by Kate Reilly, LinkedIn Talent Blog
That’s right. She was in charge of all the external branding initiatives for recruiting PwC’s 15,000 annual new hires, yet recruiting was relatively new to her.
But she did know about marketing. That is what made the difference.
As one of the world’s largest professional services firms, PwC has always had a strong brand with its clients. But with candidates? Not so much.
When Sondra started, there was no overarching employer brand. There was a mish-mash of recruiting and brand personnel managing all of the marketing materials for recruiters. “No one was truly caring for the brand from an employee perspective,” she recalls.
Over the past few years, Sondra and her colleagues have cultivated PwC’s employer brand and started utilizing experiential marketing tactics to engage candidates in a more meaningful way.
What is experiential marketing?
Experiential marketing is a type of advertising that helps consumers experience a brand. Its goal is to form a memorable and emotional connection between the consumer and the brand, generating loyalty and thereby influencing behavior.
“Your brand can’t just be a tagline on a postcard,” explains Sondra. “You need to give candidates experiences with your firm, both in person and online, so that they get a taste of what it’s like to work there. In doing so, you show candidates what you value as a company and how you will treat them as employees. That will influence them to join you.”
Here are examples of FACE-TO-FACE brand experiences that PwC provides candidates:
PwC campus recruiters used to give students a 50-slide presentation on all the different facets of the firm, its complex lines of service, and all the jobs available.
“Eyes glazed over,” explains Sondra. “So we took that and threw it out the window.”
“We stopped spending precious face-to-face time on background information that candidates could get from our website. Instead, our recruiters now conduct workshops on topics such as personal branding, interviewing and networking. By providing students valuable tools they could use anywhere, we give them a positive impression of the firm, and a sneak peek of what it’s like to work here.”
Sondra’s team has built 15 workshops whose handouts and videos like this one are posted on a microsite for recruiters to download as needed.
“Skill-building opportunities are what Career Services departments want from us too, so by providing these workshops, we’re also strengthening our relationships with the universities,” she adds.
Coffee chats and resume reviews are other low-budget ways PwC gives its recruiters face-to-face opportunities with candidates.
Leadership development program
“Elevate” is PwC’s leadership development program. Every year the company invites several hundred high-achieving sophomores and juniors to a 2.5-day program all about discovering the self, and developing as a leader. Participating students naturally start feeling a connection toward PwC through the program, and in turn the company builds a pipeline of student candidates. This video sums up the program nicely.
Global webcast with local viewing parties and panels
Last April PwC hosted a global “Aspire to Lead” webcast with Sheryl Sandberg on how college-aged women can start to ‘lean in’ as they launch their careers. PwC hosted viewing parties on hundreds of campuses, and then panel discussions with school faculty and other female business leaders. In addition, the company conducted related workshops on topics such as leadership development and building confidence.
“Face-to-face experiences are critical to having candidates develop a relationship with your brand. But you also need to supplement those experiences and reach a broader audience with your digital assets,” explains Sondra.
Here are examples of ONLINE brand experiences that PwC provides candidates:
Contests on social media
Every year PwC hosts a nationwide tax case competition among universities. For the first time last year, each semi-finalist team was asked to make a video presentation of their case that was posted to Facebook for a public vote. The school team with the most votes won a trip to the national finals.
“People went crazy for this contest,” says Sondra. “Even Career Services and Alumni Services from the finalist schools were blasting their lists encouraging people to vote. School pride goes a long way.”
“We also ran a contest on LinkedIn asking employees to tell their stories of how they ‘grew their own way,’ in light of our brand promise to “Grow Your Own Way” at PwC and beyond. People are very interested in personal stories. The more you have, the more opportunity your audience can relate to at least one.”
At different times of the year, PwC holds live one-hour chat sessions with candidates. Recruiters and professional staff answer the inquiries on the back end, offering everything from career advice to general job-search tips. Sometimes the live chats focus on a specific topic. For example PwC’s Advisory Technology Consulting group recently sponsored one with candidates, focusing on questions related to that part of the business.
‘Day in the life of’
One neat feature on PwC’s careers site is a series of “day in the life of” employee descriptions. They are so detailed and packed with personality that they simulate talking to actual employees about their day-to-day lives at work.
The impact of experiential marketing
Every two years, PwC does a massive survey to a) identify if it is attracting its fair share of talent and b) to evaluate the performance of that talent. Sondra will be sharing more detailed data at her Talent Connect session, but “across the board we’ve seen unbelievable results because of our experiential marketing,” she says.
PwC also surveys candidates to understand why they accepted or declined offers. The top two reasons for acceptance are always 1) cultural fit and 2) relationships built through the recruiting process. “Both reasons play into our experiential marketing strategy so closely, and serve as validation that it’s working. How would these candidates know our culture or have built relationships with our employees if we weren’t doing awareness via experiential marketing?”