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Beware of 'Zombie' employer brands

3 min read.

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Employer Branding


If you don't constantly refresh your employer branding based on the current truth of your organisation you are dooming it to exist as a zombie brand - bereft of life, dreadful to look at, and scaring away talent...


If you follow the tech sector closely you may have heard the conspiracy theory of the "Dead Internet" — the idea that the authentic, human-created content that once powered the early web has been usurped and gradually replaced by artificially generated content from social media bots, AI, and other non-human actors.

While that theory may sound far-fetched when applied to the internet as a whole, there is no doubt that there is a lot of artificially created content out there and that human input is diminishing.

You notice the same content over and over again, the same narratives, the same memes. "AI slime" they are starting to call it.

Maybe employer branding is getting a bit ‘slimy’ too.

Think about it - how many company career sites and social media accounts are filled with stale, out-of-date content that no longer accurately represents what it's like to work there?

Old employee testimonial videos from people who have long since left, boastful claims about a innovative culture that has been dulled by new ownership and shifting priorities, workplace photos portraying an environment that bears no resemblance to the current reality.

Just as the "Dead Internet" theory warns that artificially generated content turns people away, an inauthentic, hollow employer brand can be off-putting to potential candidates and damaging to a company's talent acquisition efforts.

The hard truth is that your employer brand is never “complete”. Treating it as a static entity that can be established once and left alone is a recipe for creating a dilapidated facade that bores candidates and fails to make an impact on recruitment.

Just like your company's product offerings, leadership, market position, and culture inevitably evolve over time, so too must your employer brand messaging and content.

Outdated employer brands

A robust, authentic employer brand is crucial for attracting talent, but what happens when your employer brand gets out of sync and no longer matches the reality inside your organisation?

Qualified candidates get turned off from even applying after seeing messaging that doesn't resonate. You face higher costs per hire from sifting through unsuitable candidates who realise your brand doesn't live up to its promises. And you risk souring internal morale and increasing turnover as employees feel short-changed by the culture and values they were sold.

What was once a finely-tuned recruiting weapon becomes a content blancmange that is detrimental to your investment.

Keeping your employer brand fresh

So how do you keep your employer brand alive, thriving and accurately reflecting your company's ever-changing realities?

Constant Listening - both internally and externally

You need a steady stream of feedback and data on how your employer brand is resonating or falling flat. This could mean surveys, social media monitoring, social media audits, focus groups and more. Listen for what's resonating, what's out of date, and find those blind spots that need to be addressed.

Willingness to adjust

As your culture shifts, policies change, new products get launched, and other pivots happen, adjust your employer brand accordingly. Revise careers site copy, update the employee photos, swap out the values statements. Make sure your brand resonates with the actual employee experience.

Active storytelling and engagement

Don't just hit "publish" and walk off. Keep creating a steady flow of fresh, authentic employee stories and behind-the-scenes content that brings your employer brand to life. Engage with candidates, celebrate your people, and invite the outside world to experience your company as it really is today.

Embrace the idea that your employer brand is a living, breathing entity - one that requires continued care, fresh input, and an ongoing commitment to authenticity. Allow it to evolve alongside your company and culture.

Ignore it at your own peril and risk it turning into a shambling, unappealing employer brand “zombie” that top talent flees from.

Job seekers will devour any and all content they can find about what it's really like to work at your company. So, if the images, videos and messaging you've put out into the world no longer align with the present-day reality inside your organisation, candidates will get a whiff of that fakery a mile away. That brand you worked so hard to build, transforms from being a brightly wrapped gift into a booby trap.

But it doesn't need to be that way. By having an open dialogue with employees, closely tracking shifts across the business, and staying nimble enough to adjust your employer brand accordingly, you can keep it fresh, potent, and as fresh as the day it was launched.

In today's challenging talent market, you either embrace change or get left behind. Don't create a “Zombie Employer Brand".

Keep iterating, keep listening, and never stop breathing new life into how you position your company as a destination place to work.

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