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Employer Branding: Building a Strong Culture and Work-Life Balance

In Conversation with Jason Piasecki

For this episode of E-Coffee with Experts, Ranmay Rath interviewed Jason Piasecki, Partner & CEO of Revel Marketing. Jason discusses the significance of employer branding in the Post-Covid economy. With changing employee values and increased competition for talent, companies must focus on branding their culture and creating a compelling employer brand. A strong employer brand impacts a company’s overall brand reputation and perception in the marketplace.
Watch the episode now for some profound insights!

Talent acquisition marketing requires a strategic plan and alignment between HR, leadership, operations, and marketing.

Jason Piasecki
Partner & CEO of Revel Marketing

Hey. Hi everyone. This is Ranmay here back on your show E- Coffee with Experts. Today, we have Jason Piasecki from Revel Marketing. He’s the CEO and Partner at Revel. Welcome Jason to our show tonight. Thanks, Ranmay. Jason, before we move forward and understand your insights about branding, I request you to introduce yourself, and your agency, to our audiences.

Yeah I appreciate the opportunity. Revel’s a B2B marketing agency and I got my start in marketing about 25 years ago. I worked for a couple of small industrial manufacturers in the Detroit area of Michigan and I cut my teeth there. Spent two years in the first place, and built my first website back in 1995 when websites were just starting to be a thing.

And, really did everything I could for that company in those two years and moved on to another small manufacturer. I did the same there and, realized a real need for those types of businesses, really, tier two, tier three suppliers to a lot of automotive in, in that day that they needed marketing, but they didn’t have the infrastructure to support it.

They didn’t understand how to use it, to drive sales. And to build a brand. I started, did like a lot of people that opened their shop, did some freelance for a while, and thanks to a very supportive wife. I went out on my own back in 1998 and I haven’t looked back since.

So our agency specializes in working with business-to-business companies to craft their marketing strategy. Build their brands and do work in the talent acquisition area, which has been a big need since Covid especially. And then also generating leads and building strong brands that allow companies, to grow.

So our shop is we’re a dozen people and we’re located in Muskegon, Michigan, which is right on the coast of Lake Michigan. It’s a great place to live and work.

Absolutely. Can’t deny that piece. And then one hell of a journey thus far. Jason thank you. Thank you for sharing that story.

And Jason, in terms of being someone in the banking industry for that long how would you define the concept of employer branding and why it is so crucial for organizations today?

Yeah I think the, it’s come to the forefront in the post covid economy. And today fewer people are working than ever before. Employees opted out after the pandemic and reprioritize their lives and decided, maybe I’m not gonna come back to work, or maybe I’m gonna work part-time. Workers’ values have changed and they’re really. What we’re seeing with our clients is, valuing different things.

More flexibility, especially is a big thing that, that employees want nowadays. They want to be able to make it to their kids’ activities and, be able to balance that work along with the life balance. Also, employees are placing a greater value on culture.

So companies that have spent a lot of time branding their products are now having to brand their culture. And while those things are aligned and they can be similar. It is there are differences and nuances that as marketers we need to help bring out of companies. I think especially in the US.

You know now more than ever, people have realized, they can work remotely and that presents different challenges. To businesses like ours we like being in the office, but we also value flexibility. So it’s being able to have the best of both worlds and balance that. But you’re competing not just for workers in your local geography, but workers everywhere.

So that’s a big change. Also, there’s just a growing shortage of childcare, so that’s driven people from the workforce. So all this means that the competition for employees has increased. And according to a LinkedIn study, 72% of HR professionals agreed that an employer brand has a significant impact on hiring. All those things lead to increased importance on brand and employee branding in particular

Yeah. And valuing your, work-life balance post Covid has become one of it was always there, but it has just become, that bit more important.

For, employees or folks who, spend the day in, and day out in their jobs, right? So yeah, that has become all the more crucial in terms of building that culture around your organization and providing those flexibilities at the same time.

Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And really to the second part of your question, I think I answered why it’s important.

What we see employer branding as it’s, traditionally brand people look at the visual side. So they’ll look at a logo, they’ll look at the colors, the design of a website, Or a piece of printed literature. But, a brand is much more than that. And as Jeff Bezos from Amazon says, your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

So being able to, first of all, decide what you want that narrative to be, and then documenting that non-visual side. So it’s the brand message, it’s the brand story. The brand promise, which is an extension of the mission of an organization, it’s looking at the unique value proposition, and the company values.

