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Employer branding: how to write your best talent content

As an employer brand professional, you’re necessarily a content writer. You’re responsible for drafting internal employee content (onboarding materials, employee handbooks, company announcement memos, etc.) and external candidate content (careers page copy, employee spotlight blogs, social media posts, recruiting event materials, and so on). Even Instagram images and day-in-the-life videos require you to write captions and scripts. 

But maybe you’re not a trained writer—how do you know your words are having the intended impact?

Employer branding is about telling the same story across multiple forms of content. To ensure that your writing is consistent and consistently effective, try following these seven writing tips, which include best practices from the world of“traditional” content marketing.

1. Build a foundation for your employer branding

Decide on the story you want to tell as an employer. It will start with your mission and values, and incorporate the reality of your company’s internal business culture. Then tell that story constantly and consistently in all of your talent content. 

If you haven’t already, write a unique and authentic employee value proposition that reflects and informs your employer brand. “You really have to articulate an authentic EVP and then catalyze it,” advises K.C. Jorgensen, Textio’s Chief People Officer. “And you catalyze it by communicating it everywhere, and that’s what helps to build your employer brand.”

Next, decide how you want to describe your company culture. Choose words and phrases that genuinely reflect what it’s like to work there, that highlight the most appealing aspects, and that are consistent with your EVP. 

This is the messaging that you’ll want to see reflected in the rest of your talent content. If necessary, create an employer branding style guide that lists out all of the terms that should (and shouldn’t) be used to describe your company’s culture and values. 

2. Know your audience

In the same way that content marketers research their target audience, recruiters need to spend time creating candidate and employee personas. Don’t just make a list of the qualities you’d like to see in an ideal employee—do some research into the shared values and goals that actually define them, and learn more about the context in which you’re trying to reach them. 

Survey current employees and ask them what they value most about their roles and their workplace environment. Also ask what personal or professional goals they have set for themselves. How do these align with your company values and objectives? Consider asking employees about their web activity, too—the online platforms they use for fun, for networking, and for job searching may also be the best channels for targeting candidates. 

Next, consider the specific role and location that your candidate persona inhabits. What sort of language speaks to a person working in that industry, and in that city? You may be surprised by how candidates react to certain words based on their professional or geographic position. 

Textio once found that job listings for IT professionals performed better on average if they included the word “develop,”and worse if they used the word “establish.” The data also showed that the reverse was true in personal services and product management, where candidates would rather “establish” than “develop” something. And although the word“synergy” has been universally mocked as the most cliched corporate buzzword in the English language, we’ve found in the past that job posts that included the word performed better than average in cities like Chicago, San Francisco, and London. 

3. Be mindful

You want your employer brand to appeal to all of your employees, and to the widest possible pool of qualified candidates. That requires a mindful approach to your talent content. 

Write with your personas in mind, considering how your words might land with the employees and candidates you’re trying to reach. Think twice about words or phrases that could put off certain groups, or harbor an implicit bias. 

Most professional writers were originally taught strict subject pronoun rules—individuals had to be referred to as “he” or“she,” and never “they.” But the singular “they” has now been endorsed by even the strictest grammarians, which makes writing a lot less awkward and a lot more inclusive. So you can stop using language like “his or her responsibilities will include the following,” and start talking about “their responsibilities” or “your responsibilities.” 

Hidden bias is more difficult to spot (that’s what makes it hidden). Using augmented writing software to identify and replace subtly problematic wording can have a big impact on how successful your talent content is at engaging readers. In 2018, Zillow started using Textio as part of an effort to broaden representation in their candidate pool. In just the first few months, they saw their recruiting email response rates improve by 16 percent.

4. Be creative

It’s a tight job market, the best candidates are passive, and the number one obstacle they face when considering career opportunities is not knowing what it’s like to work at a new organization. As an employer brand pro, you’re trying to let them know. But how do you cut through all of the noise and make your message heard? The best way to stand out is to be original.

