Andy Curlewis headshot

By Andy Curlewis
Senior Vice President – Brand, Digital & Communications

Not very long ago we thought exchange rates and whether to let our employees work from home or not were weighty issues. Not so much today. We all are receiving a lot of comms in our personal and professional email inboxes around the current COVID-19 pandemic– from governments, health organizations, literally anyone we have ever interacted with online – all with COVID updates as to how they are responding to the pandemic. It’s a lot to take in right now. But what does this all mean for employers, candidates and employees? How can organizations cut through all the noise and properly connect with candidates?

In addition to the many serious health, economic and social issues to consider there are some key talent related questions that keep coming up. We’ve spent a lot of time in recent weeks discussing these topics with our partners and friends in the employer branding and talent experience industry. We have compiled some of the best insights from these conversations for managing employer brands during this time.

Recent Employer Brand FAQs include:

  • What do we, in Talent and Talent Acquisition, need to do right now with our communications across social media, websites and advertising? How can we be the best employers and brands in such a time?
  • What do we need to start changing to accommodate the new way of working – from video interviewing and digital on-boarding to virtual working and internal re-allocation?
  • What should we be doing to prepare for what we hope will be beyond the current situation? So building talent pools of talent whether that be gig, permanent or otherwise? Or re-imagining our talent acquisition platform to be more flexible, scalable and digital?

Maintaining Connection

Let’s consider the first set of questions about social media and content. The COVID-19 pandemic has initiated a period of uncertainty for all marketing, including talent marketing. This is leading to a shift in the industry, as employers wonder how they should be tailoring their employer value proposition messaging to fit the current climate.

For many organizations, maintaining connection is the primary focus – with 66% of social media consumers expecting their social media consumption to increase during coronavirus confinement, according to research from IZEA Insights. Not only will people be consuming more, but the type of content that resonates with audiences is shifting as people across the globe stay or work from home.

Generally, people are looking for support and reassurance. Facebook reports that more than one million users have joined coronavirus-related support groups. And job seekers are increasingly using social media to research job opportunities at companies. Business outlook ratings, as reported by employees on Glassdoor, are trending down for companies and employees based in affected countries.

Perhaps more than ever before, we need to get the balance right between the head and the heart in our brand communications – from key factual analysis such as McKinsey’s view on future scenarios to positive messages like this great piece by The Social Co.

Revising Your Strategy

Brands can be made or broken at the top of a boom or the bottom of a bust. The explosion of brand challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic suggests that we’re living a case study around that theory. But there are steps that brands can take to navigate the situation the right way.

Unsurprisingly, two key themes people are focusing on is tone and appropriateness. What was previously designed to be clever may now come across as tone deaf. Brands need to be positive, while remaining sensitive to the situation. Looking across advertising overall, recent research from Adweek says we’re seeing a 30% reduction in imagery of human connection in social media ads alongside a 600% increase in handwashing imagery. Here’s a look at current ads being used by Cielo clients Wellstar and Becton Dickinson:

       

Many brands have gone silent – and that’s ok. Take time to reflect and go dark when necessary. Strategy means knowing what to post and when, but also when not to post. It’s essential to be clear about the “do’s” and “don’ts” to empower your marketing or social media teams to communicate within a framework.

Appropriate tactics to use include live content, user videos, Q&As and podcasts. It’s best to avoid an increased frequency of posts and humorous posts. From a theme perspective, folks are focusing on positive messages and practical advice – especially messaging around what you are doing as a company to help the situation or to support the safety and wellbeing of your organization and employees. We’re also seeing lots of home workouts, virtual events (concerts, career fairs) and hangouts. Organizations are wisely avoiding branded videos, especially those focusing on sales, holiday posts or anything travel related.

The view of corporate transparency has an even sharper lens right now. Many organizations are having to make difficult decisions with seemingly no good options. We can see a broad spectrum of responses with some organizations that are slow to communicate and/or communicating in an old-school, hierarchical fashion. Compare that to the companies with agile, open and collaborative cultures and communications styles, which are engaging their people, partners and candidates at every turn with facts and analysis.

During times of uncertainty, employees and job seekers look to a company’s leadership for assurance. This is a time to be transparent without causing alarm. Just prior to the pandemic, my team was at a conference where global thought-leader Josh Bersin was speaking. He noted that after eleven years of growth, this year would see slower growth and consolidation with a need to focus on trust and relationships. It’s doubtful that even Josh knew how prescient that would prove to be.


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