(11 min read)

Content marketing is a buzzword that has surrounded the employer brand and talent attraction space for a few years now. Everyone’s talking about it, but few employers are doing it well, and even fewer are measuring its impact and return on investment when it comes to hiring talent.

What is Employer Brand Content Marketing?

We define it as “Information created for a specific audience that is valuable and supportive to their needs and interests, available at a time and in a format that is contextually relevant”.

Content is a powerful tool in the employer branding arsenal. It can help you reach passive talent groups by using content as the bait to hook in those who may not be considering a career move or a new employer yet. It helps you to establish a bond with your target audience. When you have a bond, you can start a relationship. When you have a relationship, you can build trust and when you have trust, the ‘sell’ (to apply for a job) becomes much more organic. 

For this reason, content is a core component of any candidate relationship marketing strategy. Ultimately, this will lead to optimising your conversion rates (another hot marketing buzzword), which for employers, usually means a better application to hire ratio.

The Content Layer Cake

When it comes to creating content, it can help to think about the following six layers to ensure you create meaningful employer brand content for your audience.

Layer 1: Audience. 

Who are you talking to and why?

Joe Pulizzi, founder of The Content Marketing Institute, once said; "If your content marketing is for everybody, it’s for nobody”.

Understanding your audience is the most critical element when it comes to creating content. So, how do you segment your target audiences for employer brand content marketing?

Here are some examples of audience segmentation, which can also be used for your candidate relationship management (CRM). 

  • By job specialism / subject matter expertise: think about not only creating content you’d normally find on a career website that relates to departments and job areas (such as engineering, marketing, sales, etc), but consider the role that the content those departments are already creating can play in building your employer brand. For example, thought leadership and project case studies can work well with certain audiences. Those in tech love to learn from what others are doing. Try tapping into the content that’s already being created at a function and corporate level to see how that can help with talent attraction.
  • By stage of career / experience level: for example, students (graduates, apprentices, interns, etc), entry level (non-student), mid-career / experienced, senior executives, career switchers and even those nearing the end of their career. 
  • By stage of candidate lifecycle: Is your audience brand aware? Do they know you hire people like them? If so, are you in their consideration set (would they work for you)? Are they actively job seeking? Are they willing to have a conversation about moving? Have they already applied? Were they successful or rejected? Could they get poached whilst awaiting a start date? Did they used to work for you and could they be persuaded to come back? These types of questions help you understand what mindset the candidate will be in to help with your content creation at each stage of the candidate lifecycle.  
  • By cultural fit: One of the most important things for candidates to consider when choosing an employer is understanding cultural fit. Think about creating content that communicates your culture as authentically as possible (and remember to show, not tell). But just because your culture might be one thing, does that mean you should hire based on your current culture? Think about your diversity and inclusion strategy. How can you create content that attracts, convinces and converts the audiences you want from the backgrounds you want to represent, to help shape your future culture?   
  • By location and / or language: How much you segment your audiences by location and language will depend very much on the size and scale of your organisation, but if you’re multi-national, you’ll probably want to at least segment your audiences by key geographies and possibly by your key languages.  
  • By audience interest: What’s important to your target audience? Is it salary, benefits, job location, or is it something deeper, like good working relationships, meaningful work and personal development? Understanding this can help you position your message and assist with content creation.

Layer 2: The Story You’re Telling. 

What’s the message you’re conveying?

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen ‘filler’ content on employer social media career pages - that is content that doesn’t really have a purpose.

More often than not, content should be aligned to what’s important to your audience (layer 1) and what your brand stands for. If you have an EVP, it might be placing your supporting pillars at the centre of your content strategy, but it could equally be your values, or even your customer proposition in some cases (such as Three’s #MakeItRight campaign). 

The balance between creating content that is important to your audience and that which is aligned to your employer brand, is known as the 'content sweet spot’. Not every piece of content you produce has to fall where these two circles intersect, but it’s where you should aim for the majority of the time. It’s ok to create content that is just for your audience, as that can hook people in. However, more often than not, employers swing too far the other way and are only interested in broadcasting what’s important to them, often to an ‘empty room’.


Layer 3: The Source. 

Who’s Telling The Story?

The strength of the bond you build with your audience will be driven by who’s telling the story, as well as the tone of voice. It’s no secret that content which has a corporate tone is the least authentic and least trusted. As consumers, we’ve been mis-sold and mis-led by advertising messaging for decades, even centuries, and it’s the same for employer marketing communications nowadays. Employee review sites and the democratisation of opinion have exposed organisations and their cultures. If the corporate voice says one thing, and it’s not true, they get found out and exposed. Employers have to use trustworthy sources to tell their stories. 

Using employees is a great start to ensuring authenticity and transparency when building trust with your audience. But even when you use employees in your content, the audience can tell whether it has been scripted or whether they are being truly authentic. Whilst there are obvious risks with using employees to communicate your story in an authentic way, the benefits can far outweigh the negatives if the correct framework is put in place. 

Here are some examples of who could be telling your employer story: 

  • Colleagues
  • Subject matter experts
  • Hiring managers
  • Recruiters
  • Corporate voice
  • 3rd Party / independent point of view
  • The target audience (user generated content)

Layer 4: The Content Format. 

The format(s) the content will be produced in 

This is simply the format in which you wish to communicate the content. Text is the easiest and cheapest content to create, but it’s not always the most engaging format. Video has boomed in recent years and will continue its quest to become the content format of choice over the next few years, but be considered in your video talent marketing strategy.

