Get Weird. 🔬 (EBH#170: What's On Your Mind?)
Don't hide your weirdness. Let your freak flag fly! It'll do your brand good.
Mission: Create a million employer brand thinkers (like you!)
Employer Brand Headlines is written by James Ellis. »» Yes, you should say hello! ««
After a three year hiatus, I’m getting on planes to come to talk to you (and your event, presumably)! If you need a speaker who can get even jaded human resources practitioners excited about what employer branding can do for them, I might be your solution.
Take a look at some examples of me on stage here. Or just reply to this email so we can figure out how i can help! #HavePassportWillTravel
The Big Idea
I’ve long said that employer branders are a weird group.
Case in point: We are responsible for a brand who’s inputs we don’t control.
Further case in point: I can think two VERY good EB managers who’s sense of what it takes to be good at the job do not overlap in almost any way.
So far away case in point: There’s a great argument for EB living in three or four different functional areas. Do people argue over where legal or sales should live?
And to be fair, I’ve met a lot of you, so I feel confident in saying we’re all a little weird.
But this morning, I ran across this quote from Alain de Botton: The only people who can still strike us as normal are those we don’t yet know very well.
That really hit home, because not only are we weird (he said with love!), but the companies we represent are weird, too.
You might not realize it because you’re in the middle of it, like asking a fish how the water is. But if you took a moment and really looked at your employer through the eyes of a new hire, you’d very quickly see many of ways in which you are deeply and truly weird.
Maybe it’s something like…
How everyone at work wears their swag in the office
How that one guy has decided to become “Captain [company_name]” and wears a cape and a mask at office events like some deranged and overly-branded super hero and everyone thinks its totally fine
How you run your all-hands meetings like a pep rally lead by a cheerleader
How your CFO likes to “preach” about the business strategy at all-hands meeting
How you have no official onboarding process and might not be met by anyone on your first day
How the food at your cafeteria isn’t free, despite being a deeply profitable, massive name-brand ecommerce company
How you like to refer to your sense of humor as “quirky” by putting that into signs on walls
How you’re comfortable that your CEO is a surly curmudgeon and everyone accepts that because that’s “just how they are” despite their screaming at subordinates on a regular and public fashion
The way you name your conference rooms (or the number of hours that goes into naming new ones)
The practice you have of never (or always) having cameras on during work calls. Or that you love it that people are showing up with ever-creative backgrounds
How your CEO likes to write all-staff emails about the world under the heading “musings,” and will collect and bind a years’ worth into books that get sent to staff and clients
The list could go on and on (and yes, every single thing on the above list is real, either because I was in that company, or I was told stories about those companies… dm me later). These things are what make you weird to anyone on the outside looking in.
These are the things that, if made public, would become your the brand. So they should support your brand (because they all get out eventually).
But this kind of weird is how you can better describe your company to strangers. Why does it feel like employer branding is trying desperately to make their company look like they fit in with the industry? Shouldn’t they be spending time standing out? Showing off your weird paints a compelling portrait and makes it way more clear what an employee is walking into. Letting your freak flag fly creates credibility while your competitors pretend they are perfect.
Not only is it more descriptive, it is WAY more memorable. In the game of getting strangers to remember what you’re all about, a weird example or a weird story is going to stick like duct tape.
If you have that gut reaction of “if they know how weird this place is, they’ll never apply.” But not revealing this stuff, holding it back until they’ve signed their offer letter is like waiting until the honeymoon to reveal that you occasionally get night terrors. This is information they want and need in advance.
So get weird. Your candidates will be glad you did.
The “Inside Out” strategy. We usually look at our channels as outbound/distribution channels. If we have a video, we host it on YouTube (so Google can share it) and link to it on all our social channels to push it out and maximize reach. But most of our channels are two-way. What if we used those channels to ask our audiences something? What if you shared a job, but instead of saying “We’re hiring!” you ask, “when you read this job, what else would you like to know?” When sharing a video, ask, “what part of the company do you want to learn about next?” Ask people what their favorite employer branding video from other companies are. Or what they look for most in their next employer. Or why they applied at another company. Imagine what knowing that would get you! Not tapping into those resources is like leaving branding on the table.
The Employer Brand Minute
Perfectly sharable (with your team, your recruiters, your boss) employer brand thinking in short video form. This week, I covered topics like taking building better relationships with marketing, the value of having values, and this one about how to let go of your debilitating addiction to other people’s benchmarks. (Remember to subscribe on YouTube!)
It’s too easy to just say, “don’t use stock images in your employer branding.” (And thanks to the magic of Google reverse image search, it’s REALLY easy to see that the photo you use on the second page of your career site is on your competitor’s site as well.)
Because in it’s place, many companies create their own stock images. You know what I mean: glossy as hell, precisely staged and modeled by “select” employees to the point where some companies could sell their images on Getty and make a little money on the side.
So what do you show when you take picture? You can make the case that any image is editorial, that no matter how “organic” or “real,” it chooses what to include in the image and what nightmare lurks just outside the frame.
There’s no right answer to what kind of imagery you need expect this: your visuals should support your core brand. I can see a case for “rough” phone-based images being great at showing off an “opportunity and agency” brand (“everyone has a chance to build their own success so they shot their own images to tell their own story”) or even a mission-driven brand (“we’re too busy serving our mission to care about getting pretty pictures”) and how polished staged shots support a status-driven brand (“look at how cool we look working!”).
“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” - Stephen Covey
Whenever you’re ready, I have a few ways I can help you:
EVP Masterclass: Develop your own Employer Brand/EVP alongside other recruiting leaders in my next guided cohort.
Employer Brand for Recruiters: Video on demand to teach recruiters how using their employer brand properly makes them more effective. Group rates available.
Coaching and consulting: Email me and we’ll set up time to talk 1:1 about how I can help you or your company take advantage of your employer brand.
Cheers and thanks!
-James Ellis (LinkedIn)
Search all 1,700+ links historically referenced in the article archive.
Read Talent Chooses You for free from this open source Google Doc.
Here’s the 2022 version of The Employer Brand Manifesto.
220+ episodes of The Talent Cast podcast.
Where the subject line came from:
Information Society - What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy)
In 1988, this song made you all but stop in your tracks. Sample-driven dance music wasn’t new, but this song sounded soooo goooood. From a purely sonic standpoint, it sounds like it was recorded last week. You can almost sense a teenage Trent Reznor taking production notes. These music nerds from St Paul, Minnesota wrote a dance track that was on the dance charts for almost a solid year. I can only imagine the how big this band would have gotten had they lived in New York. Enjoy!
If you are enjoying the music, congratulations, you have great taste in music and/or 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: