Let’s do a little compare-and-contrast exercise, OK?
If you look at the Republican and Democrat campaigns, there have been a lot of differences. Aside from the language and tone, what was striking was the style of their communication.
“Perfect” Is Not The Goal. Being Heard Is the Goal.
For Hillary Clinton, the goal is to be “correct.” Every element is buttoned up. Every visual polished. Every script reviewed by a dozen people before it ever gets to the teleprompter. Each word is considered for context and reviewed for all potential meanings. Hillary speaks like every line is completely thought out and well-rehearsed.
By contrast, 90 percent of the things come out of Donald Trump’s mouth are dreamed up on the fly. Sure, he stayed on script for his keynote, but every tweet, every announcement, every press conference is an exercise in improv. Donald doesn’t look like he’s ever rehearsed. (Or if he did, he forgot everything he learned!)
On the face of it, Donald should be losing the message battle to the world of Hillary and her professionalism. But he’s not. I mean, he might not be winning, but for a guy who seems to be making it up as he goes along, he’s in serious contention.
Why is this? A hundred years of marketing skill and experience being countered by a guy just “winging it?” If we ignore the actual message and focus on the format, structure and model — how is this possible? And what can it teach us in recruitment marketing?
Playing Very Different Games
First off, we need to stop pretending these two are fighting the same fight. They may be vying for the same office, but they are taking very different routes, establishing different positions and communicating differently to different audiences. In fact, they are playing very different games.
Hillary’s message is one of competence. Everything she says and does is framed in the idea that she’s done this before, that she knows how to get it done, that she is a professional.
The only way this message works is to get it out to the widest possible audience. But in so doing, to not offend anyone, she ends up having to water it down, making it more acceptable to everyone.
Donald’s message is very different. He doesn’t want to be seen as a professional as much as he wants to position himself as someone who works from the gut. Instead of focusing on polish, he’s a guy who “speaks his mind,” and “doesn’t let tact and manners get in the way of what he wants to say.”
As they used to say, this isn’t a bug, it’s a feature.
People are attracted to him and his lack of polish rather than repelled by his lack of it. What he’s selling is a sense of authenticity, not professionalism. He doesn’t need to appeal to everyone, just enough to win. He’s very comfortable being direct and controversial and “authentic” because he actually wants to turn some people off – the “wrong” kinds of people.
Get Rough – Applying this to Recruitment Marketing
So let’s take the Clinton and Trump models and apply them to the way companies typically approach recruitment marketing.
i) Following the Clinton Model…
Companies create a universal message that is fairly boring and try and get it out to as many people as possible. This is usually how recruitment marketing approaches things: Keep it simple, don’t say much, and definitely don’t say anything that will offend someone.
ii) Following the Trump Model…
Companies post content that is “rough-and-ready” and authentic. The fact that it is raw and unpolished makes it more real, more believable. This is why it feels more human. Even if people ultimately reject the message, they believe it.
This is why employee generated content works: the message feels more honest because it’s unpolished. (For anyone wondering, employee generated content is literally just stuff that your employees post online and share.)
What’s interesting is when these ideas aren’t treated as mutually exclusive. When recruitment marketing teams, (who usually deal exclusively in polished content and materials), broach concerns that employee-generated content won’t have the same level of professionalism as their content, that pictures won’t be edited, they miss the point.
These stories and images are supposed to be rough. They are supposed to look like someone with a phone just snapped them. They are supposed to look real. Not “marketing real,” but really real.
The Tyranny of Really Real
The thing about “really real” is that you know it when you see it. A commercial looks like a commercial. An ad looks like an ad. Marketing looks like marketing. Real looks real.
Let’s look at an example. Here are two pictures:
I don’t have to tell you which one was taken by a professional photographer, had plenty of Photoshop work on it, and was staged to look “real.” The two people, while well-coached and clearly relaxed in front of the camera, don’t look real. Not as real as they do surrounded by people in balloon hats.
The balloon pic was taken with a phone. No editing magic was applied to it. And it was about as staged as “everyone get in the ball pit!” Clearly, these are real people at a real work event. It is dripping with goofy authenticity.
But when I look at career sites, I see almost nothing but marketing images and stories. Everything has been edited and polished to such a state that it borders on stock photography. Nothing looks real. Everyone is always smiling and looking into the middle distance. It’s a J. Crew ad for stone-washed jobs.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t suggest a career site with nothing but balloon pics, unless you run a balloon factory. In fact, if you were to meet the two people in both those pictures, it’s more likely they would be wearing sweaters than balloon hats. The polished image is far more representative of what the day to day life at the job is like, as well as far more representative of the brand itself.
Surprisingly, the goofy balloon pictures, which aren’t the day-to-day of the job, add flavor to the polished images that make those polished images feel more real. Only relying on the polished stuff feels thin. Only relying on the rough stuff feels sloppy. Together, they create a more authentic and complete picture of life at that company, one that your prospects can embrace.
How to Inject More Real into your Recruiting Content
What candidates want isn’t more marketing.
They want more authenticity. The same job title from two different companies might read very similarly. So what information are they expected to use to make a choice?Candidates don’t care what you say the job is like, but what people doing the job think the job is like. Click To Tweet
They want to know if it’s a well-structured office, or if it’s an open and loud collaborative space. They want to know if people get along, or if its super competitive. They want to know if they can expect 8- to 9-hour days or 10- to 14-hour days. Marketing rarely provides that kind of information.
Reaching a perfect compromise
The best recruitment marketers understand the power of authentic content and use their employees wisely, but they don’t forgot that a successful recruitment campaign requires an overarching message and strategy. In other words, you need a mix of marketing and “realness”.
Defining your employer brand and core message and then using your employees to tell your company story like this, could be the most powerful and human way to tackle recruitment marketing.
Yes, all this breaks the metaphor of Donald and Hillary, but you really didn’t want to talk about them anyway.
What we should be trying to do is injecting more humanity and authenticity into our recruitment marketing. This is what will separate you from your competitors as it shows a more realistic and honest portrayal of your company and your jobs, which is all your prospects want.