Digital storytelling has redefined the corporate identity for companies across industries and geographies along with how that identity is communicated to others. The brand story allows the company to weave a multi-layered fabric of ideas, value systems, product and service lines, collective corporate footprints and core competencies. This leads to a holistic employer branding strategy that is based on an impactful narrative. Stories make a deeper impression than facts stated bluntly. Stories live on. It is no surprise then that organizations today are invested in branded storytelling to convey all that they stand for.
“The easiest and most effective way to market to candidates is to use employee stories. While this is a best practice in the industry, companies still sometimes miss the opportunity here to feature employees. Quotes and pictures of the office are great — they get the candidate picturing themselves in the work environment which is important — but stories leave a lasting impression. When candidates consume 2-18 pieces of content before clicking apply, you have to be memorable. And stories stick,” says Co-Founder and Partner at Stories Incorporated, Lauryn Sargent.
While it is imperative for organizations to have an employer branding strategy in place, how they use the art of digital storytelling to make their corporate identity relatable and relevant to their existing and prospective internal and external stakeholders is what needs conscious planning, thought and action. That is where a fine line between story-selling and story-telling needs to be acknowledged to help start an honest dialogue and then widen the conversation. Before telling the brand story, an organization must really know its identity first.
Transforming a thought into a story
Every organization is carved out of a basic thought or vision on which its identity rests. However, conveying that thought as is or even just listing out a timeline with all the achievements and the history is not enough to compel a stakeholder. The narrative needs to be punctuated nuances of human behaviour and by characters who are easy to relate or those who can really drive motivation in an identifiable time-space. The thought behind the business and behind branding also needs to be translated across all collaterals within and to all touch-points outside.
For many businesses already in service, it is not always easy to trace their steps back and begin with a tabula rasa but it definitely helps to redefine the basic framework that holds it all together. These parts of the strategy remain constant and once these are crystalized, the mobile aspects can then be focused upon.
Here are a few aspects to keep in mind:
- Who is the target audience who would be “listening” to all that the company has to say?
- What are the key aspects of the storyline?
- How to best to articulate the storyline and make the characters relatable?
- Which channels of dissemination would be the most effective?
- Is the architecture of the brand story ready for all digital platforms in a way that the form changes although the thought remains the same?
From a story to a dialogue
Like in any story, whether it is the Iliad, the Ramayana, Alice in Wonderland or Long Walk to Freedom, success of communication lies in the hold the narrator has on the core ideas and ideals of the narrative. For an organization, the key aspects are values, principles, competencies and behaviors, and product design. Being in tune with these help in having the basic skeleton of the story in place. However, for communication to be truly successful, it needs to open a conversation. Employer branding thus needs to look at storytelling as not a tool to say something, but a tool to talk to others with. The brand story should thus encourage a response and lead to more sharing by resonating with aspirations, hopes, fears and challenges that the audience faces as well.
Andrew Seel, Chief Executive Officer at Qubist, rightly observes that “To find the brightest minds externally, companies are now turning internally to work with their best influencers - their employees. Employee advocacy empowers colleagues to share stories about the company they work for on their own social media channels, distributing the employer brand effectively, bringing the EVP to life and driving relevant referrals. When employees share content, they typically see a click-through rate double that of their company according to LinkedIn.”
“Regarding trends in 2018, we see employer brands being deployed with more tactical efficiency than ever. A strong and coherent employer brand allows for consistent messages on multiple online platforms, and for recruiters to start adapting their interview and sourcing methods to harmonize with the brand. We’ve surveyed companies on this topic, and more than half say that investing in employer brand has improved recruiting outcomes. We are also embracing technologies that enable the human tradition of storytelling, so that job seekers can engage in the personal brand building to help distinguish themselves to potential employers,” is what Chris Cho, Chief Product Officer at Monster has to say.
As the trend waves shift and act as catalysts to the employer branding space, the needs for the same change as well. That said, one need is never off the list – the need for the brand story to be told – which is linked to the need of stakeholders to know what the brand upholds as its identity. While social media is being heavily invested in from an employer branding perspective, there is still a few bumps to overcome in being able to truly tell the brand story without having to sell it.
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