Having a tagline that resonates both with customers and with employees. And then, pulling that all together cuz it’s, we dedicate a big chunk of our lives to working for companies. And if you’re gonna ask someone to dedicate. 10, 20, 30 years of their lives to fulfilling your mission.

It needs to be something that they’re aligned with, and that’s where employer branding, it’s taking a lot of those same strategies and techniques that we’ve used to brand products and services and market them and create demand and shift that to branding the company’s culture and everyone has a unique culture.

So how do you do that in a way that’s compelling and entices people to want to click that button to apply for a job or stay at a job for many years?

Absolutely. And in terms of employer branding, How does a strong employer brand impact a company’s overall brand reputation like you mentioned, and perception in the marketplace overall as a branding agency, what challenges do you foresee that companies may face while aligning that employer brand with their customer brand positioning as well?

Yeah that’s something that, companies need to look at.

And, it’s just the challenge is just the sheer numbers. There’s predicted by 2030, there’s gonna be a global talent shortage of 85 million people. So again, if you think about it when you’re fighting for customers, there’s a finite number of customers. Before it used to be people would post a job, they’d maybe throw an ad on, dating myself a little, but, monster.com or throw, put it on a job board and they’d have a flood of employees or just put a sign out in front of their business, they said they were hiring. What business leaders are finding now is they’re not gonna be able to fulfill the orders that they have because of that. That shortage and I see. One of the big challenges is hiring and recruitment is different things. So hiring is the mechanics of we have a candidate, they’re ready to start working at our company. HR professionals are great at filling out all the proper forms, making sure they’re orientated, and that they’re, tied into the company 401k. But what. Human resources people are being asked to do with, they haven’t in the past, is that recruiting function.

And recruiting is a marketing function. Yeah. That’s creating demand. That’s generating awareness and one of the big challenges professionals are now being asked to fill that marketing function, and many of them, they’re not trained for it and there’s been this wall that’s been put up between human resources and marketing.

And for companies to be successful, they need to break down those barriers and silos and get in the same room and talk about what the goals are and how we’re gonna attract the right type of people? And ideally, if you look at major brands out there, you have companies like Patagonia, whose environment is very ingrained in their brand.

And, as a result, they’re attracting employees who share those values. So there should be consistency between the company brand. And the employer brand but where the employer brand can deviate is where is the culture? Different. What are the types of things that an employee can expect once they’re on board that the general public might not see? And it’s really in the recruitment phase, it’s bringing those out so employees know about them, so there’s not a disconnect from the consumer brand. So really it’s about consistency and communication between different groups within an organization.

Yeah. I have also seen this change and I say the recruiters for our organizations, new people have more of a sales and marketing role at hand as much as we do because you have to market, you have to, sell the organization to the candidate and selling your business to a customer is probably an easier job versus selling your organization to a candidate because buying a product or service is a one-time or maybe a repeat thing, but it is not going to affect your lives, and in such a big way Versus if you’re getting hired to work with that organization for let’s say three years, five years, six, seven years, whatever, you’re giving those 40, 45 hours a week to that organization, and, selling that piece is more difficult, selling this piece. So that difference has come and recruiters have to think of it that way, and a very valid point mentioned by you. You have to get into that room, understand what your organization’s offerings are, what USPS is, talk the same language, breathe in those you know, fundamentals, and then go out in the market and, position yourself and get the right talent there.

That has become more of a sales and marketing function while it is into human resources, versus what it was earlier. Yeah, where there’s tough competition, there it is. Absolutely. You have to sell your way through, people are dropping Amazon offers, and Microsoft offers, for that culture piece, which you mentioned, which were like dream jobs earlier.

Yeah, for sure.

And then when it comes to, talent acquisition marketing Jason, what are some of the key strategies and tactics that organizations should consider implementing to effectively reach and engage with their target audience according to you?

Yeah, I think that the biggest thing is starting with a plan.

So any kind of strategy, what gets written down, gets done. And often people jump right into they wanna do a billboard or they want to do some Facebook ads or linked a LinkedIn campaign. But there might not be a strategy behind it. The first thing is getting everybody in the same room which includes human resources, company leadership, operations, and marketing, and talking about, what are our goals.

