7 Questions to ask before selecting an employer brand agency

Choosing the right agency to bring all your employer brand communication goals to fruition. It seems straightforward. However, this is where most branding projects could be announced dead on arrival. The holistic process of turning your company into a favourite employer is a living, breathing process that constantly has to evolve. Therefore, it is critical to choose a business partner that is best suited for both your company’s employer goals and your daily professional tasks.

There are many reasons you might need an employer brand agency. Employee Value Proposition is the axis of all employer brand communications, but not all communications revolve around an EVP. Most companies might not have the budget for coming up with any kind of strategy, let alone raise the budget for scientifically developing an EVP. The reason you might need an agency, thus the services provided by a said potential partner could include:

  • Coming up with content for communications or motivating employees to provide content
  • Bringing your EVP to life visually
  • Strategizing and/or finding new applications and communications in line with EVP
  • Showcasing your culture for candidates
  • Creating and/or running internal communication or recruitment projects
  • Fine-tuning your existing communications, design and/or content-wise
  • Reaching your people KPIs (Employee turnover, recruitment quotas, etc.)

The scope of employer brand agencies could be one of the below types.

  • Internal Communications
  • Campus Recruitment / Overall Talent Recruitment
  • (Career) Social Media
  • End-to-end
  • Consultancy

The most preferable agency should be not only together with you in every step, but also guiding you towards the front lines. They should approach every communication and project holistically, i.e. how one step would or should affect the other. If there is the possibility of receiving answers to questions you had not even considered asking, why settle for less? This would be only possible if you work with people who have proficiency in every step of employer brand management and brand communications.

The last point to bear in mind is that you could choose a partnership that is either project-based or fee-based. For the latter, it is possible to settle for a specific amount of services & deliverables for a month. Be sure to confer with your potential partners about which method would suit your current and upcoming needs!

We have come up with some questions to help you begin your selection process. As we have just mentioned, we have to know if they are proficient in both brand communications and employer branding. Read on to see which service provider would be the best for you.

1- How do you describe yourself as an employer? What should employer branding mean for you?

First, we have to know if you are aware of the reasons why you need to brand yourself better as an employer. As mentioned here, let’s first find out in what step of brand communications you are in. Maybe your current project idea only covers the symptoms of a terminal illness and you need to diagnose the illness in the culture first… Insufficient briefing of the agency could result in unnecessary spending of time and budget. Having sound goals or KPIs helps you A/B test and thus continuously improve processes. The overall perception of your company as an employer could be brought together:

  • Turnover rates
  • Offer/acceptance ratios
  • Exit interviews
  • Development activities
  • Performance points
  • Sociological analysis of employees
  • Recruitment ads
  • Internal event frequencies & participation rates

The more data provided for the agency, the better idea they would have of your current image. Thus, they can create a more realistic employer brand identity. The employee propositions would be supported by more connected, coherent and cohesive. All in all; clearer, more recognizable and catchier communications.

For the best utilization of agency resources, share a summary of all the employee and candidate communications in addition to the summary of said data. Prior mass-mailed announcements, vacancy ad designs, internal event photos, award ceremonies, orientation documents… Just like in any marketing activity, we have to start only after analyzing all of the data and understanding the current situation best.

Bridging the gap between your brand identity and brand image, or brand communication, takes the shape of many creatives, content, events and operations. This takes us to the next question…

2- Are they aware of “brand” concepts?

Employer branding, or employer brand communication, is more than “HR communications” or “Recruitment Marketing”. It is continuous advertising; it’s right there in the name: of branding. Read on more here for detailed information. The perfect strategic brand management steps cover planning, positioning, marketing, measurement, and sustainable value creation.

Brand communications are the perfect symbiosis of science and art and include many concepts and mindmaps that could only be internalized after years of practice. Once you start working with people of such expertise, their responsibility would already be beyond briefing. They should guide you through the below graphics, as you do not have to know about all the processes if your title includes “HR” in it.

 

3- Are they good with creatives?

Timing is everything in the world of people communications, which includes both candidate experience and employee experience. A big agency has a team of strategists, creative directors, art directors, copywriters, and social media managers at least each for 1 brand. However; it is highly probable that the more crowded an agency is, the slower you will reach your deliverables. Before agreeing on anything else, make sure both parties agree on deadlines and timing beforehand.

