BRANDE : blog archives for December 2010

December 13, 2010

11 Employer branding best practices to focus on in 2011

Readers: The BRANDEblog came across this excellent article by Brett Minchington, and found it so insightful and rich in content, we have reprinted it in it’s entirety, including the tree. Of course we had to change the s in organization. ; )

Thanks Brett


I’ve compiled a list below I wanted to share with you. The list includes 11 areas for leaders to focus their employer branding efforts on in 2011 based on some of the workforce changes we have encountered this year by the introduction of new technologies, global economic instability and the requirements of a modern workforce – one that is agile, adaptable and responsive to a constantly changing and highly competitive landscape.

It’s great to see many more companies appointing employer brand leaders in 2010 to drive their organisation’s employer brand strategy. I expect this trend to continue in 2011.

It is only with this focus will we see the continued evolution of the employer brand concept and employment offerings which on the whole, works towards achieving a much better match of the needs of employees with those of business.

Here is my top 11

1) Establish a real-time career development for employees

Today real-time career development can be facilitated with some imagination, technology devices, innovation and focus.

Each morning when I wake up, I grab an expresso, my Ipad and find a quiet spot whether it be on the couch (winter) or on an outside table (summer!) and spend an hour on my own personal and career development. This usually involves:

  • Checking facebook, twitter and linkedin status updates, making comments and responding to overnight messages
  • Using the apps previously downloaded from publications such as New York Times, Wall Street Journal, International Herald Tribune, Financial Times, etc I scan the world’s leading newspapers to find out what’s been happening in the world whilst I’ve been asleep!
  • Read an article each from the latest editions of The Economist and Harvard Business Review
  • Scan google alerts for key words I track such as employer branding, employment branding, talent management, employee engagement, etc
  • Read apps from websites such as www.mashable.com, www.socialmediaexaminer.com, www.techcrunch.com, etc to update on social media and technology trends

and once a month I visit the world’s leading consulting firm’s websites to download and read their latest research and statistics.

So, in early 2011 take an hour to speak with your employees and assist them to develop a real-time career development plan. This may include coaching them to develop a plan that tracks their career development interests, current job function responsibilities and personal development interests (if it’s just work related people will switch off, many employees want a blended life so if you mix it up a little you will keep it interesting). Don’t complain too much about the $600 it will cost you for their iPad, you’ll get a ROI many times over.

2) Have that meeting with HR, Marketing, Communications and IT!

It’s no longer efficient or effective to develop and implement an employer brand strategy solely with HR resources and budget. Your employer brand is interconnected with your corporate and consumer brand and the total portfolio needs to be considered if you really want to build an adaptable and agile employer brand. Think about how your organisation would react if faced with the situation BP found itself in when one of its wells starting leaking oil into the Gulf of Mexico earlier this year. Is the level of communication and connectedness between those managing your corporate, consumer and employer brand high enough to react quickly and effectively to structural changes (e.g. announcement of company layoffs), market changes (e.g. the GFC) or in times of crisis (e.g. social media sabbotage)?

In 2011 schedule a two hour meeting with leaders from HR, Marketing, Communications and IT and have a discussion around these agenda items – it will start the conversation and provide for some good discussion on where to go next. Some of the questions that may be useful include:

  • How will a stronger employer brand support our business strategy e.g. mergers and acquisitions, growth, consolidation?
  • What are the main factors currently driving our employer brand?
  • What kind of organisational culture do we have? How consistent is it across geographical and divisional boundaries?
  • What are the most consistently attractive and compelling organisational attributes for both current employees and potential employees?
  • What behaviours are felt to be most characteristic of our organisation? What are the moments of truth when our organisation is at its best (and worse?)
  • What is the most useful way of segmenting the employee population in terms of cultural characteristics and distinctive needs?
  • What are the most effective channels of employee communication, both top/down and bottom/up?
  • Which positions are most critical to our success and what are we currently doing/need to do to attract, engage and retain this talent?
  • What levels of resources are we prepared to invest in our employer brand strategy?
  • What timeframe will we be working towards to define and develop our employer brand strategy?

3) Assess your employer branding performance against best practice

Take this quick assessment to see how your employer branding initiatives measure up against best practice companies. Answer yes of no to each question and then total your score out of 20.

  1. We have developed an employer brand strategy
  2. We have developed a social media strategy
  3. We have at least two of the following working closely on our employer brand strategy – HR/Marketing/Communications/IT
  4. Alignment to brand values is part of our performance management system
  5. We have an active coaching and mentoring program in place to transfer knowledge and build internal capabilities
  6. We have defined our employer brand metrics
  7. We have conducted research to determine the perception current employees have about our company
  8. We have conducted research to determine the perceptions prospective employees have about our company
  9. We monitor what people are saying about our brand online
  10. We have identified the leadership competencies we aspire employees at all levels to have
  11. We have created a database of talented employees who we would like to hire when the time is right
  12. We have a dedicated careers section on our corporate website
  13. Managers have access to a leadership development program
  14. We have defined our employer value propositions (EVPs)
  15. We have reviewed our EVP’s in light of the Global Financial Crisis
  16. We have an active employee referral program which we promote to staff and external stakeholders
  17. We conduct an employee engagement, satisfaction and/or climate survey at least once per year
  18. We participate in an external annual best employers and/or employer of choice survey
  19. Each staff member has a documented career development plan that is reviewed at least annually
  20. We use an IT system to automate our recruitment process and rank candidates against weighted criteria

How did you rate?

0-5 We are in the very early stages

6-12 We have made a start

13-17 We just need some fine tuning

18-20 We are up there with the best

4) Review and update your employer value proposition (EVP) communication assets

When was the last time you review your EVP communication assets, how long ago were they developed? Make it a project to review all your internal and external EVP communication tools and ask the following questions:

  • Does our employer value proposition clearly reflect the current employment experience?
  • How inspiring is our welcome pack for new hires? How does it differentiate our employment offering?
  • Can we deliver on what we are promising in our recruitment communication efforts?
  • How effective is our social media strategy – are we engaging with our communities or are we merely broadcasting about our products and services?
  • If I was looking for a job how inspired would I be by what our company is communicating and how consistent is the messaging
  • How well do our communication assets flow from text – images – audio – video?
  • How authentic is our messaging?
  • How do we feel about the tone, style and imagery we are using in our communications?

Based on the outcomes of your review schedule a project in 2011 to update your communication assets across key offline and online touchpoints.

5) Learn from best practice employer brand companies

Study and learn from companies who are leading the way in employer branding including Google, IBM, Starbucks, Sodexo, SAS, Singapore Airlines, Deloitte, McKinsey, etc there are many but these are some good companies to observe and learn from – for starters!. Don’t just study companies in your own industry – you’ll find companies outside your industry a great source of innovation for employer branding best practice. Companies in the oil and gas industry companies such as Chevron, Schlumberger and Shell are good companies to follow as are the major players in the banking and finance industry such as Standard Chartered Bank, Deutsche Bank and Goldman Sachs. They all invest in employer branding!

Companies to watch in 2011 include Research in Motion (RIM), UnitedHealth Group and Adidas. Each company’s employer branding programs are headed up by world leading employer brand practitioners Kat Drum (RIM), Health Polivka (United Health Group) and Steve Fogarty (Adidas). I can assure you if you have the right type of leader in charge of your employer brand strategy you will go far!

6) Assess the employee lifecycle

click on image below to enlarge employee lifecycle map

Have your business unit leaders assess the employee lifecycle in their function to assess how well it adds value to an inspiring employment experience and one that adds, not distracts from engagement and retention efforts?

Employees at your company will transition through different stages of the employee’s lifecycle depending on factors such as age, education, experience, living arrangements, marital status, etc. It is important to understand how important these ‘moments of truths’ are to employees and to realise which ones if not handled well, can be deal breakers and result in employees seeking another place to work whilst being unconsciously unproductive in their current role. It is important to make adjustments based on observation and feedback from employees.

7) Develop social media capabilities and appoint some social media Rockstars to engage with your community real-time

If you haven’t already started, 2011 is the year to train employees in how to use and leverage social media to support branding efforts. Global food service group, Sodexo have experienced a significant rise global brand awareness over the past two years through their ability to develop a social media sharing culture within their organisation. It won’t happen just because your company has a facebook page or twitter profile, employees need to be trained across the company to ensure your initiatives are aligned with your brand strategy. To identify your social media Rockstars you may need to conduct some influencer studies to determine where your most connected, active and influential social media participants in your organisation are. I like to follow Kerry Noone from Sodexo.

8) Write a book!

Write a book about your employment practices and use it as an EVP communications tool for all stakeholders. In 2008 I was inspired by a book I read about the mentoring practices at Essar, a multinational conglomerate corporation in the sectors of steel, energy, power, communications, shipping ports and logistics as well as construction headquartered at Mumbai, India. Over a 12 month period the HR Manager had compiled a book on the company’s mentoring practices and included insights from leaders and employees across the organisation. Whilst the publication took a while to write, it will provide a lifetime of value for Essar. It has also been an excellent tool to build internal engagement as employees were involved in the development of the product and distribution of it on its release. So find a topic, write about it and share it with stakeholders!

9) Connect your employees on the inside!

How often do we see the ‘wheel being re-invented inside organisations because there is no way to track what has been developed previously and if it has, it’s usually outdated or too hard to find. IBM have had some great success in this area by establishing an internal social networking tool, ‘Beehive’ which has allowed employees across the world to make new connections, share knowledge and capabilities and to advance their career. Connected employees will lead to higher levels of communication and trust between employees across the enterprise and is becoming more important in today’s increasingly dispersed workforces.

10) Leaders – slow down! and coach, mentor and share your knowledge and experiences with middle managers to enrich your talent pipelines, increase trust and developed capabilities

Too many of today’s leaders are too busy to spend quality time coaching and mentoring or even just communicating with team members due to shorter deadlines, increasing workloads and longer working hours.

Before they know it, they’re burnt out, fail to take holidays and disconnect from the very people who can assist them, their staff. This leads to higher levels of disengagement which is an all too common output in organizations around the world today. For the first time in a decade, research from the Hewitt Global Engagement database shows the percentage of organizations with decreasing engagement now exceeds the percentage with increasing engagement. This is a disturbing statistic!

11) Build employer brand awareness, knowledge, skills and capabilities

Most of time employees don’t buy into your vision to develop and implement an employer brand strategy because they lack the skills and capabilities to do so. Employer branding is an emerging field in many economies so take the time to build awareness, knowledge, skill and capabilities within your organization.

November 14, 2010

Google Cools—Not Cool.

Image courtesy of WSJ Online

As readers of the BRANDEblog might remember, almost exactly two years ago I started worrying about Google. Though the employer brand was hot from desirability POV, the stock was tanking, free food was history and their new CFO was a Six Sigma black belt.


Now the stock is almost double what it was, and last week Eric Schmidt announced raises AND bonuses all around for it’s 23,000 employees.

But what’s behind the seemingly good news is the hidden truth—from a talent perspective, Google isn’t cool.

This from CNN: “ it probably isn’t enough to keep Google’s brightest and most entrepreneurial employees from eyeing the lucrative stock options that await them at riskier startups.”

This from the WSJ: “Google Inc. is fighting off Facebook Inc. and other fast-growing Internet firms that are poaching its staff, a reversal for a company that has long been one of Silicon Valley’s hottest job destinations. “

Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are hot- a.k.a. not public, and talented techies want challenge- a.k.a pre- IPO stock.

Google has become the stable choice for Silicon Valley hotshots. And that stability has a whopping price tag.

According to last week’s Tech Crunch “We’ve confirmed today that a staff engineer at Google being heavily romanced by Facebook was offered a jaw dropping $3.5 million in restricted stock by Google (this means Google is handing over stock worth $3.5 million based on its value today, and that stock will vest over time). He quite wisely accepted Google’s counter offer. Facebook lost this one.”

From a distance, I watch and wonder about the durability of Google’s employer brand- maybe it’s time to re-build the brand architecture.

Somewhere Bill Gates must be laughing.

October 31, 2010

5 Most Engaged Brands in Social Media

Friends of BRANDEMiX,

While typically BRANDEblog writes original content, I thought this was a great article about the 5 most engaged brands in Social Media.
That and it’s Halloween and candy is calling.

Before you read further, see if you can guess the top 5 social brands. I was surprised by at least 1 who made the list.
————— Happy Reading ———————-

The Social Media for Business Leaders Series is supported by The Awareness Social Marketing Hub, an enterprise-grade application for marketers who manage multiple social channels. Learn more here.

Engaging in social media is about being extremely open, creative and flexible. To stay competitive online, brands need to be investing in social media as a way to extend themselves to their customers.

While advertising and cultivating an image are still important, it’s interaction that creates loyal customers. Using social media to show customers that your business is connected to what they say, think and feel about your products can amplify your brand’s message.

We’ve compiled a list of five big brands that are most engaged in social media, and that go to extensive lengths to connect with consumers. Add your own thoughts on which brands are ahead of the curve in the comments below.

1. Starbucks

Starbucks is on just about every corner in the real world, and that’s the same strategy the company has taken online as well. When it comes to a web presence, Starbucks has made its mark on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare, mobile apps and with its own social network, My Starbucks Ideas. The company dominates the social media landscape, creating active and engaging profiles on a variety of platforms. And according to some reports, Starbucks is the most engaged brand using social media for a few years running.

