Employer Branding: How to Do More with Less

Employer Branding: How to Do More with Less

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The minimum investment for the maximum reward: it’s business 101, and applies as much to employer branding as it does to balance sheets.

While Optus might be one of Australia’s largest companies, we’re as bound to ROI as any other business. As such we in the employer branding team are continually challenged to come up with clever and creative ways to get maximum engagement from minimum spend.

I wanted to take the opportunity to talk about how we in the EB team go about that – the strategies that we’ve tested, the things that have worked, and the mistakes that we’ve made along the way – in the hope that our learnings might help you on your own employer branding quest.

The common areas of employer branding overspend

Increasing employer branding ROI is first about identifying inefficiencies. And to my mind, there’s no more inefficient period than those first stages of the employer brand journey. This is when you’re trying to define what your EVP is, which can open up a Pandora’s box as you realize you may not know what your company actually stands for.

To first understand, second launch and third polish your employer brand is a resource-heavy undertaking; between conducting research, interviewing employees and developing creative it can eat up a lot of your budget. In many ways this is a necessary evil – sure, there are ways to increase efficiency, but at the end of the day it costs what it costs.

Once this expensive part is done, however, and you’re just left to maintain and enhance the brand, and here there are a number of effective ways to cut costs.

In employer branding organic content is often seen as too much effort for too little reward, which makes the instant hit delivered by sponsored content incredibly tempting. But in my experience, paying for your audience is nowhere near as cost-effective as earning it. That’s not to say that sponsored content doesn’t have its place. It’s more about ensuring that you aren’t over-reliant on it – it’s all about getting the balance right.

At Optus we’ve found that a surprising amount can be done with organic content and standard tools alone.

Getting to know the strategies that work

Understanding and targeting potential candidates in a cost-effective way comes down to observing trends. An example: we post content on LinkedIn, and it does really well. I can generally pinpoint why it went viral: perhaps it's a really exciting story, features a well-known employee or is particularly uplifting.

Other times we might post a new TV commercial that the marketing team has worked hard on, and it won’t perform as well (despite the far larger investment.)

It’s a matter of trial and error – building up learnings and continually getting better at delivery. Voting with their clicks and their eyes, over time targeted talent will tell you exactly what they want to see. If they're watching, liking, commenting and sharing, the content is working. On the flipside, a lack of engagement shows that a piece of content isn’t helping a candidate decide whether we’re the right workplace for them.

Big impact without the big budget

What does a cost-effective employer branding content strategy actually look like? Let me give you a few examples.

I think it’s important to find your most effective platform and concentrate on it. We’re big fans of organic content on LinkedIn, to the point that we don't really put any budget behind sponsored LinkedIn posts. With over 100,000 followers our engagement is always quite high – this week, for example, one post had over 38,000 views, and we didn’t spend a single cent on it.

It also helps to understand and utilize the wealth of tools at your disposal. LinkedIn, for example, has a new feature that notifies your employees when a new post is published. I use that tool maybe once or twice a month to notify employees about a post that I’m particularly excited about, and every time I do it performs significantly stronger.

Another great example of a cost-effective content tool is LinkedIn Stories. Like Instagram Stories, this feature posts content on your profile for 24 hours. Last week we did an employee takeover – Gabriella took us through what she gets up to over the course of her day in Perth. She showed us her home office setup, the Perth offices, and took us on a tour of Optus Stadium. Again, we got awesome content that the audience engaged with, and all at zero cost.

Pushing boundaries while making the most of what you’ve got

When I arrived at Optus I realized there was no place on our careers site for our people to tell their stories. I went to our digital team and pitched the idea of having a careers blog, with the aim of posting one or two blogs a month that showcased our employees. They were hesitant at first – to them it was just another channel to maintain. But I took the responsibility to manage the project in-house.

It has proven to be a huge success, both in terms of external and internal engagement. Team members love telling their stories – they feel heard by their employer, which just adds more authenticity to what they say. The stories are all held in one place, where talent can come and browse at their leisure. And the best bit? It doesn't really cost the business anything!

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned in my time at Optus is that the employer branding team should embrace its role as the eyes and ears of the company. It should look to understand what excites people, to unearth values, methodologies and aspirations, and to bring stories to life. Perhaps an employee started their journey in a retail store and grew to become a data scientist; it’s up to the EB team to find and tell those stories, whether through a video, blog, social post or podcast.

We're constantly trying to push the boundaries of what channels we can play with and get maximum impact. In that quest we’ve found that storytelling is not only super engaging, but incredibly cost-effective.

In the end it's just a matter of knowing what stories to tell, and how to tell them.

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