August 16, 2021

How to Communicate Effective Employer Branding During COVID—19

Paul Power

Employer Branding might not be the highest priority during COVID—19, but especially in light of recent times, both internal and external communication is now more important than ever. Employer Branding is about engagement and feeling connected. It requires more creativity than before to inspire and engage everyone that interacts with your brand, so that is why we invited four experts to our latest Talking Talent to share their own stories of communicating effective Employer Branding during COVID-19, and advising you on how you can share your own stories.

The speakers who joined the panel discussion included: 

  • Nate Guggia, Brand Marketing at Job Portraits, a creative studio that specialises in Employer Branding content.
  • Mertcan Uzun, Senior Talent Acquisition Specialist at Blinkist Who has a special focus on Employer Branding.
  • Marian Jarzak, Employer Branding freelancer, who worked at Rocket Internet, Project A Ventures, and Taxfix. 
  • Dajana Tatar, Employer Branding & Event Specialist at 10Clouds, a role that involves both HR and marketing.

Following a panel discussion format, our speakers were presented with the first question: 

How do you communicate your brand, values, and mission to stakeholders during COVID—19?

Mertcan revealed how Blinkist has collaborated with its employees, to show content that highlights the team working from home. This shows that the company and product are still operating and offers a sense of stability during a difficult situation for the world. He also emphasises the importance of getting this content from your employees: 

Push yourself to get this content, you need it to show stability, you want to show that the product is stable.’ 

Similarly, Nate alluded to the adaptable mindset that most startups have: 

'Startups can adjust quickly. This is just a brand new change. Tell stories of how you are doing, and how you are managing things. People matter more than ever.'

Marian also agreed with showcasing the lives of your employees from their now-remote settings, adding that 'there is so much lack of stability in your normal life. You need to create stability. You can develop stories with your employees and showcase how they live their everyday life.' He also noted how organisations like supermarkets, are harnessing Employer Branding to share the stories of essential workers, such as cashiers, who are now vital workers in today’s society. They are using Employer Branding to highlight the importance of, and appreciation for, their workers. 

Echoing the previous speakers, Dajana reinforced the idea of communicating the situation with both internal and external stakeholders: 

'Accepting the reality and coming across as realistic.’
Is there anything companies can do to provide a stellar online candidate experience whilst hiring during COVID-19?

Mertcan highlighted Blinkist’s efforts to communicate with candidates by phoning them to establish a more personal approach, rather than by simply emailing them: 

'We have phone calls with candidates before interviews, to check on how they are doing and prepare them before interviews. You need to invest more time in the candidates to make sure they are making the right decision. Actually call them and have a normal chat. It shows them they are valued.'

Dajana revealed how 10Clouds has set up an initiative called 'HR shifts' where once a week, candidates can use a messaging platform to directly ask about any recruitment-related topics i.e. what the process currently looks like. She also mentions how it is useful to use social media to showcase what your employees are doing in the home office, and show that you still have an active workforce. 

Marian mentioned that small initiatives like gifting a candidate who is in the later stages of the hiring process with a personal note from the team or even a sample of the product the company produces or voucher can make a positive impression on the candidate who may be in multiple processes. 

Nate also echoed the idea of making personal connections with candidates and getting feedback from them, even in the current climate: 

'I love the idea of feedback. UX research can surface the truth. An outside perspective can assist with seeing gaps in what we are missing. Communication is super important. It is now mandatory. [With hiring], companies currently sit in two places, some have paused it, some are thriving, and hiring at scale, as they are in insulated industries. Now is the time to step back and look at processes. If your processes aren’t true and in place, this will be a big opportunity missed.'

As change can often spur new ways of how we think and operate, or next question focused on hearing what our speakers had taken from this situation : 

Have you learned anything new about Employer Branding as a result of COVID—19?

Nate revealed that if anything, the current situation had simply confirmed the importance of great Employer Branding: 

'Things are changing all the time. What it is confirming for me is that the real magic of great Employer Branding is what it can do internally at a company. When an initiative or piece of content can unite people and rally them around a common cause, ethos, or vision for the organisation, that’s special and is what I’m seeing a lot of right now. Humanness really matters and people want to see human stories and the humans behind organisations. That is what Employer Branding has been fighting for all along.'

Marian also added how he had reflected on the online and offline aspects of Employer Branding, noting now that it is important for organisations to elect brand ambassadors of varying seniority and from different departments. These ambassadors will then reach out to their contacts via their respective platforms and may connect your company with new talent:

'Plan globally, but act locally.' 

