By Andrea Culligan, an EO Sydney member, and CEO and founder of Harteffect
What’s in a name? As it turns out— a lot, actually. Here’s a fun example: What runs through your mind when you think of a “Nigel”? Perhaps you conjure up thoughts of a weedy little Englishman with a wet handshake? He got picked on in school, struggled to find mates and picks his nose when no one’s looking? Now what comes to mind when you think of a “Bambi”? I’m sure you already have images of what she looks, sounds and acts like. And you know she was the most popular girl in school.
Let’s say you meet a Nigel or Bambi one day when you’re interviewing them for a job— imagine how much harder it is for them to prove their worth should they be smart, confident, outgoing, attractive and astute? It’ll be tough to compete against your misguided perception, right? The reality is that until you actually have an experience with that person—or their “brand”—it’s difficult to change your idea of their worth. The same goes for your company’s brand. Your name, message, look and feel are being judged every second of every day, especially by your future clients and employees.
So then, how do you cut through all of the noise to ensure that your brand is the one people choose to trust and respect? My creative firm, Harteffect, has two niche areas around branding: commercial and employer. Every day we help hundreds of businesses around the world develop authentic brands to attract and engage either their clients or their prospective employees. And no matter the project, our process always builds upon the same four points:
1. Is what you’re saying an assumption? The old adage of “assume makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’” becomes very apparent when it comes to employer branding. The truth in an employer brand really lies in the trenches, not at the senior-executive level. Have you taken the time to ask your employees why they joined your company, and if they leave, why they left? Sometimes the direction that needs to be taken is dictated by the details.
2. Are you competing for ego or purpose? Understanding not just your product competitor but also your talent competitor landscape is essential to your strategy. Without a clear understanding of who you’re hiring or who’s buying your product or service, you are essentially competing with … well, everyone. Each company will always have a point of difference from their closest competitor. This could be culture, opportunities, location, style or function. There is no need to compete with the masses, if that’s not what you’re seeking.
3. Get clear on your message. By this stage, you’ve identified the reasons, the competition and the candidate or client you’re seeking— now it’s time to focus on the message: the true story of what is really being offered. Always be clear, specific and authentic. When it comes to a candidate, for example, work/life balance means different things to different people. If what you’re trying to get across is not clear from the onset, it can dilute the true opportunity available.
4. Tell your story the way it reads to you, not the way you think they need to hear it. There’s been a lot of discussion around social media, multimedia, print, job boards, newspapers, ad words and a million more things when it comes to marketing your brand. There isn’t a cookie-cutter approach that needs to be followed. This is your brand, your message, your story, so it’s up to you as to how you need to present it. Whatever works, works … and you don’t necessarily need to tweet it, like it or tag it to get there.
Your brand as an employer, or that of your product or service, is the very first thing a client or candidate considers when engaging your business. Who are you, what do you stand for, what do you offer, why do I want to work for/with you and what can I offer you in return? The journey a potential hire or client takes to get to you ends the same way: They want what you want— a great company to work with and great results every day. Don’t be a Nigel and tell them something different before they even get there.