It can be hard for brands in traditional industries like manufacturing and aerospace and defense to snatch talented engineers away from lucrative job offers at flashy young tech companies. Effective communication is essential if you want to boost your employer brand and build demand among potential job candidates. Corporate communications leaders can play a very important role here, partnering with HR to help build and implement a solid company branding strategy that will have a tangible impact on recruitment.
Employee experiences drive brand relevance
While company websites and LinkedIn profiles may represent the face of your brand, the real brand story is the one your employees tell. Having a company branding strategy that captures the voices of your engineers and shares their experiences through digital and other channels can help establish credibility and drive demand among prospects. But only if the brand strategy is built with a solid understanding of the desired audience.
Getting a good handle on what matters to the type of engineers you're attempting to attract can start from within, suggests Kyle Arteaga, co-founder of The Bulleit Group, a boutique PR firm. As a key starting point, he recommends conducting an audit of the current engineering team. What led them to join your company? What keeps them there? "Be honest with yourself as to your strengths and weaknesses," he advises. "If work/life balance is why you win, that's a good selling point to weave through your communications efforts," he says. "It's highly likely you pay less than Silicon Valley-based firms, and that's OK, as long as you acknowledge it up front and clearly articulate what you can provide instead."
People connecting with people
Starting with your internal audience might seem counterintuitive, Arteaga says, but adds, "You need to shore up your base before extending beyond." Top engineers, he notes, "want to work with people they consider to be their peers or who they can learn from. There is no better place to find those people than within their own network." Work with existing engineers, he suggests, to create an editorial calendar that covers:
- Projects — Stories about how a project started, how challenges were overcome and how the project is now successfully running at scale. Who are the people involved, what role does each play and how is the project impacting the larger organization?
- People — Stories about the people in the engineering group, what their backgrounds are, why they joined the company and what they do at the organization.
- Key technologies — Stories about how the company views topics such as open source, machine learning, data center infrastructure and web services.
In addition, he suggests, you might even engage your engineers in writing content. "Give them a venue to publish this content, preferably on an external-facing site owned by the company. Help them promote it via the company's and the engineers' own social channels."
Getting the word out
Felicia Fleitman is the founder of Savvy Hires, a recruitment consulting firm that helps companies create strategic internship programs. Companies need to form a clear vision aligned with what matters to candidates, says Fleitman. Once that clear vision is in place, they need to articulate it digitally. To do that, she recommends that organizations:
- Have a strong career website that's visually rich and that contains lots of photographs and stories from employees at all levels (not just those at the top). Pay attention to the details, she stresses. For instance, "Consider what these folks are wearing in the pics — please no suits with gray backgrounds." And, she adds, tell stories through videos, not just text.
- Utilize digital marketing to target your candidate profile, but instead of just a job posting, think about a meme or ad that says something interesting about working at the company.
- Remember that candidates nowadays are well-rounded and (traditionally) care about their impact on the world. Highlighting that the company is multi-faceted and drives various social missions can help create interest.
Company branding strategy, particularly for the employer brand, is about engaging and leveraging the power of people to tell the brand story. Doing that in alignment with an overarching strategy, knowledge of the target audience and a cadre of employer brand advocates can help your organization stand out from the crowd, even when attempting to attract candidates who are in high demand.