4 Reasons Employer Brand Can Make Or Break Your Retention & Post-COVID Hiring

Today, stories pertaining to COVID make up seemingly 90% of our LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter feeds. At least Instagram has been mostly spared, depending on who you follow and until you begin sifting through stories.


On LinkedIn particular, these COVID related posts fall into 3 primary categories: 

  1. Unemployment Related Content (assistance for, or requests for help from, those who are unemployed)
  2. Consumer-Facing Branding (showcasing consumer/client relevant resources or offerings)
  3. Employer Branding (showcasing company culture during COVID)

Companies have had to reassess what appropriate (and fiscally responsible) marketing looks like during COVID-19, both on the product and recruitment sides. Given the trepidation most companies are feeling today, some have even considered reigning in advertising all-together.

Though that approach saves money in the short-term, it will almost absolutely negatively impact brands’ futures. Why?

  1. The share of voice rule. This has remained statistically consistent for the last 50 years: “brands that set their share of voice (share of all category advertising expenditure) above their share of market, will tend to grow.” And the brands that don’t will likely see their target audience coaxed away by the companies with greater shares of voice.
  2. The Kellog’s vs Post example: When the Depression hit, companies needed to decide whether to keep spending on ads (much like they do today). Post reined in expenses and cut back on advertising. Kellogg doubled its ad budget and pushed its new cereal: Rice Krispies. “By 1933, even as the economy cratered, Kellogg’s profits had risen almost thirty per cent and it had become what it remains today: the industry’s dominant player.”

So, marketing is still important and your social feeds are evidence that many companies are still investing. But what does this mean from an Employer Branding perspective? The share of voice rule – though relevant to EB – is more tangible from a consumer brand perspective. Let’s, therefore, break this down into two parts:


What does COVID-era Employer Branding solve for?
What should COVID-era Employer Branding even look like?


Part 1: What does COVID-era Employer Branding solve for?

There are a slew of reasons why people adamantly will or won’t leave their companies during COVID. Employer Branding serves as your means by which to tell your own story and in doing so, you’ll be able to address or resolve potential concerns up front. This could mean the difference between someone responding to your inmail, or an employee of yours responding to someone else’s.


1. Candidates who are still employed don’t want to leave their jobs.

“Last one in, first one out” is top of mind for many people. Unless someone feels absolutely certain that moving to your company is a safe bet, the market is too volatile to even consider changing jobs.

2. Candidates who are unemployed are frightened to join the wrong company and lose a job again.

It literally just happened to them. Candidates will do very thorough research to ensure that where they go next, something similar won’t happen. And if they can’t be certain because there isn’t any easily accessible content around your employment stability? They might not even entertain a call with you.

3. You need to retain your people.

    • With fewer job openings and more candidates on the market, Hiring Managers are more selective than ever. This means that your competition will work even harder to lure your best employees away.
    • If your employees are at all frightened of your own stability, they might jump at the chance to go somewhere that appears more stable.
    • Isolation is, well, isolating. A common reason people leave companies is due to a lack of recognition. These isolating times only enhance the need for appreciation. 
    • Now that we see it works, more and more companies will be hiring remote workers. And some of your employees might not want to return to office life after this taste of WFH. Maybe there aren’t as many local jobs available as there were before, but now your employees can interview with companies located literally anywhere.

4. Even if you don’t invest, other people will, and so…

    • During COVID, your candidates will be more likely to find, consider, and accept offers with those companies.
    • After the fact, candidates will have to ask you how you held things together during COVID (rather than read about it in advance) and they might not believe your answer: if others were being transparent during the crisis, why weren’t you?

As billionaire businessman Mark Cuban said recently, and as many HR/People leaders have since quoted: how companies tackle the COVID-19 crisis as a business challenge is “going to define their brand for decades.”


Part 2: What should COVID-era Employer Branding even look like?

It’s important to note that although COVID-era employer branding should be appropriate for and mindful of the current times, it shouldn’t all read or look the same way. So much of what we see every day includes the same exact verbiage. We’re “all in this together” during these “uncertain times” and “unprecedented circumstances.”


When crafting your own recruitment marketing collateral, remember that although we are facing unprecedented times, consistency with your pre-COVID brand pays off. As E.M. Ricchini points out in the article above, “As goes in non-COVID times, the best way to craft messaging and campaigns for your brand are to remain authentic to your brand’s story.”


So, what has quality COVID-era recruitment marketing looked like? Let’s turn to some other brands for inspiration. I’ll let these speak for themselves.


Remain true to your brand and people.


Share (& in turn, inspire) your followers with what you’re doing to help. Spoiler alert: that doesn’t always equate to monetary donations.


If you are still hiring, be considerate in your promotion of it.

Take ownership – for both the positives and the negatives.

If you don’t tell your own story, your people will likely tell it for you. In fact, it’s the most powerful coming from them.


And sometimes your employee responses reverberate.


Hopefully, these examples have inspired additional pride in the initiatives you’ve taken and ignited ideas around tangible ways to broadcast them. If you invest in your people, you want the world to know. Employer Branding and Recruitment Marketing will enable you to tell your story, alongside and in tandem with your employees.


Sally Bolig specializes in Talent Strategy, including talent brand (employer branding & recruitment marketing) and talent acquisition. Most recently, she was the Director of Talent Acquisition and Employer Brand at Yotpo for 4 years, establishing their US branch as a destination for talent within the NYC tech ecosystem. With a limited employer branding budget and zero ad spend, she increased their annual applications by 2.3x, their inmail response rate from 22% to 43%, their Glassdoor ratings from 3.9 to 4.4, and succeeded in an uptick of 5x in external referrals hired as well as a 120% uptick in employee referrals hired. 

She is now exploring new career opportunities, considering internal Talent Strategy leadership positions as well as consulting partnerships with startups interested in crafting scalable and trackable internal talent brand strategies. 

She would like to thank her friend and prior LinkedIn Relationship Manager, Edwin Aristor, who helped her to compile many of the social examples featured within this piece.

About the Author

Sally Bolig specializes in Talent Strategy, including talent brand (employer branding & recruitment marketing) and talent acquisition. Learn more about Sally on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/sallybolig.

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