Analysis. Communication agencies getting their slice of the employer branding business

Newsroom 27/11/2017 | 14:07

Companies are finding it increasingly difficult to find the right employees, and the rate of unemployment in the big cities is extremely small. Therefore, they are trying new ways of interacting and getting to the desired ones and one of these solutions is working with communication agencies in order to align their external brand to their internal one.

 

By Romanita Oprea

Employer branding is a framework for defining, managing and communicating about the total employment relationship with current and prospective employees. Also known as employment branding, it is a strategy to align the organization’s image with the employee experience so that organizational messages are consistent with actions. The messages created in the values, systems, policies and behaviors of the organization should all be in alignment, or convergence.

Successful employer branding is built on the employer’s ability to deliver on its promise and, when this happens, the organization becomes ‘an employer of choice.’ As with reputation, the employer brand will garner an opinion, whether the organization acts to bolster it or not, so it is better to be proactive to shape the employer brand rather than let it shape itself.

Internal branding campaigns should bring the brand alive for employees and strengthen their emotional connection to the organization. Encouraging employees to deliver the brand values is described as ‘living the brand’, ‘brand enactment’ or the development of ‘brand ambassadors’.

At the same time, consistency is the essence of success with employer branding to employees. An 18-country survey conducted by Employer Branding International in 2014 revealed that the majority of companies use social media for employer branding. This method came out on top as the main channel used today to deliver and enhance employer brand messaging, surpassing recruitment advertising, employee referral programs or using an applicant tracking system.  Moreover, social media has truly risen into a prominent place in the Employer Branding toolbox. Used only by 14 percent of respondents in 2009, social media has significantly grown in use as a communications channel, as claimed by 76 percent of respondents in the 2014 survey.

Still, the trend of employer branding communication and its success is not only visible outside Romania, but starting to grow and become a real trend in Romania as well. This time around, it’s not only about the companies and their internal rules and policies or the consultants they bring on board, but also about the agencies that share this road alongside the company. This is happening because increasingly more companies are requesting communication agencies’ input and creativity in creating real value, entertaining and exciting campaigns that will help them stand out in the crowd and attract or maintain their target employees close to them.

“There are two macro factors that are contributing to this development. First of all, at a local level, all the indicators reported by the National Institute of Statistics and The National Prognosis Commission show the fact that in the following years, we will be dealing with a strong lack of personnel in the areas of economic accelerated growth. We can already see this happening in Bucharest and Ilfov, as well as Timisoara or Cluj-Napoca, where the unemployment rate is extremely low (around 1 percent). A situation that results in considerable pressure over the HR departments regarding employment and retention,” said Ciprian Banica, creative director of the omni-channel agency g7.

Moreover, the second factor, globally, is the fact that the Millennials and the Z generation already represent 50 percent of the work force and for these generations, a decent salary is no longer enough and a stable workplace is no longer a deciding factor when choosing a job. “There is also a need for vision, for the feeling that they are part of something bigger and that they come to work for something that goes beyond the paycheck. In fact, the question is not about the fact that you have employer branding or not, because it already exists. Both the market and the employers already have their own opinions formed about you. The only decision is if you want that opinion to be formed based on your proactive actions or by following others’ personal impressions and personal experiences,” pointed out Ciprian Banica, creative director g7.

According to Vlad Popovici, managing director at Kubis Interactive, employment branding has definitely gained more consideration on the HR departments’ behalf. Information can nowadays circulate at the speed of light. “With so many platforms with employer reviews at hand, several platforms that host specific content for each industry, each employer has great opportunities to stand out from its competitors. Therefore, agencies with experience in communication are more prone to be able to grasp the richness of the phenomenon, by using a more creative approach,” considers Popovici.

From g7’s conclusions so far, after discussion with different companies, the most interested industries in receiving employer branding services are the IT and retail industries, because both of them are being confronted with major challenges from a human resources point of view. For retail it’s about employee fluctuation, while for IT, the tension point comes from the deficit of personnel. “We’ve also started to discuss the subject with some of our traditional clients, multinationals active in FMCG, that, even though some have gone through a process of establishing an Employer Value Proposition at a central level, they feel the need to bring it to life and adapt it to the Romanian reality,” explained Banica.

 

The right moment in time

But why is this phenomenon happening right now, in this period of the communication industry? According to Kubis Interactive’s representative, we need to admit that today’s brands are not only those of the products we consume. This publisher is a brand, I am a personal brand and the shoes that I am wearing pertain to a brand. “The same logic applies to employers as well: they are brands too. Hence, employers start to become more self-aware and make their image a priority. Depending on its stage, employer-branding campaigns follow similar steps to commercial brand building campaigns. You ask the same questions about context, about target, about the brand values and you come up with the solutions: more tactics or more creative, depending on the brief,” explained Popovici.

