The Number 1 Thing to Know About Employer Brand

Now that I’ve got your attention, let me just say that there are many things that you ought to know about employer branding. There is a lot of research, resources, time and energy that go into building a successful brand strategy and delivering on it, day after day after day. But the number one thing that you need to know about employer branding is this …

The Number 1 Thing to Know About Employer Brand

You don’t own your brand.

Now, that’s just crazy talk! Or is it? Recently on DriveThru HR, I listened to Will Staney, director of recruiting and strategic programs at SAP/SuccessFactors, talk about employer branding, “The future of employment branding is that companies need to understand that employees actually own your brand. Not you.” That’s a pretty bold statement and on the surface you might question it. Though when you stop and really think about that, it makes complete sense.

Companies can influence their brand.

How employees perceive our companies is their reality. Their reality is often shared via word of mouth or “word of mouse.” In turn, these individuals have branded our organizations within their own sphere of influence: It’s a great company! This company is the worst. I’d recommend it in a heart beat. I’d rather shovel ketchup than work there another day.

Our job as recruitment marketers and talent acquisition professionals is to then build a strategy around how we position ourselves and influence perceptions.

Content can drive changes in perception.

From an external standpoint, there are many tactics that we can explore to change perceptions. Curating interesting content is one of the hottest topics in the employer brand world today. Like B2C and B2B marketing, those of us in the employer space need to have a multi-channel approach to sharing content.

Questions for the brand journey.

Now that you’ve let go of the idea that you control your employer brand, let’s think about the content that you can focus on developing.

  • What are the stories inside your organization worth sharing?
  • What are your teams accomplishing?
  • What is it really like on a typical day?
  • What makes it unique?
  • How can you leverage your employees to create and share the message?

As you continue along your brand journey, think about your pie in the sky ideas and what you can accomplish now. What is the effort, risk and reward potential of each idea and which ones are scalable? In today’s world of talent attraction, you have to be bold and daring.

How else will you change perceptions?

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Shannon Smedstad

Shannon Smedstad has nearly 20 years of recruitment, employer branding, and communications experience. Currently, she serves as the Principal Employer Brand Strategist at exaqueo. Previously, she held employer branding and recruiting leadership roles at CEB and GEICO. She’s a work at home mom raising two awesome girls who also enjoys reading, running, leading a Girl Scout troop, and her morning coffee. You can connect with Shannon on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Reader Interactions


  1. Betsy Rowbottom says

    Amen, sister! Totally agree with everything you expressed here, Shannon! Especially your last statement: “In today’s world of talent attraction, you have to be bold and daring.” Bold, daring, and transparent. Transparency is important because companies do not own their brand. Companies need to foster their brand by sharing their story and all the ways that they unique invest in their employees to give outsiders an understanding of what that company values.

  2. Samuli Ahola says

    Greetings Shannon,

    Great post about a topic that in my opinion will be one of the most important ones in 2014 related to recruitment & HR. I believe that creating your employer brand does not start when your new employer signs the contract – it has already begun during the recruitment process. First impressions are the most lasting ones, and the recruitment process as a whole is a great opportunity for the employer to make a lasting impression on the candidate – whether the candidate gets chosen for the open position or not.

    I recently interviewed Aalto University’s (located in Helsinki, Finland) HR Manager Martti Rahkila, and he was a firm believer that Aalto University’s modern employer brand was greatly improved when they decided to start using video interviewing in their recruitment process. The whole article can be found from here:

    I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Do you think that using video screening as a part of the recruitment process can have an positive impact when it comes to employer branding & candidate experience? Do you perhaps have some own experiences related to this?

    Again, thank you for a great blog post and have a succesful year of 2014!


    Samuli Ahola /

    Communications Coordinator



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