Maybe we want to hire 40 employees, we need to get our orders out for the next month. And, so by setting clear goals, then you can work backward. How many people do we need to have applied to go through the process that getting interviewed? And then it’s aligning those pieces and then asking employees so just like we ask customers to give us feedback on our products and services. Companies ask their employees and surveying is a great way to do that. There are a lot of times when there might be an annual. The annual employee survey, but doing that regularly. So you’re getting feedback, employee pulse surveys, maybe there’s a weekly check-in, like, how was your week, is there anything that the company could have done to make that better?

What are some barriers? So once you align all those things, you have the vision from the leadership on what the company’s all about. And then you have human resources goals for the hiring, and then you’re getting the feedback from the employees. You can put all those things together and come up with a clear plan.

So the plan drives the tactics and the goals will set the strategy. So let’s say, going back to that example of wanna hire 40 employees by, the end of the month. Looking at who those employees are creating like we do buyer personas. For marketing to create content.

And so it’s creating employee job candidate personas, what, who are the ideal fits, and then going out there and tailoring the tactics to those personas. So the number one tool is a great careers page. Having a careers page that tells the story of the company culture, and talks about benefits, have the employees telling the story. So it’s great if I tell you how awesome Revel is, of course, I’m, one of the owners. I’m gonna say it’s the best company in the world and everyone should wanna work here. It’s even more impactful if you have your employees tell that story. A why work here Video is a great tactic for talent acquisition.

Getting the employees to say I work here because of this. One of the clients that we work with, they are a military contractor and they make a component and so they hire a lot of veterans. And those veterans say we work here cuz the mission of the company is important to us.
We consider that freedom is one of our core values and being part of that is impactful. So having the employee say that, is huge. And so tying that in with the company culture also what we find that’s effective is looking at social media and social media advertising.

So targeting ads you can get so precise behaviorally. With ads, we have a client that they do medical devices and it’s a tiny component. It’s a harness, so you’re doing a lot of electrical wiring and they found that women in particular that are into crafting are great employees.

So you can target an ad for people that are interested in crafting on Facebook. So it’s, when we opt into all these things that we think are free, our, like on our phones and our social media, it’s not free. You’re, we’re all selling our data to them. So advertisers can serve them with ads that hopefully they’re interested in. Facebook advertising and LinkedIn advertising are great. Tools in tactics and looking at geographically where you want to target those ads and maybe doing some display ads as well that again, is very targeted, but also both geographically and behaviorally to the right types of employees.

And then just the last tactic I’ll say is because the world’s not gone digital is billboards Outdoor advertising is great for awareness, great for branding culture. Here, in Michigan, General Motors is running a huge campaign that talks about what their employees not only do when they’re on the job but what they do off of the job because of their careers.

that the company has afforded them. So those are some techniques that we find that are commonly successful for clients looking to attract employees

I’m really glad, you mentioned that, in today’s digital age and, social media, gaga that we all are in the importance of billboards and offline marketing is still very much there, right on your face it’s quite an old school, but, It still has its impact because it shows up at a place wherein you are not cluttered in your mind.

You may have gone on a holiday, just see it and spend two, or three minutes thinking about it. So it’s quite impactful that way, Versus just digital space and, focusing on digital marketing pieces and social forums there. Very glad you raised that point. And then, talking about social media and online platforms, because you touched upon that, how has talent acquisition been marketing evolved because of social media engagements and online platforms and what are some of the effective digital strategies that companies can leverage to attract and engage with their prospective employees?

Yeah, the great thing about digital marketing is it can be so targeted and, going back to the example of the medical harness company, being able to target down to people that are interested in certain hobbies and it’s where you can stretch your budget. Now, if you’re a huge company like Apple and you’re trying to hire people worldwide, you need to advertise worldwide. But if you’re like the average business out there, you’re trying to attract a very specific type of person, and you usually, even though folks can work remotely a lot of times it’ll be in a geographic area.

So being able to target those ads and be precise and stretch our Budget. That’s what we see a lot with Facebook, you can get a really big bang for the buck. That may be where, if, depending on the type of metro market you’re in a billboard might cost a thousand or $5,000 a month.
You can stretch a long way. 500, a thousand dollars in social media advertising and, maybe splitting that up since Facebook and Instagram are integrated into both platforms and that’s where having your employees tell your story and featuring them in your advertising campaigns is so effective.