On its turn, the PR agency Chapter 4 has been already working with a client from the IT industry for 5 years on employer branding, proving that, in its case there is an ongoing history already, not just a project. “Agencies have been part of employer branding strategies for some time now. It started in the sectors where human resource availability became an issue – they soon realized that positioning themselves from the perspective of an employer of choice was a must if they wanted to attract the people they needed to successfully carry out their business. As we were already working on internal communication as agencies, combining internal and external communication so that we can tell the full story of the companies as employers was just the next natural step,” said Raluca Ene, managing director Chapter 4 Romania. Moreover, comparing the years, she points out that if in previous years companies only tested the waters, in 2017 they understood that employer branding needs to become part of their marketing strategy, in order to keep up with the development of the business environment. “It was no longer the job of the human resources department to make sure employees have everything they need to have a fulfilling professional life, but also of the entire company to better listen to and communicate in and across teams, in order to ensure employees feel at ease with their working environment. Add to that the external communication needed to tell the story of the company and here we have a new, vital branch under the marketing communications umbrella,” added Raluca Ene.

 

The leap of faith

Trust is also a key element. Vlad Popovici considers that trust is a needed component in each partnership, no matter the type of the partnership, but, even it plays an important role, the main trigger is a need that has grown salient on the employer’s side.

On her turn, Raluca Ene points out that the agencies that better understood the business of their clients and their needs in terms of different types of communication have always benefited from more trust from the part of their clients. And that is a sentence that has been true since forever. “But the employer branding strategies and tactics have started to be requested from agencies when it became clear that the company needed one single story across all its communication, no matter if internal or external: its own, true, authentic story. And, as agencies are already experienced in helping companies build a strong voice of their own, it was only natural that they worked together,” added Ene.

Due to the technology impact, such a collaboration makes perfect sense. Advertising has been passing through a period of continuous change in the last years and agencies having to be even closer than before to their clients in order to respond to their needs, some of which didn’t exist 5 or 10 years ago. “They must be at the same time consultants and executioners.

But, for the moment, we don’t believe that the classic agencies will become suppliers of employer branding, as there are other areas of communications in which they concentrate their developing efforts. Instead, we are expecting the PR and the branding agencies to be the most active in this field,” explained Banica.

 

Reality check point

Theory and theory – all good. However, how does it really apply daily to communication agency life? “We always start by understanding the clients’ business and its business objectives. Getting to know the people that are working there and the processes the company unfolds are also essential stages in building a strong strategy. Only after we gathered all this data and analyzed both the needs and the potential of the company, are we ready to work together with the client to find the right communication strategy. Tactics that follow are measured qualitatively in terms of both people’s internal engagement and external ambassadorship, as well as quantitatively, in terms of brand visibility, retention rates and recruiting success,” said Raluca Ene. Therefore, the agency’s consultants are putting a lot of emphasis in the consistency of their work and its relevance for the client’s business. “We have developed our own analysis and diagnosis tools to base our strategies upon. We have also gathered significant implementation experience with companies from some of the most challenging industries in terms of human resources availability,” added Ene.

When it comes to the services offered under the employer branding umbrella, approaches depend on the client’s particular plan of implementation. “Just to name a few of the tactics that we have implemented, there are internal publications and content-related intranet sections, internal and external events and public speaking opportunities of uttermost relevance for the scope of the communication effort of the company,” concluded the Chapter 4 Romania representative.

An integrated communication agency offers full-service campaigns: from strategy to creative concepts, development and even social media, if needed. “The agency implements special projects such as the ‘Apply with a smile’ video series for Jysk or the current recruitment campaign for Generali, focused around the idea of an ideal job as an insurance officer as well as developing day-to-day communication for the employers that we collaborate with. I think we have a strong strategic mindset and a powerful creative department. We take each project through these stages accordingly in order to have an outcome that is both fit in the context, has the potential to deliver and a creative idea that can stand out from the competitors,” added Popovici.

“The manner in which we interact with the organizations depends on our human nature and is no different than the way we interact with brands in other contexts. The employer brand is still a brand, but one that wants to be relevant among employees and potential candidates. In order to succeed, the process is similar to what we do for consumer activation: understanding the context, the opportunities and especially the people. We understand two types of targets, especially the Z Generation and the Millennials. Trivia fact: if we take a closer look at our ERP, we can confirm that at least one in one hundred Z generation representatives has collaborated with our agency at a certain point,” concluded g7’s representative.

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