There’s a big difference between advertising jobs and systematically building a recruiting brand. Advertising is essentially a “push” activity: repeatedly placing messages where people will encounter them and be prompted to take some kind of action. The success of an advertising campaign is concrete: responses, leads and, ultimately, sales.
Branding, on the other hand, is intended to leave a positive impression that influences action at a future date, in other words to create “pull.” No immediate action is sought. The success of a branding campaign is measured by changes in perception or attitude.
The traditional staffing model has advertising at its core: beaming message after message out to target audiences to let them know that such and such jobs are available. But as the Internet has made the job marketplace increasingly transparent, to the point where there are now millions of jobs in full view of any candidate with network access, that approach has become less efficient. There is too much noise and clutter in the system for any individual job to stand out, and those that do generate enormous responses, only a tiny percentage of which are decent matches.
The branding and marketing approach addresses this problem by substituting a reduced set of carefully crafted, integrated, corporate messages for some of the endlessly changing roster of individual job postings. This helps create a more consistent marketplace identity. Job postings do not disappear. Some continue to be posted, but the full roster remains on the employer’s website.
Branding also focuses on reputation because in transparent markets reputation has tremendous leverage. Every person an employer touches — candidates, associates, customers, alumni, suppliers, investors, the media — is a potential contributor to that reputation. In a large company, these contributions can number in the hundreds of thousands in a single day. Over time, the combination of consistent image messaging and reputation building creates significant and measurable “pull” in the marketplace that is both powerful in itself and also enhances the effectiveness of individual job postings.
Most corporate staffing departments today are experienced advertisers but few have developed the competencies associated with branding and marketing. This is not an insignificant issue. Competent marketing and branding professionals cost money, or cost money to develop, and companies that have already invested in these skills elsewhere, most typically in corporate public relations, marketing and sales departments, or through contracts with third party agencies, may resist adding them in Human Resources.
But it’s also a vital issue. Extraordinary job market transparency is already a fact of recruiting life. So is the noise and clutter. So are the changes this marketplace is producing in candidate attitudes and behaviors. So is the continuing evolution of technology.
Pure advertising is no longer the most efficient way for employers to connect with the people they want. It has its place, but progressive employers are now supplementing it with branding and marketing programs. Such programs have a proven track record in other noisy, cluttered consumer marketplaces. CHROs wishing to build state of the art, 21st century recruiting programs will have to embrace them.