And then, just lastly, the thing I’d add or maybe go back to that we touched on is the jio-targeted ads so those can be on sites that we’re on. So say you have a sports fan that’s interested in, oh, I think you got a soccer jersey on. I probably, don’t know all the teams or cricket or something, but that’s, it’s manual.

Yeah. Okay. Yeah. See, I’m a baseball guy, so I talk about the Detroit Tigers all day, all day, but Uhhuh, let’s just say you’re going on ESPN, or whatever to get Man United information. If someone was targeting you, they could put ads on that ESPN and then you go over to Yahoo Sports or whatever, or Bleacher Report and you see the same ad.

So they start following you around and it gets a little it gets in your head a little oh, maybe I should. Maybe I should check this out. But then the last thing I would probably throw in there is just for companies to be mindful of employer review sites like Glassdoor in particular, employees are going out there and they’re posting about your company.

And, a lot of branding like Jeff Bezos said, it’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room. The good thing about those sites, good and bad is an employee can say anything anonymously, but you have the opportunity to comment on that, to say thanks for your feedback, we actually maybe see it this way and, we appreciate it and we’re always trying to do better.
Those are some techniques in the digital space that we’re seeing used well by companies.

Yeah. And in talking about the digital age, candidate experience has become a crucial aspect of, overall talent acquisition marketing. What do you feel can these organizations help design and deliver a seamless personalized candidate journey to enhance their employer brand. There are a lot of companies who go through the entire process and then also if the candidate has not been selected through the process, then also they take the feedback and these candidates even after not cutting.

They give you positive feedback, right? And it gives you an, overall good experience of being interviewed by that organization. What is your take on this aspect Also are there any innovative technologies or tools that can assist in creating a standout candidate experience Jason?

Yeah, I think the biggest thing is to make the application process easy. You don’t wanna block the entrance for someone to apply. And I’ve read studies where as many as 90% of people who visit a careers page or an application abandon it because the process is challenging. So making it easy to apply, as in job applications, HR people, want you to fill out a whole big, long list of stuff.

Get the least amount of information possible to make that next contact. It could be just as easy as a name, an email, and then uploading a resume or putting in a phone number to, get a call or text back on an interview. So make it simple to in essence buy the job application.

I think after that it’s engaging early and often, so following up right away, even automating the process. So you can create messages that are genuine and are written when someone applies because there’s nothing worse than filling out a form and you don’t know if the person got it. And so you feel like it could be lost right away, and you go on to the next opportunity. So I think with job boards and digital channels you don’t have to restrict yourself to email. You can get people to opt into receiving text messages, particularly in retail businesses. People text more than they do, more than email, or wanna talk on the phone.

And then I think from there, focusing on transparency. So once you start the conversation, you’ll be upfront. That, Hey, you’re one of 10 candidates. We’re gonna hire five. We like you. We’re gonna go through this process and we’ll let you know by the end of the week. We’re not gonna leave you hanging just because an employee is maybe not the right fit.

At that particular time doesn’t mean that they won’t be in the future. So leaving that door open. And then, after the interaction has happened, make sure you follow up. And then looking at the data and measuring and getting feedback on what worked and what didn’t.

And I think as you alluded to, just asking for feedback from the candidate, how was the experience and whether you hire him or not. That’s some valuable insight that you can use to help with future efforts.

Absolutely. And then, as the technology continues to advance Jason, how do you see the future of employer branding and talent acquisition marketing evolving?

You have seen it evolve in the last, let’s say, a decade or more. What do you see, where do you see all of this going? And let’s another five, 10 years down the line.

Yeah, I think the biggest shift is that it went from being, a seller’s market. If you think of the company as a seller to a buyer’s market where the employees really, the power has shifted.

And so that’s a good thing for companies cuz it helps keep us all in check and make sure that the opportunities that we’re offering are in line because you dedicate more of your work week to your job than your family and your activities. Choosing the right companies is a big deal, I think, where technology is driving us artificial intelligence will be a game changer. We have already seen it with things like chat GPT and Bard, and stuff that is out there in the industry and people are using AI right now to streamline the hiring process and looking at optimizing job postings using artificial intelligence.

