As an employer brander—especially as a member of a lean team or the only person running the function—analysis paralysis can be hard to avoid sometimes. With so many options available to create and activate your employer brand, the constant flux of the market, and the new tools and techniques available, you may find yourself chasing after the next shiny thing.
This compulsion is completely understandable. After all, we want to keep up with the frontrunners producing amazing things and are setting the standard employer branding. The harsh truth is that these companies likely have resources you don’t, making it tough to get into the same league.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t continue studying our craft or staying current with new tools, platforms, channels, and techniques. However, it’s important to assess these options critically to see what makes the most sense for you. Otherwise, you’ll be spreading your efforts, resources, and time across way too many channels, limiting your ability to go deep and make an impact.
You can’t stand out if you’re producing meh results inconsistently. To help you battle the shiny object syndrome and produce better results, here are a few things to consider when evaluating channels/platforms for your employer brand strategy.
First, get real about what’s available to you.
Here’s the deal: those companies putting out amazing things you aspire to do yourself not only have full employer branding teams with members who focus on specialized areas, they also have budgets many of us can only dream of.
As a sole practitioner for smaller/mid-sized companies, that was a harsh reality I had to learn, and it’s what I see many colleagues and clients grappling with too. We often put too much pressure on ourselves to compete with these big brands. That comparison is not only unrealistic, but it’s also probably causing a lot of unnecessary stress in your job. In the end, you might discover you worked yourself into the ground trying to do all these things, only to realize it really didn’t make sense for your brand and recruiting goals.
So first get really honest about what’s available to you. The key things you should consider are:
Talent Acquisition Goals
Of course, a good reason companies invest in an employer brander is because they want to attract and convert top talent. However, that’s too broad of a statement. Instead, dig deep and uncover the core goals for this year (or, if you’re able to, the next three years). This focuses your strategy more.
For example, maybe the goal is hiring more tech talent. Maybe it’s building out the DEI function and promoting initiatives. Or maybe it’s launching a new market. By understanding these goals, you’ll better see what you need to create and where you need to invest. Check in with your talent acquisition leaders regularly though, because these goals could pivot unexpectedly.
As I mentioned before, the big brands producing more robust employer branding and recruitment marketing strategies might have budgets we can only hope for. Getting clear on your budget helps you knock out platforms that are too far out of reach. And if you have a limited amount of budget, be cautious about the platforms that are reasonable for you to pursue. Just because you can afford it, doesn’t always mean you should.
If your financial resources are limited, assess what’s truly worth your investment rather than spreading it all around. For example, does it make sense to spend a larger chunk of money in one or two areas to maximize results? Or would you rather disperse money evenly across multiple platforms to expand general reach? If you’ve already invested money in certain platforms, are the results worth the amount you’ve spent, or is it better to cut your losses and move those funds to something more impactful?
Just because you have the budget to invest in certain activities and platforms doesn’t mean you’ll get the buy-in from your leaders to pursue it. For example, if you want to implement a specific technology, you might run into roadblocks from your IT and Security teams. Or if you want to invest in events that would require sending several members of your Engineering team to work a booth or speak, you might discover their managers aren’t willing to let them go because they have other business-impacting priorities to focus on.
Some of this push back can be overcome with great facts, case studies, analytics, or a detailed plan to battle objections. However, other times you may need to reevaluate your strategy and take a different approach that will have less resistance.
Bandwidth, Skill Set, and Resources
This one is always tricky (at least it’s been for me and many other practitioners I know). Just because you have the budget and buy-in to do a bunch of things doesn’t mean you should do a bunch of things. Your mental capacity and creativity are finite resources. Maybe you’ve successfully mutlitasked major projects in the past, but there will come a time where the quantity of things you’re trying to do will affect your quality. Part of that can be caused by changes in your bandwidth, unexpected hiccups, new competing priorities, shifts in goals or the market, or your current skill set.
Consider what’s realistic for you to get done on your own. Then think about what you’d need to outsource. This will once again let you see what’s going to make the most sense for you to invest your energy in.
My best piece of advice is to start small, assess often, and iterate. It’s much easier to get a handle on a few things and get really good at it, than trying to keep up with a bunch of things that aren’t producing enough valuable results.
Also, if you’re someone who thrives in learning environments and loves being autonomous, then try to build relevant skills often. By focusing on one area at a time, you’ll be able to dive deep rather than fragmenting your attention in a bunch of different directions. That’s usually a guaranteed way to take forever to finish things or to only produce mediocre work.
Evaluating Channels for Employer Branding
There are countless channels, platforms, and techniques available to promote your employer brand and activate your recruitment marketing strategy, with more emerging regularly. If you’ve done the work to understand your goals, budgets, and bandwidth/resources, evaluate those against the common channels we’re seeing in the space. These channels include:
Applicant tracking system
Talent CRM + email marketing capabilities
Third-party sites (e.g., Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Built In, etc.)
Programmatic job ads
Social media platforms
Content hubs (e.g., a career-focused blog)
PPC ads (e.g., on social media or third-party publications)
Traditional ads (e.g., billboards, magazines, Spotify)
Sponsored content via third-party publications (digital or print)
Employee advocacy tools
Press releases + public relations
Talent partnerships (e.g., for diverse candidate sourcing, recruiting agencies, etc.)
The list can go on and on, and likely will as more vendors come on the scene. However, this list is a good starting place for you to question whether the channel will aid in your goals and if you’d have the budget, bandwidth, and resources available to make it worth your while.
As you dig in, try to find out the following:
Are these self-serve or do they have services to help you manage them effectively?
Do they have concrete metrics about what you can expect when investing in this? This can include conversion details, demographic insights, or the expected time to ramp up before you see results.
What teams will need to be involved in implementing this channel? For example, if you’re investing in a new CRM or ATS, will your IT team need to help? If so, can they manage this process in a reasonable timeframe?
How much time and effort will it take for you to use this tool successfully?
Based on your talent acquisition goals, is this where your talent shows up? Is this how they discover and interact with potential employers and their job opportunities?
Once you gather that information, form a high-level plan of what you’ll need to do to best utilize these channels. For example, if you invest in social media, what content and cadence will you need to make it effective? If you’re investing in employee advocacy tools, how can you communicate and engage your employees to participate?
Of course, we can’t guess all the contributing factors that influence the success of a strategy, but at least considering the different opportunities, challenges, and requirements lets you see what’s realistic so you can weed down the list even more. Therefore, when you’re ready to get buy-in for things, you’ll have a clear vision for why you’re selecting these options. This can hopefully convince decision makers a lot easier.
I didn’t write this to discourage any of you from dreaming big or trying to compete with the big brands out there, even if you’re a lean team. My goal is to help you really think through the options available to you so you don’t waste time, money, and energy keeping up with things that might not serve you or your candidate audience right now.
I’m emphasizing right now because the beauty of employer branding is that the role and landscape are always changing, and branders have the fun opportunity of continually evolving their brands and skills. You might be bummed if you discover you can’t do the things you’d hoped to at first, but as you build momentum in other areas so they become a well-oiled machine, or you knock things off your strategy list when you realize they’re just not performing how you’d expect, you’ll free up yourself to tackle new and exciting things in the future.
Need help developing your recruitment marketing strategy? Harlow offers activation services. Contact us here to learn more.