Never copy and paste—in content marketing it’s plagiarism, and in recruiting it’s lazy and patently inauthentic. When writing job posts, don’t just pull up an old listing and make a few tweaks (or worse, Google a competitor’s job description and copy/paste the best bits).

Also, reusing old templates (or free ones you’ve found online) can prevent new employer brand language from infusing all of your talent content. To guard against this, Textio designed a template feature that’s capable of pushing out standardized brand language to all affected job posts in just a few clicks. The software enables recruiters to stay on-brand, while still being original with their language.

An inventive title or opening hook can also catch a reader’s attention. For example, Hubspot has a careers blog where employees write articles about their experiences and insights, with eye-catching titles like 5 Things Being an Intern and a‘Survivor’ Contestant Have in Common.”

Not only is creative content more engaging, it does some of your employer branding for you. The most fun and interesting content is self-evidently born out of an exciting workplace where originality is valued. Brianna Kelly, a Talent Acquisition Partner at Glassdoor, found a uniquely entertaining way to spotlight employees and company culture with her #MondayMoves series on LinkedIn. Using weekly dance videos to showcase roles in the company’s Chicago office, Kelly made a name for herself as #thedancingrecruiter, and helped Glassdoor build a reputation for itself as a great place to work. 

5. Be concise

Brevity is the soul of engaging content.

Content marketers know that user intent is driven by instant gratification, meaning people are more likely to skim an article than read it closely. That’s why they use bold headers to divide their posts into more easily digestible sections, and take care to avoid writing sentences and paragraphs that drag on too long.

Get a good editor to look at your talent content and cut your run-on sentences in half, delete unnecessary words, and remind you to get to the point. Job posts in particular can benefit from having an editor to trim the fat.

Augmented writing software can also help you make every word count. Textio suggests high-performing words that sound how you mean to sound, allowing you to be intentional rather than plentiful in your use of language.

6. Measure results

In content marketing, writers are always tracking analytics to see what’s performing well and what’s failing to find an audience. Identify which pieces of content are and aren’t sparking engagement so that you can do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

Test your talent content by looking at relevant KPIs. In the case of external candidate content, that includes metrics such as likes and shares on social media posts and applications through your careers page.

To measure the effectiveness of your internal employee content, just ask around. Survey newer employees about their hiring experience, soliciting feedback on the employee handbook and onboarding materials. Ask employees to tell you what they do and don’t like about your talent content, and encourage them to give suggestions on how to make it better.

The ultimate test of your employer brand will be your candidate engagement and employee retention rates. If those numbers are lacking, you may need to take a more granular look at each component of your talent content. 

7. Ask for engagement

Employer branding and content marketing both require a concerted effort to get people’s attention. Being original helps you cut through the noise, but actively promoting your content is like using a bullhorn to make yourself heard over everyone’s shouting. 

At content marketing agencies, writers are constantly asking their colleagues to like, retweet, and upvote their articles and social media posts to increase traffic and visibility. Similarly, you should be inviting employees to like and spread the talent content that you’re posting on LinkedIn, your social media accounts, and all other relevant channels. 

Of course, this will be an easier ask if your employees are the content. Create an Instagram or Facebook post that spotlights a specific employee, and they’re likely to share it with their own network. 

The best way to build an army of passive recruiters is to empower employees to be advocates for your employer brand, either on social media or in person. Here at Textio, we actually hosted a “social media day” where employees could have professional photos taken for their LinkedIn profiles and other networking accounts. And our co-founder and CEO Kieran Snyder regularly offers us workshops on how to build a professional and personal brand, focusing on topics like content creation and public speaking. 

If you give employees the incentives and tools they need to be evangelizers for your employer brand, they’ll be a lot more enthusiastic about spreading the good word. 

Employer branding is about telling a clear story

Writers work hard to develop a consistent voice. It defines their style and enables them to tell a coherent story. 

Your employer brand is the story your company’s telling about itself across hundreds of pieces of internal and external content. Each piece needs to be written in the same, consistent language to ensure that everyone is hearing the same story. In both traditional content marketing and employer branding, cohesive branded content is key to establishing a voice and making it heard. 

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