You are tasked with attracting talent to your organisation. To make sure those in-demand candidates beat a path to your door instead of your competitors. You want your line managers to see their roles filled, and fast. Your big challenge is how to be different – you need to work on your employer brand, but how?

The big problem, as far as you see it, is your employment offer feels pretty much the same as your competitors. You are essentially selling the same product – a job and a career within your organisation. If only you could say that working for you is a technicolour 24 hour party. The truth is, you need to reflect a certain amount of corporate sensibleness that perhaps just isn’t that sexy.

So, how do you overcome that? How do you differentiate while remaining authentic and truthful? By storytelling. Look beneath the surface and you’ll find plenty to bring your employer brand to life in a unique way. Trust us on this – it’s what we do.

Want to stand out from your competitors and not be oh so corporate? Good. We’ll show you how to use storytelling to bring your employer brand to life. And, like all good stories, let’s start at the beginning.

Why employer brands often play it safe

In reality there are often far greater differences between organisations and their employer brands than they realise. The problem is that many have traditionally positioned the proposition as ‘a good job with a good employer’. That in itself is not going to set pulses racing or leave your candidate in an adrenaline-fuelled fever. There’s always more of a story to be told, and that’s because every employer is completely different.

I’ve worked with dozens of clients over the years and it’s always struck me that no two organisations are ever the same. They’re like families, with their own unique, wonderful and peculiar personalities and cultures. So why do we end up portraying them as homogenised environments that are more or less identical to experience as an employee?

Marketing vs ‘safety first’

I have a theory. I think it’s because employer brands are largely specified and developed by HR and Resourcing folk. Don’t get me wrong, they are usually talented and excellent people. But their DNA is different to that of more naturally-bred Brand Marketeers.  Marketeers will always be looking to shine a light on what makes their brand unique and different to the rest. But HR and Resourcing is generally a discipline built on conformity and uniformity – focused on making sure policies and rules are in place to be followed. So their leaning is always towards “safety-first”. And here, herd instinct kicks in. I’ve spent too much time with clients hearing why their brand needs to look and feel like their competitors because “they seem to be doing all right”. When it comes to Brand Development, we tend to be conservative with a capital C.

How to build employer brand differentiation

In my eyes, the first consideration for any employer brand project needs to be “is this genuine and authentic in its portrayal of our workplace?” But the second should be “is it unique and does it differentiate from the competition?” That’s what branding is all about – creating an emotional connection that cuts through the noise and builds differentiation.

Another tendency we tend to have in employer branding is the creation of lists. We tend to think that by listing out our corporate benefits, we will automatically win the hearts and minds of our candidates. The problem is that most company benefits are the same and one offer therefore looks much the same as another.

So, how do we create memorable and differentiated employer brands when our instincts are telling us that “being like everyone else is safe” and “list out the benefits and they will come”.

The storytelling approach – and why it works

Well, one way to bring your employer brand to life is through great storytelling. That’s because we all love a good story. From cave paintings to the bible to social media “Your story” functions, we all love to engage with a story that takes us on an emotional journey. We’re in the age where everything has to have a narrative.

And there’s a good reason for that. It’s been proven that storytelling has a profound impact on the brain, causing it to release more dopamine and engaging parts of the brain that are not activated by mere facts and instructions. And the release of dopamine gives is a small boost of excitement – not unlike the effect your phone has on you when it pings to notify you of activity.

Like Pavlov’s dogs, we are hard-wired to react to a good story. As a result, we are far more likely to remember the content it’s trying to impart and far more likely to feel a positive emotional connection. Perhaps that’s why we’ve seen the emergence of the independent “craft” brand. From craft beers to breakfast cereal, consumer manufacturers are working hard to “personalise” the story behind their products in an effort to differentiate. But in reality, their beer and their breakfast cereals are pretty much like anyone else’s.

So, what does all this mean in candidate terms? They’ll be more likely to feel a positive reaction towards your employer brand than your “same as all the others” competitors if you are building a strong narrative theme. You need to tell a good story.

Crafting your narrative

So, my advice is to think carefully about your narrative. Think about how your business came to be where it is. Think about what the vision for the future is. Think about the individual personalities who knit together to create alchemic magic. Think about the stories that make your people unique and amazing. Think about how you are going to connect emotionally with your candidates and employees. Then tell these stories with clarity, imagination and consistency using your career site, social media feeds and internal communication platforms.

But, there is a catch. Storytelling isn’t going to work if the narrative only has a corporate spin to it. Your candidates are also going want to hear from people like them for it to be believable. And that means you’ll need to hand over the reins to those who you might not have thought of as having visibility in your recruitment message – which is exactly why you should. Your graduates might want to know why your CEO thinks your scheme is great – but they’d really love to know what last year’s intake thinks. That’s where the emotional connection is formed.

In conclusion

Many organisations start with good intentions for their employer branding but find themselves failing to truly identify their point of difference. They’d like to – but they can’t see how to – so they veer towards the ‘safe route’. Candidates want more than a job and remuneration – they are looking for compelling reasons why they should work for you instead of your competitors. Employers who tell great stories about their culture, their environment and their purpose are far more likely to attract and retain top talent.

Want to learn more?

Storytelling is just a part in the process of building an attractive employer brand. Find out more with our free guide ‘7 Proven Steps to Becoming an Irresistible Employer of Choice’. Get the guide here .