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Your Reputation on the Line: Employer Branding The best employees are out there. Use content to show them what your brand stands for and why they should want in.

By Kelsey Raymond

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Chaay_Tee | Getty Images

Your brand tells your customers who you are, but they aren't the only ones listening. Employees, business partners and industry colleagues hear you, too. Send the wrong message (or an inconsistent one), and you could miss out on a variety of opportunities.

Related: Why Employer Branding Is So Important

The future of your company depends largely on sales but also the quality of the employees that you're bringing on. If you want the pick of the litter, you're going to want to focus on employer branding. It's no secret that if a company is known as a terrible place to work, you'll get negative press, which is bad for business and bad for attracting top employees. Take this recent list of the worst places to work compiled by 24/7 Wall Street based on Glassdoor data:

  • Kraft Heinz was the 18th worst company. Employees on surveys cited poor work-life balance, with one employee having posted, "11 hour days have become the norm"
  • Belk was the 17th worst company. Employees said that they felt underpaid. Others took issue with a perceived disconnect between retail employees and senior management
  • CDK Global was the 16th worst company. Just 38 percent of reviewers approved of the CEO and only 39 percent would recommend that a friend take a job with the company

Take these profiles as a warning: How you look to potential employees matters.

The way a company positions itself to the world can either win people over or send them running in the other direction. Whether company branding be geared toward securing funding, luring talent or retaining current employees, it relies on more than just your product or service to accomplish its goals.

The bottom line is that even if you offer strong salaries and benefits packages, today's employees want something more. By investing in the employer side of your brand, you can improve connections with your existing employees and show prospective workers what makes your business special.

Employer branding for every size

Small businesses face the same recruiting and retention challenges that big companies do, but they rarely have piles of cash sitting around to address their issues. A company of 500 people probably has an HR department with double-digit employees, while your company of 50 might have just one.

Related: 5 Ways Startups Can Boost Employer Brand Without Breaking the Bank

That disparity matters when no one inside your business has time to own your employer-branding initiatives. You may be so busy acquiring new clients and developing your products and services that all you can do is hope people will see your brand the same way you do.

But that can be a problem because, unfortunately, outside perceptions rarely match inside ones. Your lone HR rep and small marketing team need your buy-in and backup to develop an employer brand that helps you reach your goals.

Content answers the call.

Content marketing helps you communicate with your target consumers, so why not leverage the same tactics to appeal to current and prospective employees?

Thoughtful content communicates your values without coming off as promotional. By focusing on what you believe, not what you do, your employer-branding content can position you as a model in your industry and encourage others to join your cause.

A great example? Lululemon hits the nail on the head when it comes to producing content -- from blog posts to instructional meditation and yoga collaborations on YouTube, Spotify and iTunes. Customers and employees have a passion for sharing these things online. The company also hosts yoga classes in its stores and encourages teachers to spread the word through social media. By hosting real-life experiences and generating content via the company's ambassadors, Lululemon successfully amplifies its message.

When it comes to my own company, a few years back I wrote an article for the Harvard Business Review about our mental health policy. I never explicitly stated that people should come work at our company because of that policy, but I didn't need to. Any job-seekers who read that article and felt a connection to the same cause would see our company as an immediate contender in their job hunts.

People connect to other people, not brands, so your employer-branding content should put faces to names. By sourcing content from your managers on company culture, management style and career opportunities, you can ensure that new employees will know what to expect from day one -- and your teams will get a better idea of what their managers truly value.

Revitalize the overlooked side of your brand.

Whether you're looking to recruit new employees or retain the ones you have, don't ignore the importance of employer branding. Use these three tips to differentiate your brand inside and out:

1. Inspire pride within your workforce.

Your employees want to be proud of where they work and what they do. Show them why they should be, by developing employer-branding content they will want to share with their social circles.

Employee-advocacy platforms like Dynamic Signals and Sociabble make it possible for employers to motivate their employees to share company content online, which can help you recruit passive candidates. So, empower your people to be effective company ambassadors -- there is no better testimony to how great it is to work for your company than positive firsthand experience.

2. Leverage employer branding on both sides.

Just as your consumer branding attracts new buyers, the way you treat and speak to your employees affects how consumers view your business. Make the most of that opportunity by giving consumers a reason to cheer for your brand.

Even some successful companies struggle with this concept. Riot Games, the company behind the popular e-sport title "League of Legends," is facing considerable criticism from its consumer base over its refusal to comply with the demands of an employee walkout. And that's a mistake, because brands that treat their employees kindly reap the rewards on both sides, while those that engage in contentious battles risk losing the affections of customers as well as employees.

3. Build a pipeline to maintain consistency.

Great brands never quit building. Hopefully this describes your brand, so keep pumping out the content even when you don't have immediate hiring needs, in order to continue reaping the benefits of a strong employer brand. The point is, consistency is key. Relying on a content calendar is a simple method for keeping your content on track and your company top of mind with customers and prospective team members.

Another way to ensure that your pipeline always has quality content coming through is by letting your employees suggest -- or even create -- content. If a salesperson is always explaining the same process to leads, maybe that's a blog or infographic opportunity that can both represent your brand well and be a helpful piece of sales collateral. And if that same sales rep bylines the piece, you'll be showing that you're an employer who values the opinions and expertise of your people.

Related: How Employer Branding Can Help Your Company Be Perceived As A Great Place To Work

Overall, your brand is the soul of your company. Neglect it and you could pay the price with consumers, partners and employees alike. Alternately, accurately representing what your company stands for is the best way to ensure that people who believe in it will continue the legacy.

Kelsey Raymond

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

President of Intero Digital Content & PR Division

Kelsey Raymond is president of Intero Digital Content & PR Division, formerly Influence & Co., a full-service digital marketing agency whose content & PR division helps businesses improve their lead generation, SEO, sales enablement and thought leadership — all powered by content marketing and PR.

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