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Marketing Owns Employer Brand

Who should own the employer brand? HR? Talent Acquisition?

or maybe, oh I don't know... MARKETING!?!?

Brandon Linn oversees employer brand marketing and social media while reporting to Marketing. It's a refreshing look at the past, present, and future of the EB profession, with a sobering perspective on how to sell marketing on recruiting, and vice versa.

Enjoy this exclusive brought to you by the mad A.I. parsing and matching skills of Sovren.


Brandon (1s):

How much money they are saving, could be saving, you know, by way of making smart marketing decisions. Like that's the way to win attention, time, budget, and buy it. And an interest is basically connect things to bottom line.

INTRO (17s):

Hide your kids! Lock the doors! You're listening to HR’s most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry, right where it hurts! Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark, buckle up boys and girls, it's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel (38s):

Oh yeah. It's another manic Monday on the podcast. This is Joel Cheeseman. You are listening to the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm joined as always by my cohost, Chad Sowash and today we are privileged to bring on Brandon Linn VP, Employer Brand & Marketing and Social Media at Freedom Mortgage. Because when you think mortgage company, you think hot social media, Brandon, welcome to the show.

Brandon (1m 7s):

Hey, good morning. Happy Monday.

Joel (1m 9s):

So what did I miss? Give us the Twitter bio on you.

Brandon (1m 13s):

Yeah, absolutely. So I, like you said, run both Employer Brand and Recruitment Marketing as well as Social Media. And I'm happy to do so at Freedom Mortgage, which is the nation's sixth largest lender.

Joel (1m 29s):

Listen to you. You must be in marketing with all this number.

Brandon (1m 33s):

I prepped, I'm doing my job. I'm a brand ambassador 24/7 always be selling,

Joel (1m 39s):

Always be marketing, Brandon.

Brandon (1m 41s):

Always be marketing.

Chad (1m 42s):

And marketing means you should be closing cause I need some fucking leads. Overall though you are in Employer Brand, although you don't report to talent acquisition, you report to marketing. Tell us a little bit about that. Just not about today, but also you've been in Employer Brand for a while. How has this been different from the past, better, worse, different talk to us?

Brandon (2m 6s):

Yeah, so I think at some ways this is an interesting experience in almost being able to see the other side of the spectrum, where I was focused solely in the earliest days of my career on straight recruiting, like hand to hand combat recruiting all the way back to literally hiring the janitorial staff for a hospital and healthcare network. I mean like ground up, understanding all of the nuances of interviewing, filling butts and seats, and then slowly but surely I became a system admin for an ATS, which I won't name, but that was a horrendous experience, but a necessary one. And I was able to overlay the technology and understand both through interviewing and the human side and the technology side, where there was a massive disconnect in any kind of humanization storytelling, streamlining, education, filtering people in or out based on any real or authentic content, forget social media.

Brandon (3m 2s):

So at that point, you know, being a creative guy, I just started to really think about this massive hole between HR and marketing. What is HR marketing or marketing of HR, this talent brand employer brand stuff that is still sort of being adopted slowly but surely, but not really understood.

Chad (3m 21s):

Well, you saw marketing, this was a blind spot for them. Am I wrong? I mean, for the most part, marketing, they don't even pay attention to all of the shit that happens in recruiting,` talent acquisition, the systems. I mean that, that segment just seems like an entire blind spot overall. Was that your experience as well?

Brandon (3m 41s):

Yeah, I think philosophically, they completely get it, but literally it's not part of their remit nor their goals. Right. So they're basically saying the functions of marketing and the funnel and the psychology of bringing somebody in and it makes complete sense, but it's literally not in their goals. So all of the activities that I'm doing on the surface completely made sense to them, but understanding the ROI and candidate journey versus a customer journey, you know, it took some time to educate folks on what the return on investment is. And now that they see it, it's literally like, oh my God, we've got a lot of work to do, which is why, you know, I was brought on.

Brandon (4m 23s):

They knew that.

Chad (4m 24s):

Uh, huh.

Brandon (4m 24s):

But it's also very apparent to folks that when you start to peel the onion layers back, that a lot of organizations are still missing this, have maybe somebody that I'll just, you know, knock my own nickname. I was using a minute ago, the creative HR person. Oh yeah, I can do it. I'll do it. Right. You know, or they're the person that's just stuck around and has the institutional knowledge, they just get thrown, you know? Oh yeah, yeah. Can you like make this pretty? And you know, somehow maybe figure out Google analytics along the way. Right. And it's the side, side, side project for people.

