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🧪 Employer Brand Headlines #151: The "Spirits In The Material World" Edition
You can't buy tools to solve your employer brand problems
Mission: Create a million employer brand thinkers (yes, that’s you!)
Written by James Ellis. »» Say hello! ««
In this issue…
Why tools don’t solve employer brand problems
A brand changes things
Should you blend in?
Should you refresh your EVP?
The big idea
Perhaps you’ve heard of the serenity prayer, famously the mantra of Alcohol Anonymous:
Give me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
It’s a wonder that this same prayer isn’t recited at all employer branding conferences and get-together. Not because we might have a few drinks, but because it gets to the heart of what employer branding is all about.
Employer brand works via influence, and never by control. We teach people about core ideas and messaging pillars rather than demand people use certain language. We show them how they can highlight their own messaging by focusing on messages that are easy to validate. We keep a loose hand on the tiller so that hiring managers can localize the messages into their own industry and cultural vernacular.
We almost never have any actual authority, so we nudge, we suggest, and we educate.
Compare this idea to people who try to tell you that a given tool or site solves your employer branding problems. Review sites, social media management tools, advocacy tools, job ad writing tools, job distribution tools, creative/collateral management tools, CRMs, etc. These are all tools of control. They lock formats, define language, and limit localization.
The tantalizing draw of control is that it feels like an immediate step forward. But it is a false step. It tells everyone in the company to not think about what the brand means to them and their candidates. It draws a barrier between you and the rest of the company who can turn your brand ideas into living, breathing stories.
The meaningful wins in employer brand, regardless of company size, come from building strategies of influence. That’s where you should be spending your time to activate your employer brand so that it works for you.
Season 2 of The Talent Cast continues!
The revised and annotated audio version of Talent Chooses You (all singing, all dancing!) continues with episode 23 on how to use your employer brand to make better decisions every single day.
The Proof Is In The Pudding [SOAPBOX]
I love seeing companies announce policies in which they will reimburse employees for travel to family planning and medical facilities no longer available because the US Supreme Court thinks A Handmaid’s Tale was a great idea. But do you know what I really want to see? Those same companies publishing their political donations lists. I get that companies generally donate to both sides to cover their bets (did I not mention that my poli sci degree focused on campaign finance?), but you can’t quietly donate to the leadership that stuffed the court with theocrats and then publicly decry the outcome with a good press release. You know why? Because women are watching. If you want to ever hire a women again, you need to do more than adjust a policy: your brand has to really (I mean actually) stand for women.
If you haven’t Rory Sutherland’s Alchemy (or really, listened to him pontificate seemingly without end on dozens of podcasts), you should. But this article is a great distillation of a lot of Rory’s thinking: branding is so much more than the label you put on a product or idea, it can literally change how that product or idea is perceived. [BrandingMag]
Yeah… I can see the value of a start-up brand trying to piggyback on an established set of brand ideas. But I’d suggest there’s a LOT more value is standing up to those established brands. Blending in (by its very definition) means no one will notice you, and in our space, you’ll get people who are happy to apply to any job rather than specifically your job. [BrandingMag]
Only if the value you offer has actually changed. [Brie Mason via LinkedIn]
Most “strategies” are goals or aspirations or tactics (i.e. things that are very specifically NOT strategies). If you want to spend time building a good strategy (and you should!), the best place to start is to focus on your toughest challenges. Turns out that a strategy that solves those tends to solve a lot of ancillary problems, too. (Then you can figure out how to execute the strategy.) [HBR]
Inside the fortune cookie
“In every area of life there is a hidden asymmetry. If you apply your focus like everyone else, you will get the same results as everyone else. Understanding where to apply your focus makes a massive difference in results” - Shane Parrish
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Cheers and thanks!
-James Ellis (LinkedIn)
Where the subject line came from:
The Police - Spirits in the Material World
Ghost in the Machine is the very first album I ever bought with my own money (full disclosure, I bought it alongside Hall and Oates’ Private Eyes, so I’m not that cool). It’s a little strange not to have name checked The Police before now, but on a weekend where it seems like the world is making less and less sense by the moment, this is my go to album. Minimalist and out of kilter, it came out as the band was really not getting along with one another, and that friction is seemingly directed at the politics of the day (which sound a lot like the politics of today, sadly). It isn’t nihilistic, but it is a little bleak backed by a little too much knowledge of how the world works. This isn’t rage so much as it is a cauldron of seething resentment to the world at large, where every option is bad. (That might explain why “Everything Little Thing She Does Is Magic” leaps out from such dire context.) But don’t get me wrong, this is a great album.
If you are enjoying the music, congratulations, you’re old! Just for you, I made a Spotify playlist of all the subject line 80’s songs I’ve referenced over the last year and a half. You don’t even need hairspray to enjoy it: