer brand investment when the going gets tough

Branding of any kind is more like a marathon than a sprint, and you may not experience immediate benefits or be able to identify an immediate connection between branding activities and outcomes. If you see a huge increase in the number of applications or the quality of applicants immediately following a recruitment campaign, you can be relatively sure that your investment is paying dividends, but long-term benefits can be less obvious, and if you’re investing considerable resources, you may get discouraged.

Be persistent. Long-term success requires a long-term commitment.

Failing to learn from experience

A key to success in any endeavor is to find out what’s working and what’s not. Then do more of what’s working, find ways of doing it even better, and either fix what’s not working or stop doing it. The same is true for employer branding. Track outcomes. Use analytics, when possible, to track metrics for various recruitment marketing campaigns and activities. Keep track of the number of applications you receive for different types of jobs and the quality of applicants and new hires. Track and compare your cost-per-hire over time.

As you gather and analyze data over time, you begin to develop a clearer idea of what’s working, what’s not, and what could be working better. Use this information and insight to improve your employer branding strategy and the various activities you engage in to promote the brand.