Dajana added that the situation has reinforced the idea that Employer Branding and part of its function of engaging with both internal and external stakeholders is vital for organisations, who have to communicate to multiple stakeholders on the current state of the company.

Mertcan revealed how due to COVID-19, Blinkist has tested a new original series, available on the app, where they have combined employee and product-focused content and come up with the 'Checking In' series. In this series, they reveal the everyday ups-and-downs of working remotely, which is another way of getting their team involved, while also utilising the product. 

What are some best practices of building out your Employer Branding from scratch?

Dajana mentioned cross-department collaboration, noting how Employer Branding at 10Clouds involves both the HR and marketing departments. 

Marian added that organisations need to identify what they want to get out of their Employer Branding, noting that some organisations want more brand awareness, while others simply want more candidates in the pipeline. 'It’s important to know what you’re going to do and how you will do it. Employer branding is such a huge topic, so you need to define what it is to you.' 

Mertcan and Nate highlighted the importance of including your employees in your Employer Branding initiatives, with Mercan noting that it is important to let employees know that 'you are my most important piece of content,' while Nate advised organisations on conducting focus groups with employees to delve into what they like about working at their company and extracting important moments that defined their experience of working there. 


We finished the webinar with a Q&A session where all of the attendees were able to ask the speakers their questions via the chat.

For those companies that had to cut costs and lay off their employees (or put them on a government scheme) due to COVID, how can they minimise the damage to their talent brands?

Nate: Be transparent, show how you handled it, own the situation. Treat it with empathy and compassion. 

Mertcan: Lots of companies give promises they can’t keep and give assumptions about the future. Make smart decisions. This is business, sometimes they don’t survive, but you don’t have to sugarcoat and lie to employees. Be honest. Have an eye-to-eye connection.

Isn't this the perfect time to divorce Employer Branding from recruiting even further? How are you taking steps to speak into general talent management strategy, internal comms, employee satisfaction/retention, etc. How are you practically looking broader beyond acquisition?

Dajana: We work with all the departments, for us, Employer Branding is in HR and Marketing. Right now we only have two roles open, so we are currently working more with marketing, especially on social media.

Nate: Employer Branding touches two markets: external and internal. Right now, the demand on the external market is less for a lot of companies. Test your stories on your internal market. They’re the voices of your company. It’s internal communications around culture. It would be like separating marketing from sales. The needs and messaging are different but you are supporting that function. 

Mertcan: At Blinkist, we work in a holacratic setting. I work with the design team, marketing, BI, data science and everything works closely together. My main task is to make sure the company communicates with each other, in an informal way. 

Marian: There isn’t one solution that fits all. I don’t think it matters where [Employer Branding] is situated, it really matters on how you work with the different departments. Your key objectives matter the most. If your objective is to focus on internal retention, you will more likely work more closely with internal comms or HR. 

Nate, you mentioned gathering data from interviews. What kind of data are you gathering? What kinds of questions are you asking candidates? Lastly, has Job Portraits created specific KPIs connected to the data to make sense of it and improve?

Nate: We specifically do content creation and partner with internal talent teams and they’re responsible for executing. It’s a direction we want to move in, though. For data points, when we do strategic projects with organisations, we use an external company. For internal interviews, we conduct many rounds of focus groups to ask a variety of questions, all-around what you like about this company, what makes it unique, what its challenges are. When you can tell the story of the good and the challenges, you can attract and repel the right type of candidate. 

Do you have any ideas for the post-lockdown Employer Branding?

Marian: It’s now a great time to change your company into more of a remote company. You can gather ideas from your employees. Discuss in focus groups, after lockdown. 

Nate: Stay on top of what’s happening in the industry and see how leaders are managing this situation. I’m careful not to predict where Employer Branding is going. This crisis has opened the box that Employer Branding has been in. 

Mertcan: I would try to stay humble, simple and respectful. 

Dajana: We are considering going 100% remote, so that will be the first thing we do after lockdown.

The image that your company projects to internal and external stakeholders is its Employer Brand. The company’s values, culture and mission all encompass this employer brand. Employer branding consists of the various efforts executed by the company to reinforce this employer brand i.e. events, articles, news pieces

Thank you to all of you who joined us for the webinar! You can find the recap on our YouTube channel. To prevent missing our upcoming events, follow us on Eventbrite.

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