I think chatbots are another way that you can have candidates they can get answers to questions rather than scrolling down a big frequently asked questions page. Just being able to leverage technology like that and it’s the numbers bear that it’s not gonna shift back to the employees not being in the driver’s seat anytime soon.

So companies need to continue to embrace their culture, be authentic and genuine with it, and let their employees tell the story of why they work there. Not every company’s Google, we can’t all offer our employees 20% of their time to work on pet projects. So you need to take the things that are unique and special about your culture because we all have them. They’re all it’s all there and it’s creating that fit with those ideals candidates for jobs. So it’s an exciting time from a marketing perspective to be involved in talent acquisition and to finally have a seat at the table where in the past it seemed like HR was content running.

I was more of a support function.

But yeah, off late they’re getting at the, getting a seat at the table, which actually, speaks volumes about any organization’s culture because they are, Speaking about things beyond just revenue and sales figures, so it makes a lot of sense that way. And then before I let you go, Jason since you touched upon the topic and I was in, which was going to ask you about that, the burning topic of chat, GPT, AI coming into the picture, and the storm that we all are in.
What is your take on it? Where are we heading? Exciting times ahead, but just wanted to understand your take on it.

I think it’s exciting because it’s another tool at our disposal, and as marketers, we’re always looking for tools to help us be better at our jobs. And currently, it’s not, it’s not the end all be all, but it does streamline the process. It brings in information from different sources than we’ve had in the past. And it’s something that. I think, marketers and companies like should embrace, just like the internet 25, 30 years ago was something new, and the companies that, that we’re winning, think about Amazon.

You started, as an online bookseller and how their company has continued to evolve and embrace technology. It’s not going to replace all our jobs as marketers, and hiring professionals. It’s gonna help enhance our jobs and make them easier.

So I’m excited about it. I’m always looking at new tools and encouraging our team, to dive in and come back with things that they can share from what they’ve learned.

Great. Jason? It was lovely understanding your insights about the topics that we discussed, and before we let you go, we would want to play a quick rapid-fire with you. I hope you are game for it. Sure. Bring it on. Superb.

What was your last Google search?

What was my last Google search?

you can check your systems if you want to. There’s an open-book one.

Yeah. I was in a town at a son’s baseball tournament, and so I was looking for a restaurant for my wife and me to go to after the game.

We found a great place.

okay. That’s so nice of you. Superb. Your favorite book?

book? My favorite book is Atomic Habits by James Claire. I’m I’ve been all over it since it came out, so I’ll give anyone. I got a stack of them in my office.
I give anyone I see who’s interested a copy.

super, and I could do with one. And So what is the best thing that you like about your job? About your space, we are you?

Yeah, my favorite thing is the people that I get to work with both as, part of our team and the clients because it’s there’s always a variety of things that we do.

We work with business companies that a lot of people might not have heard of, but they, have fascinating products and the people are what make it interesting. So I enjoy getting up and going to work every day. Yeah.

This happens, in B2B space that you would’ve never thought about such businesses actually, exist.

Someone is selling that product to a service. You don’t even think of it. And it’s quite interesting when you talk to those founders, how they started all of that. What was the problem statement they wanted to solve when they started their journey? It’s quite fascinating.

Yeah. Great. And one last one before we let you go. We are not gonna, grill you any further. So Jason, let’s say we have to make a movie on you Yeah. What genre it be?

What was the question? If you had to make a movie what was the last part? What genre would be a genre? Yeah. I hope it’d be a sports movie, even though I haven’t played baseball in a lot of years.

I like to think that it would have some ties to that, like a behind-the-scenes, sports movie inside baseball would be would be pretty good. There’d be some comedy yeah, probably some not safer for work stuff, just cuz, I find that entertaining, and yeah.

There we go. Irreverent sports comedy. Yeah.

That’s post-comedy and which will have, the dinner date’s supposed to match there. Yes. Great. Superb, Jason. It was lovely speaking with you. I enjoyed it. Yeah. And thank you so much for your time taking out of your busy schedule to do this podcast.
Appreciate it, man. Thank you so much. Yeah, thanks a lot Ranmay. It was fun. Have a great day. Thank you.



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