We’ve all heard about how content is king. But content is ineffective if it’s not in context. People’s decision styles change based on the context of the receptivity of their situation. If you push messages on people that are out of context to their state of mind or situation, the chances of connecting with them are slim. In fact, you may annoy them and just be part of the marketing noise that gets in their way.
To add to all of this, the world has become highly homogenous and cluttered with choices that diminish the ability to differentiate. With so many channels and touchpoints available for brands to use, we find ourselves bombarded with content both bad and good, which makes it difficult to stand out and grab attention. On top of all the noise, one of the most significant changes is the way we target candidates.
We’re in a customer-centric candidate world, where the candidate is treated and marketed to like a customer. This is key to how employer branding and corporate branding coexist. Brands are putting more focus on building branded experiences as their primary method to differentiate, and a positive candidate experience has the power to win or lose you great talent and customers. So it makes sense that the focus includes the quality of the branded candidate experience as well.
The rapid evolution of digital technologies is parsing your employee value proposition (EVP) into seamless interactions, touchpoints and automation. It has contributed to a world full of noise that impacts the candidate experience, which puts importance on organizing your EVP into stories and experiences that shape the relationship between your candidates and the company.
Every brand right now delivers some degree of candidate experience. But mapping those branded experiences to the candidates’ needs is where the gap lies. And the experiences and content need to be exclusive to your brand message. Candidate journey mapping helps you step into your candidates’ shoes and see your business from their point of view. It builds and shares knowledge about what your candidate needs are at various points in their lifecycle, and gives you insights into what their pain points are. This helps amplify the receptivity and timing of your message to be relevant and memorable enough to persuade the candidate to take action.
A branded candidate journey is made up of experiences and touch points throughout the candidate lifecycle that connect everywhere in context to timing and relevance. These are experiences that not only deliver what the brand stands for, but a sustained journey that shapes the relationship between the candidates and the company.
There are many benefits of building branded journeys:
- Monitoring and measuring message effectiveness along their journey
- Targeting your candidates’ motivations and emotions with your priority EVP message points
- Creating candidate-focused content by putting yourself in your candidates’ shoes
- Organizing a seamless narrative across multiple channels and touch points
- Fueling branded ingredients for your content strategies
- Enhancing positive perceptions that can have a direct effect on customer purchases
The process in and of itself is quite immersive and interactive. However, before you embark on building branded journeys, you need to assess your situation carefully. Do you have an EVP in place, and/or a creative brand platform that articulates your opportunity? Since everything maps back to your brand platform, it’s important that this is in place. You also need to identify what your critical challenges are that you need to address, or what you need to improve – from awareness, perception, functionality, and hard-to get-hires, to location issues and turnover. Once you have this list, you can look at prioritizing your objectives and goals.
There are different journeys based on different goals, such as:
- Differentiation through distinctive brand journeys that convert candidates to employees throughout their lifecycle (which is the most popular)
- Improving the candidate experience on the career site
- Improving college event experiences
- Improving the onboarding experience
- Improving the employee experience
- Improving the application and interview experience
These are the most common types of goals. But they are very important to identify because they help rationalize the need – especially if you need to get executive sponsorship.
“Value is a perception, not a calculation. Value is something people feel, not something we tell them they get.”
“Experience is the brand,” as Brian Solis said. The brand message is no longer the only thing that sells. The experience sells. Creating the branded candidate experience is at its core a similar approach to customer journey mapping, which has been used for decades in consumer marketing. The difference is that creativity in talent marketing has to work smarter. We usually don’t have marketing budgets that can support consumer-level channel frequencies and sponsorships. And we’re not selling insurance, soft drinks, or cars. We’re persuading people to make a decision that will change and alter their lives – a decision that may involve a change to their commute, leaving familiar faces, working in a new culture, and establishing their status all over again.
It’s not just what your brand can say, but what it can make people feel or do. Through emotional storytelling, EVP content and creative experiences that are imaginative, original, fresh, and mapped throughout the candidate journey, you can build brand associations that are unique, authentic, and memorable. Associations that win hearts and minds, and ultimately persuade the right people to join your company.