Joel (4m 57s):

It felt like the pandemic wrought havoc on the employment brand profession, as in, they were the first to go, is that your perception? And is coming out of COVID reshape how marketing feels about employer brand. And do we hire people that have marketing backgrounds going forward? I mean, what does employment brand look like going into a post pandemic reality?

Brandon (5m 24s):

That's an awesome question. So I think from my perspective, I was very fortunate in that our industry, the mortgage industry was inversely.

Joel (5m 34s):

Load up.

Brandon (5m 36s):

Affected by the slump in the economy. So interest rates came down our business to the best it ever did in 30 years. Right. So we were on, you know, people say the cliché of hyper-growth and make a growth and hiring like crazy. We were literally, I mean, I'm talking, I got there late 2019 4K to 5k employees, by the end of 2020, we were at 10,000 employees. That's how much hiring we did.

Chad (6m 4s):

Hello? Was that an opportunity for you to help them understand how this was impacting their brand? Was that really kind of like the impetus or were you trying to work on this beforehand?

Brandon (6m 15s):

So I was trying to work on it beforehand, but it's essentially like a rental car agreement in the airline, you know? Right. You're on like the Toyota aisle and you get there late your flights delay and everything's sold out and they're like, well, you know, the only thing left is this Mustang that goes really, really fast. And so we've upgraded you basically. And what I mean by that is we were doing tremendous work and then the pandemic hit and then the market sunk and then the rates flipped on, you know, to our advantage to be able to save folks money and refinance them. And they were basically like everything you're doing, do it like six times as much and as fast then, then the data sets, all the denominators were bigger.

Brandon (6m 55s):

Right. So I could see, you know, just in general, the excitement around, if I said there were a thousand views this week, versus what we saw, you know, 5,000 views, it just, everything was bigger and more exciting and still is. So it was just a really interesting time. I mean, to put it lightly, right. But for us, we were rolling this thing out and then we were also rolling it out and it's the best year in the company's history. And you were asking me earlier about, you know, what, the first part of the question that what is the deal with marketing folks and employer brand, and where's everything going from here? Well, I'm bringing this back to data and I hate to use the cliché, but marketing folks not only use a lot of data, but to be able to tie that data to both short-term and long-term wins for the business and show how much money they are saving, could be saving, by way of making smart marketing decisions.

Brandon (7m 51s):

Like that's the way to win attention, time, budget, and buy in and interest is basically connect things to bottom line. So in the earliest days of employer branding, you would go all the way, top of funnel all the way bottom funnel, which is traditionally what recruiters only have time for, which is, you know, we have this site and it's doing all these cool things that in a vacuum we think are pretty and beautiful and hyper sanitized and it equals this many hires. And you're like, okay, that could have been a thousand external forces and factors, but here God, you can look at heat maps and funnels and who's clicking on what, and who's staying on what and how many people are getting through the different points and you know, where they're dropping off and why they're dropping off.

Brandon (8m 35s):

So it's like a huge switch into experimenting.

Joel (8m 40s):

Marketing likes to sell stuff. So the numbers are there, but okay, we have this many more views of jobs. Does that translate into actual mortgages? How does that connection? I get the numbers work, but how does it translate into sales for marketing and you guys in particular?

Brandon (8m 55s):

So now you're talking to them, the bigger picture is, do we need, you know, more people or certain skills or certain technologies. And so that's where, yeah, when you bring this all together, you get to the point where you're looking does more equal, better, and I'll start all the way at just the candidate journey. Before we even talk about who we're hiring to produce and to sell, you know, we're looking at things like more applicants, and this is again, become a little bit of a cliché, but more applicants certainly doesn't equal better. It's a waste of time. So you're thinking now about, and this will tie back to the pandemic. You're actually trying to filter people in and out and buy out, I mean, you're using a little bit, if not very much more authentic, raw verbiage pictures, because you know, now post pandemic life, we can't get to studios.

Brandon (9m 47s):

We can't get, you know, full Hollywood documentaries. And it's a great thing. We're just showing Zoom recordings, right. And selfie videos. And that's what people want to see. You know, no makeup.

Chad (9m 58s):

Are authentic.

Brandon (9m 60s):

Yeah. Authentic because we literally cannot produce it. I mean, you could throw filters on, you know, and you could send it to an editing suite, or house, but the new norm people are requiring authenticity. And the example of that is, you know, since we're all seeing each other's pets and kids and homes and mess, that way is cool and okay. It has to be, and that's the kind of media that you're seeing produced. So you're filtering people out now because they're getting to know you and the real you and you're real organization by the people who built it, not the infrastructure, you know, the coconut water and the ping pong tables. It's not there anymore. It's just the people, the intellectual property and their personalities.