Take a quick look at the coffee giant’s Twitter page, and you’ll see the company has just more than 1 million followers. The next thing you’ll notice is that there’s a lot of conversation going on. Starbucks is keeping busy responding to mentions, apologizing for bad experiences, and just carrying on some interesting conversations with its followers.

Meanwhile on Facebook, more than 15 million people “Like” the brand. And Starbucks is trying to make buying its product as integrated and seamless as possible. Take, for example, the Starbucks Card Facebook application it introduced this past April, which allows customers to manage their Starbucks Card accounts from within the social network. The company also recently announced that customers could now “Give a Gift” and credit their friends’ cards via Facebook, too.

That feature is an idea born out of their community site, My Starbucks Idea. The Seattle-based caffeine king wants to know what you want from Starbucks, and the company is listening. The site enables consumers to share their ideas and critique others’ ideas as well. Discussions are encouraged, and the community votes to see which ideas become reality. The “Give a Gift” idea was suggested back in 2008, and drew more than 42,000 votes. It may have taken some time for the idea to become a reality, but it shows that Starbucks is listening to its customers.

2. Coca-Cola

As one of the most universally recognized brands, it’s not surprising that Coca-Cola is the second most engaged brand according to Famecount. Just like Starbucks, Coke is active on Twitter, engaging in conversation with its 142,000 followers. Given that it has a worldwide following, it’s appropriate that many of the tweets are written in different languages. In addition to its overarching brand, each drink it produces also has its own Twitter page.

On Facebook, it’s somewhat astounding that 15 million people “Like” the soft drink empire, but the company has done a good job of keeping things interesting and interactive. The Page is a hub of all sorts of activity, including posting fan photos, videos and social good initiatives like Live Positively, where fans voted for America’s favorite park to receive a $100,000 grant.

On Coca-Cola’s YouTube channel, the soda company launched “Unlock The Secret,” a viral video campaign featuring Coke’s inventor, Doc Pemberton. By clicking on bottle links in the videos, viewers are taken to the @docpemberton Twitter page, Coke’s Ahh Giver app on Facebook (which allows users to send a message to a friend delivered in video format by the Coke polar bear), and Coke’s Smilezier, a novel feature that allows users to record their laughter and listen to other people’s as well.

All of these efforts tie together Coca-Cola’s brand of happiness, and it’s created an interesting and original experience while engaging with consumers online.

3. Oreo

Oreo is the third most engaged brand according to Famecount, and for a brand that’s been around since 1912, racking up 12 million “Likes” on Facebook is a great way to prove that good products have real staying power.

For Kraft, makers of the delicious black and white cookie, Facebook outreach has been the main strategy. While other brands are engaged across the board, Oreo hasn’t leveraged Twitter at all yet.

The Oreo Facebook Page is a place to find recipes, videos, photos of fans enjoying the cookie, and games like Twist To Win for a chance to meet the Double Stuf Racing League (Shaquille O’Neal, Apolo Ohno, Eli Manning and Venus Williams).

The DSRL’s videos are the main focus on Oreo’s YouTube channel, including interviews with the athletes, commercials, and behind-the-scenes footage.

Check out Kraft Foods’ digital and social marketing lead Beth Reilly speaking on “how Oreo learned to fish where the fish are” in the video below.

4. Skittles

Skittles has an amazing online presence, starting with its website — a vibrant landing page that invites you to “Experience The Rainbow” by interacting with various features throughout the on-site experience. Users have opportunities to vote and post photos and videos while interacting with content. Keeping with the community theme on another site, Share Skittles is the place where YouTube videos of fans eating Skittles are posted.

While Skittles hasn’t quite figured out how to leverage Twitter, logging little more than 6,000 followers and producing some really weird tweets, more than 12 million “Likes” show they managed to figured out how to make use of Facebook.

The “Mob The Rainbow” feature was an innovative effort that strove to bring fans together to create something big. The first mob was a massive outpouring of Valentine’s Day greetings to a person who doesn’t get much love: a parking enforcement officer. Fans were asked to either make a card on the site or get the address and send one on their own — 43,037 cards were sent. Since the launch of Mob The Rainbow last year, fans have completed three mobs, with plans for a fourth one to “crash” an 85-year-old grandmother’s birthday party. It’s a brilliant way to engage the company’s audience with social good and keep its quirky image alive.

5. Red Bull

Red Bull is a brand that is associated with procrastination and the need for energy — last-minute studying, late-night partying, early morning meetings or classes, and the ability to keep you awake at almost any hour of the day.

