Company Culture

Why do companies invest in employer brand marketing?

This talent brand director considers it "the front lines" of hiring. Here's how to craft your own company's story to attract prospective employees.

Employer brand marketing is all about storytelling.

(Photo by Pexels user cottonbro)

Written by Technically Media CEO Chris Wink, Technical.ly’s Culture Builder newsletter features tips on growing powerful teams and dynamic workplaces. Below is the latest edition we published. Sign up to get the next one.


If you assume marketing helps your sales efforts and you say hiring is one of your biggest needs, why don’t you take employer brand marketing as seriously as your sales marketing?

That’s what Stefan Frank says. He is the talent brand director at Comcast NBCUniversal, which as one of the country’s largest companies brings considerable lessons on what investments bring real results.

“There’s a natural tendency for us as humans to gravitate toward stories. We all appreciate and understand stories,” Frank said. “Anything important should be crafted as a story.”

What is employer brand marketing?

First, clarify the jargon. What is employer brand marketing? It’s a strategy for influencing a company’s reputation as a place to work to support hiring. The goal is to make sure more qualified people know a company’s reputation as an employer of choice. Or as I think of it: Employer brand marketing is an effort to make sure the right people want to work with you before they even know they can work with you.

Any sales effort can be understood with a basic buyer journey: First comes awareness of the product or service, then comes research and then conversion. Most people who are aware of what you offer won’t buy it, so content marketing matured to educate, engage and qualify prospective customers.

Recruiting strategies are following a similar process with employer brand marketing but it has lagged behind as a cost center rather than revenue generator. Specialists like Frank say it’s a necessary part of maintaining a large team or growing a new one. That’s become more prevalent in the last decade — even though many long-term strategies were interrupted by pandemic chaos. If anything, recent turmoil has increased its need.

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Why employ employer brand marketing?

The American economy has 1.8 job openings for every job seeker. In 2021, 69% of companies said they were “struggling” to hire, and earlier this year more than half said it had gotten even worse. What’s true more broadly is even worse in demand-heavy tech and tech-adjacent hiring.

An insider at a mid-sized publicly traded software company told me they’ve spent as long as 11 months hiring a product manager — an important but relatively mid-level role. “We took 10 months to hire an SDR and, frankly, we settled,” he said of the sales development representative role that has become a ubiquitous part of revenue teams.

“Employer brand marketing is [telling prospective candidates] how we enrich you and your life as a professional,” Frank said. “It’s something you do now to help you in the future.”

Just like content marketing doesn’t sell tomorrow, today’s employer brand marketing doesn’t result in hires tomorrow. A key component of content marketing is the so-called “qualifying of prospects,” or informing prospective customers about what and how you solve their problems to ensure only those who can succeed sign up. Create pieces of content that answer key questions, objections or use cases for those prospects to research. All this follows for how employer brand marketing strategies develop — and why total employer brand marketing investment has grown annually by 10% or more in recent years.

“You’re easing the candidate journey anyway you can,” Frank said.

(Technical.ly graphic via Penji)

How to do it well

Company leadership must develop a simple story that reflects its real investments. That story might focus on “innovation” in an old industry, or prioritizing diversity or a distinguishing feature — like building a multi-generational workforce.

Effective employer brand marketing campaigns are part of an overall recruiting strategy, but its key metric isn’t to directly increase applicants or hires. Instead, companies use employer brand marketing to grow their awareness and reputation, which internal research tends to result in higher retention of existing employees, increased candidate quality by giving them greater insight into the company and decreased cost to hire over time. Frank’s key metric is “Net Candidate Score,” a recruiting-style adaption of “Net Promoter Score,” not the number of applicants his content drives.

“Investment takes time to pay off,” Frank said.

Note these key findings from LinkedIn’s talent research team:

  • 61% of companies hire from and work with online professional communities;
  • 72% of recruiters say a company’s employer brand has a “significant impact” on hiring;
  • 78% of professionals research a company’s reputation before applying;
  • 84% would make a lateral career move to a company with a better reputation;
  • 88% of millennials and younger say company culture is “important” to their career choices.

“Great candidates do their research into companies before they apply,” Frank said. “Employer brand marketing is a concerted effort to be out there with what your company is about and what it’s really like to work there.”

If you’re at the beginning, start with your company’s employee value proposition: Why do your existing employees want to work there? As Mandy Poling, the head of people operations at data-partnerships startup Crossbeam, told us last year: “When you’re proud of where you work, employer branding is easy.”

Half of surveyed candidates wouldn’t accept a job with better pay if it was at a company with a bad reputation. If your company has a bad reputation, you better get to work.

And as Frank put it, in an era of declining trust, professionals look to see what existing employees say before they ever apply.

“Employer brand marketing is the front lines,” Frank said. “One thing we know for sure is that stories are as old as time.”

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P.S. This week, Technical.ly published a special report on international hiring and IT outsourcing. In part one, we outlined the origins and current trends; in part two, we looked at where companies are hiring now; in part three, we addressed what business leaders should keep in mind to hire abroad ethically, and in part four, we examined what international hiring means for local tech ecosystems.

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