The problem with employer branding companies in Australia is... (Choose the right EB partner or don’t bother)
My close friends will tell you that I love a bit of self-deprecation. Hey, I’m a middle aged Englishman; it’s how we get attention. But this article, I’m pleased to say, isn’t that. It’s actually the opposite.
I’m really good at what I do.
There. I’ve said it.
I’m terrible at many other things (another fact that my friends will gleefully confirm) but employer branding is my thing. I love it. I obsess and lose sleep over it. Doing it well makes me happy. And most importantly, the more I learn and the more I achieve, the more I realise I still need to learn.
Which is why I get so fed up with the fakers. I mean really fed up.
My Mum always told me that a problem shared is a problem halved, so here are two whinges, followed by five tips for choosing the right partner.
Whinge 1: Employer branding is a specialist discipline, not a hobby or a handy new revenue stream
Nothing grinds my gears more than the marketing agencies pretending they understand talent acquisition and engagement. Except, perhaps, the recruitment agencies pretending they understand talent marketing. And while I’m sure there are exceptions, I’ve rarely seen impactful EB work come from people who, when you lift the lid, don’t specialise. Too often, it either falls flat, has style but no substance or fails to convert to results.
Whinge 2: Forget the gloss, the hype and the mood boards. Inspire us with something real.
Again, there are some great agencies out there. Then there’s the rest. And the rest survives and thrives by making clients feel that the outcome is good. 17 years of experience has taught me that:
- Slick playback presentations and fancy ‘reveals’ aren’t needed for quality EVPs. But they’re a great way to hide sub-standard work.
- Beautifully-bound strategy docs with 632 pages and three appendices are too heavy to lift out of your drawer, which is perhaps why they’ll stay there, gathering dust.
- Glossy videos of perfect people and gimmicky concepts have nothing - NOTHING - to do with employer branding. Prospective applicants want to know what it’s really like to work for you. Beautiful video execution can be powerful. The ability to capture and tell a real story in a simple, authentic way is far more important.
Ok, rant over. Here are some positive tips on how to choose an employer branding partner and get the best out of them:
1. Get clarity on who will actually do the work
Get guarantees on who you’ll get. Not who will ‘direct’ or ‘oversee’. Who will actually ‘do’. What experience do they have? What’s their background? Then meet them personally and check they get it.
2. Select a partner based on what work they’ve done (the individuals, not just the agency) and the (relevant) results they’ve achieved
Top agencies sell well; it’s part of the game. Keep it real by exploring the EB work that your prospective partner team has actually done. And when you ask about results and impact, make sure it’s relevant to your context. A highly successful ad campaign which cost $200,000 to push might not be all that powerful if you have a tiny budget.
3. The best indicator? Meaningful recommendations from other clients
We directly encourage potential clients to talk to those we already have. Frankly, they sell us better than we ever could. And why on earth would you just believe what we say?
4. Don’t be ushered towards the organisation’s ‘go to’ agency
Yes, I’m biased - I can live with that if you can - but does your current marketing agency get employer branding? What other quality work have they done in this space? Will they bring the perspective and motivation for this project? And will you be able to control the process and the outcome? The answer is often, ‘probably not’.
5. Set ROI goals with your partner and hold them to those goals
Most EB activity can be measured. So even if it’s not a campaign, you and your partner should be setting goals for the impact you want to have. Agree the metrics, track them and review them. Your partner should own ROI alongside you. If they don’t or can’t, choose someone else.