With social media, though, the Austrian company has something more to offer than salvation from long work days and early morning grumpiness. With more than 10 million “Likes” on Facebook, it offers a really cool and interactive Facebook Page that appeals to the brand’s core consumer.

The Procrastination Station, featured on its Games page, offers high quality, engaging and interactive options for procrastinators, including a soapbox car racing game, a rock, paper, scissors game, and “Drunkish Dials” recordings — recordings of Red Bull drinkers who called the company’s toll free number, leaving “drunkish” messages. Yep, that’s what happens if you leave them a ridiculous drunken message — they’ll put it online.

Plus, they’ve run creative contests like 2009’s Red Bull Stash, where the company hid Energy Shots all over the country and posted clues on its Facebook wall. It was the company’s way of thanking fans when it hit the 1 million fan mark. Currently, the company has teamed up with San Francisco Giants player Tim Lincecum to create an ongoing scavenger hunt for 11 autographed baseballs hidden on the streets of San Fran. A picture of each baseball has been uploaded at a specific location and the first fan to arrive and check in with Facebook Places and the password “San Francisco’s Got Wings” wins the coveted ball.

The company has also done an impressive job on the mobile front with the Red Bull X-Fighters app for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, the Red Bull TV app, and the Red Bull BPM app that turns your iPhone into a complete DJ setup. All these apps are great extensions of the brand’s core product, and complementing the consumer’s lifestyle goes a long way.

October 17, 2010

A Lesson from The Gap: The Social Contract is a 2-way Street

Every company wants brand loyal customers, but this level of commitment requires the same degree of loyalty in return. Consumers value interactive experiences, one “Like” on a corporate Facebook Page can spread as virally among users as trending Twitter topics.

This was certainly the case when Gap recently unveiled its modern logo re-design. The sudden appearance of the new logo on the company’s website caused virtual uproar among graphic designers and Gap-loyal customers alike. Social media sites especially fueled the debate, giving outraged consumers a place to rant about the company’s unsophisticated, cheap new look. The innuendo of the former blue box, now a small gradient in the upper right-hand corner, arguably lacked the power, boldness, and tradition of Gap’s original look, and many felt the logo resembled the recently redesigned Price WaterHouse Coopers’ new look.

In fact, Gap got so much pressure from the community that they quickly reverted back to the old one with this notice on Facebook:

Gap: Ok. We’ve heard loud and clear that you don’t like the new logo. We’ve learned a lot from the feedback. We only want what’s best for the brand and our customers. So instead of crowd sourcing, we’re bringing back the Blue Box tonight.” http://bit.ly/9xvtvJ

and more: “At Gap brand, our customers have always come first.”

The Gap presents a great case study of cultivating relationships through social media. Companies who value their employees can learn a great lesson from this example. The social contract is a 2-way street, and companies who listen and act on customer or employee feedback across any channel will build a concrete brand and an unbreakable bond within their target communities.

October 3, 2010

Planning Your Talent Acquisition Strategy. Are Pigs the New Cats?

With a growing abundance of vendors and options to choose from, mapping an appropriate talent acquisition strategy can be tricky. But BRANDEblog readers are in luck.

Trendwatching.com was kind enough to provide some tips for trend-tracking this month and some of the tidbits have great applications for HR as well.
1. Don’t apply all trends to all people.
“One massive mistake both trend watchers and brands make all the time, is to assume or pretend that a certain consumer trend will affect or be embraced by all consumers. ” Replace the word “consumers” with “job seekers” and you’ll get the hidden message. Can we all stop tweeting yet?

2. Be (very) curious.
“while we’re all set in our own ways, and we have our strict beliefs about what is right and what is wrong, closely observing instead of judging the world around you is tantamount to success.” Launch research, do surveys, have focus groups. Knowledge is power and if you don’t believe in “post & pray” methodology, find out what’s working in your market, in your industry and around your world.

3. “Let others do some of the work for you in 2011”
YOU DO NOT HAVE TIME TO DO ALL OF THE ABOVE YOURSELF. .. let professionals do part of the work for you, even if it’s just to help you hit the ground running. We couldn’t agree more. As long as there exists great partners to help you plan strategies, facilitate research and implement campaigns, you should take advantage of their talents on your behalf.

So what about the pigs?
A last bit of advice- If you can’t tell difference between fads and trends, we know a purr-fect partner.

Credit: http://nymag.com/thecut/2010/08/are_pigs_the_new_cats.html