Employer branding is a really hot topic. Most importantly, because it’s a buyer market, right now, there are more open jobs in the U.S. then there are Americans unemployed. Because of this, companies are actively marketing jobs to candidates. Or is it really consumers? Because that’s how job seekers are looking for new occupations now, versus being desperate people willing to take whatever is given to them.

Most businesses weren’t ready for this shift. No one said in the boardroom, “Hey I know, we should take some money out of this budget and use it to attract the best people we can hire. In fact, we should market to our future employees like we do our customers!” 

Instead, businesses are suddenly having to react to a shift that they didn’t create and certainly didn’t see coming. 

Filling seats, talent acquisition and talent management have always been the hardest and most crucial parts of any business. After all, getting great people that can help the company grow and keeping them inspired, thriving and connected are the basic building blocks of business success.

For those businesses that didn’t see this “people challenge” coming, some of them are trying to handle this new challenge like a business function instead of a human one. Mixing in the desire to have data on everything and use spreadsheets to run the business leads to a confusing and mixed-up reality. 

Before we go any deeper, I want to call something out. This has been driving me crazy for a while: words matter!

My favorite term that drives me crazy is “Talent Acquisition.” This term makes it seems like we’re buying things, not people. Yet our jobs are a combination of our contribution and our time. They’re how we spend the majority of our lives. I firmly believe that people are anything but things. And that’s why the language that we use matters so much.

When we start to detach the person from the work, we create the first problem. I know so many businesses – especially corporations – that love their phrases and acronyms. However, they’re talking about people. We have to do better.

Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s dig into the phrase “Employer Branding.”

First off, Employer Branding is just one part of your culture. Building your culture is a long game and really at the heart of a successful business. Culture can be complex, but it shouldn’t be complicated. That’s because culture is about people and their needs. When that happens at the scale of large organizations, that can mean it also has a lot of levels. 

So why do I say that it’s not complicated? Because it’s really about just one thing: the relationship between your people and your business. That relationship is super dynamic and often personalized but simple at the core.

Ask yourself: How is the relationship between your business and your people?

Employer Branding is the words and the activities that you perform, create, and produce to tell people about your culture. Beyond that, it’s all about helping people see the contribution they can make and what opportunities they will have if they become part of your culture. It’s the stories of your organization. The stories of your people. And the stories that you – and they – will be creating. 


To attract the right people, these four things must be done in a very specific order. But remember – it’s not about being perfect in each. It’s about working on them and being honest about the progress.

This is not a comfortable or an easy process; it takes the long view, which makes it difficult for companies that want measurables every single month. Culture is an investment, and depending on how long it’s been avoided, trust must be rebuilt first.

  1. Culture – The first step is performing a true culture assessment. This may lead to a really hard, truly vulnerable look in the mirror. This isn’t very easy for some organizations, yet it’s an essential first step. How do your people feel about the culture?
  2. Process – This includes the entire employee journey from small companies to large corporations. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and sometimes, we can’t have everything perfect from the first day. The goal is to be honest and human about it all.  From the very first moment process has a huge impact on how people feel about the culture.
  3. The Words We Use –Keep in mind what I said about words like “Talent Acquisition.” What words do you feel lead to negativity? And what ones have others brought to your attention?
  4. Communication or in this case Branding – Answer this question: “What is our value to our people?” A job – and a career – is always about more than that. It’s about the relationship that exists between the company and the person that works there. How will you tell your stories to attract the right people to join you? They must be anchored in your values. And perhaps more importantly, they must be authentic. 

Not all four of these steps have to be completed in order. However, they must be addressed in that order. While we may not have all of our processes figured out, we still need to add people to our team. Simply be honest and authentic about where the organization is. If you’re not – there’s that word authenticity again – a candidate will know when they begin the employee journey. This will be the first break in the trust you’re working so hard to build and maintain.

We can’t forget this entire conversation is about people. It’s not black or white. Because it’s a human conversation, it’s filled with a lot of grays. In the end, it’s about how you talk about yourself in honest and transparent ways. 

That’s why you should work to build a culture first, then a brand that reflects your organization. 

Nathan Wadding, CEO Skinny Tie Media
Helping organizations build authentic communications that lead to a great culture.

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