After you are on the same page concerning deliverables, you would not want to have a good strategy (let alone your budget!) go to waste with bad applications of good ideas. You may have checked out the agency’s references or gone over their previous creatives… But will the same creative team be working for you? Or will you get a completely new team composed of people inexperienced in brand communications? There are a few methods to make sure:

  • Check the personal creatives of your potential team.
  • Request a very simple case study from the potential team.
  • Ask about how the brands & employer brands they built or sustained lasted over time. Request measurable results for campaigns!
  • How many new ideas & innovations their previous clients carry through?

Remember: Efficient or correct communication cannot be only “beautiful” or have just good design. It should also be scientific; based on previous data as part of a strategy.

4- Do you need end-to-end services or project-based support?

Let’s say you have sufficient data before starting a communication. This could be anything: an internal innovation program, motivation event, recruitment campaign, a competition that targets young talent, etc. Any of them should be built over the following (employer) brand communication steps:

  1. Research
  2. Analysis
  3. Strategy & Positioning & Persona creation
  4. Tone-of-voice
  5. Brand Identity & Guide
  6. Creation of design templates
  7. Adaptation/Realization of creative deliverables (Ads, covers, videos, banners, etc.)
  8. Media Management

The most efficient partner your employer brand would have are the ones who have experience in all, lifting much weight off your shoulders. Whatever your goal, sustainable and impactful results come into the picture if all communications are consistent under a good EVP. If an EVP is not available, the messages (including design) should be consistent with the image you are striving towards according to brand communication principles. Make sure that the creative team at the agency has the space and trust for what they are supposed to do best. You might be surprised about how many ideas you could hear once you just ask for opinions over a simple HR announcement mail!

Another substantial example can better explain what a holistic agency can do: Just carrying through with the top management’s request to “update all vacancy ad images with the new EVP” could be realized better with a holistic perspective. Rather than just requesting image updates from the agency, tell them what and why you are taking action. Their brand communication know-how and/or employer brand management know-how can bring ideas about career web pages and social media updates, tone-of-voice revisions, new project recommendations, etc.

5- Do they have HR experience?

Knowledge of and expertise in HR processes, and how they relate to each other… A seldom trait observed in brand communication agencies. If you work with a team of the highest calibre, they will be aware of the difficulties you might encounter within your own company: Participation of the top management, approval processes, how organizational cultures transform, must-have elements within projects, and more as we have mentioned here.

Having great foresight and insight concerning the psychology of candidates and employees is another huge, obvious plus. You will be sure that they know firsthand what attracts and motivates people the most, thus having the most efficient strategy, content and design from your partner.

6- How will you know if you are successful?

This question is completely up for you and the potential partner to debate. It depends on the strategy, which you use to reach your KPIs, where goals are determined after analyzing the previous data. Knowing what platforms or systems the agency has in place for goal and awareness measurement can help you accelerate the process. These could be social media interactions, application quality or quantity, career page visits, participation rates in internal events or more.

7-  Who will be your contact?

The last question you answer will determine your everyday life until either the project or partnership contract period is over. You must have one point of contact: Consistency is key in any kind of brand management. We have to continuously, coherently, and cohesively communicate our promises internally & externally, digitally & physically, creative-wise & reality-wise. It all sounds like much to align while handling communications, however, it is a lot more difficult to align when there are many creative stakeholders. The more experience your “one” contact has in employer branding, the more relaxed you are going to feel in your daily tasks.

In the meantime, you can download my free ebook creating an authentic employer brand here or you can join a free week session of Employer Brand Academy certificate courses here.



Author: Ali Ayaz
Ali Ayaz is an Employer Brand and HR Consultant with Modern Management Consulting who is well-versed in Employer Brand Development, Candidate and Employee Surveys, Recruitment and Employee Engagement. Having successfully completed Employer Brand projects with multinational blue-chip companies in Automotive, Banking, FMCG, IT, Telecom and Retail industries, he teaches employer brand management, human resources and fundamentals of management at Employer Brand Academy (online) and European School of Economics (London). He is the author of the e-book “How to Built a Robust Employer Brand Strategy” and founder of the Employer Brand Academy. He is a chartered member of CIPD - the professional body for HR and people development.

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