It’s easy to spend tens of thousands of pounds on a shiny employer brand video to sit on your careers website homepage, but will anybody watch it? Make sure it’s captivating and is helpful to the audience. Equally, as I mentioned above, employee generated content can often be the most authentic, trustworthy content, and whilst it can be extremely accessible and affordable to empower your employees to create video for you, be mindful that not everyone is born to be on camera. Poor employee generated content can have a negative impact on your employer brand. 

Of course, the content format you choose is likely to be influenced by the channel that you’re thinking of using, so have that in mind when you’re deciding upon format. It’s all very well ‘fishing where the fish are’, but if you don't have the right bait, you won’t catch a bite. 

Here are a few examples of content formats: 

  • Text
  • Video
  • Photos
  • Audio
  • Graphics
  • Infographics
  • Games
  • Virtual and Augmented reality
  • Apps
  • Experiential and Events

Layer 5: The Engagement level. 

How much time and attention is required from the audience?

The engagement level is about how much investment you require from your audience to consume your content. We live in a time where there is so much competing for our attention. On-demand services like Netflix and Amazon Prime are owning our free time. Our social feeds are cluttered with only a fraction of the content we could possibly see during the day. And private messaging apps (Snapchat, Messenger, WhatsApp, Instagram, WeChat, etc) require ‘always-on’ attention and responses, otherwise we suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out). And even within those apps now, you have multiple types of feeds competing for our attention - the timeline, stories, private messages. 

This has all contributed to the dollar value of our attention increasing significantly over the past few years. You have to pay more to get someone’s attention, and once you’ve got it, you better make sure you add value to maintain it.  

Here are the four main categories of engagement level:

  • Micro-form: e.g. takes 1 to 30 seconds to consume - social media status updates, messaging via social apps, etc
  • Short-form: e.g. about 30 seconds to 15 minutes - a short blog post, employee profile video, a TED talk, etc
  • Long-form: e.g generally takes longer than 15 minutes to consumer - a thought leadership white paper, an eBook, a 45 subject matter talk, etc. 
  • Live: e.g. Facebook Live, Snapchat, Periscope, live chat events. Note, that micro, short and long forms can all be live too.

Layer 6: Content itself. 

What is the 'thing’ you’ve been inspired to produce?

Having understood your audience and their needs, aligned it to your brand pillars and / or messaging framework, and what format your content will take shape in, you now need to get on and create the content. This is the hard part. Everyone has ideas, and many have started but not finished blog posts (I know I certainly have more started than finished), but the hard part is execution. 

The list of employer brand content that can be created for talent attraction is pretty much endless, but here are a few examples of the types of content you might create. 

  • Job postings (probably the most important, but usually least engaging pieces of content!)
  • Profiles / interviews
  • SME Podcast
  • Article / blog post
  • Tips, advice and how to…
  • Reviews
  • Location spotlight
  • Organisation culture focus
  • Diversity focus
  • SME Insight, thought leadership and opinion
  • Project case study
  • Customer focus
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR) / social mobility (and the list goes on…)

Ideation Card Exercise

DOWNLOAD OUR FREE EMPLOYER BRAND CONTENT MARKETING IDEATION CARDS

You might find it useful to use ideation cards to help inspire you with your content marketing strategy. Ideation cards involve segmenting the different variables (in this case, layers 1 to 5) and all the variables you can think of under each heading. We’ve given you a starter for ten under each heading above. 

Next, download, print and cut out our ideation card template, write some ideas under the headings - one idea per card, then stack them in piles and turn over the cards. Some of the ideas may not work, but you’ll be surprised at what you might get. 

And don’t get too tied down in the weeds - they're designed to help with inspiration, not give you the answer right away. If after turning over the first two cards, you have an idea, go with it. You can select the cards at random or you can more structured with them. 

The 6th card (Content) is where you write the idea for the content you have based on the previous 5 layers. 

An example of an output might be as follows: 

  • Audience: Experienced UX designer, not brand-aware, not actively job seeking. A sense of higher purpose is important to this audience.
  • The Story: We show that we care and we’re passionate about the communities we serve. We pool our resources to help greater causes in our spare time
  • The Source: A colleague who works in the digital team
  • The Content Format: Text
  • The Engagement Level: Short form 
  • Output (layer 6, the content): An employee blog post focusing on how the colleague has used their skills in their free time to help local communities. 

Summary

Creating meaningful employer brand content is not easy, especially in today’s content saturated world. Understanding your audience and creating content that meets their needs and answers their questions can be very time consuming, it requires a lot of effort and costs money (at least in terms of promoting it to ensure they find it). But the rewards are huge, particularly in giving you exposure to audiences that may never have considered you as one employer before (or even heard of your organisation).

Need some guidance or have some questions? 

If you need some help with using any of the resources above, would like to discuss your content marketing and social media strategy, or would like to find out how technology can boost your employer brand content marketing strategy, feel free to drop me a line at nathan.perrott@aia.co.uk

Director of Digital Strategy

Nathan helps organisations optimise their recruitment marketing strategies by leveraging technology, creativity and data. In his role at employer marketing agency AIA Worldwide, Nathan has played pivotal roles in developing content marketing and social media strategies for large multinational corporations, as well as being a driving force behind a number of careers website projects and hiring strategies powered by the agency’s proprietary automated recruitment marketing software, TalentBrew. Catch him on Twitter, where he tweets all things digital marketing, branding and tech.