Brandon (10m 42s):

And that's what the culture should have always been built by it. But that is it. Now it's stripped to its most simple parts and pieces, which are, you know, the people.

Chad (10m 51s):

Well, talk about the experience then, because again, you know, you have a pretty much a reputation one way or the other, it's either shit or it's great with regard to a candidate actually getting through your process, whether you want to make it harder, which is something that Intel does to be able to screen people out, or you want to make it easier so that you can get more individuals in number one, then number two, there's the famous black hole. How do you guys, how do you pivot away from everybody being dumped into a black hole to make it more scalable so that they have a better experience and thus, you guys have a better reputation, then hopefully those individuals possibly come to you to do mortgages.

Brandon (11m 32s):

So I want to add a caveat here. And I think it's really important that by no way, shape or form, do we have it all correct or right. Or we're not done mission accomplished. Sure. So, you know, to come on a podcast and say, oh, you know, doing all this amazing stuff, we're winning, you know, we're killing it. We trust me. Like there's a lot more work ahead of us.

Joel (11m 52s):

Such honesty from a marketing person. Are you sure you're in marketing?

Brandon (11m 56s):

Yeah. But you know, for real, I mean the candidate relationship management stuff that you're getting into now, that's kind of where we're going next. And so even the folks that I used to read case studies on goods, like, you know, we got this entire new product and it will, you know, follow you every step of the way. And you have this AI mentor, you know, none of them worked like ever, we would, as any good mystery shopper would do. We'd apply to the roles. Right. And we'd see how it worked in like, to this day. I mean, I'd love for somebody to hit me up and show me something that works. Please don't try to sell me. Maybe that was the wrong thing to say, but, you know, but like we don't have that down yet. And that's what we're headed to next. But let me just say that it would be shame if I didn't plug the social media part of this, but what we do have as part of not falling into the black hole is we do have a huge emphasis on social media, which is not the scalable, you know, chat bot that, Hey, where's my resume?

Brandon (12m 51s):

Did you mean you'd like to apply to a role, you know, and we definitely have human beings answering messages and putting out a ton of recruitment marketing content. So it's not you just hitting up a corporate account about your products and services and saying like, Hey, is there anyone that cares about hiring here? No, it's a lot of recruitment marketing, a lot of active recruiters on social media and a lot of real time feedback looping. So for better, for worse, we don't have the scalable CRM yet. Yet I would say my buddy, Rick, who you guys, you know, know and love from the show, he is working on a lot of remarketing to the ATS to sort of awaken the older applicants or resumes and profiles to at least do that part of it.

Chad (13m 38s):

Using ID to jump into your old ass people click system. Yeah, I totally get it.

Brandon (13m 44s):

Exactly, exactly.

Chad (13m 44s):

Let's jump back into the, kind of like the marketing versus HR side of the house you've been in both, you now report to marketing. Why do you believe, or you don't believe that that's the right place for all of this to live instead of living at talent acquisition should employer brand, actually live in marketing and why? Because marketing doesn't seem to get the whole employer thing at all in the first place. So, so why should they own it? Or why, why shouldn't they?

Brandon (14m 12s):

I think I love where I'm at right now, because I think this possibly could be a template, not for perfection, but for what works generally well, is you have to have had some experience in recruitment, talent attraction, talent acquisition, to really be able to at least translate, you know, the lingo not be, on some of the cool new tools and technologies that might be cool, but you, you can understand systematically what they can and can't do versus what you can and can't do in-house. So I think it's got to be someone that has experience on both sides or meaning that they've come from one world to another.

Brandon (14m 55s):

They can't just be somebody who, I guess they, they could essentially be somebody who's spent their life in recruitment or in HR. I just think it will take a little longer for them to fully gain the knowledge and the lingo from the marketing end, and also gain the trust and to be able to exercise, you know, some of the projects and programs and budget really from marketing. So for me, it's, you know, spent eight, nine years in HR and recruitment and various employee engagement, plus talent branding efforts. And now I come over to marketing and I'm getting to do social media, both for candidates and the consumer brand, which is a huge undertaking and an exciting one too.

Brandon (15m 37s):

Cause I can funnel all that learning back into how we speak to our candidates because I know what we're doing as a business. And mainly my goal when I talk about the employer branding world is to help be a translator and an ambassador for all the things HR is trying to do that they need to get done through marketing. So that translation skillset is huge. You'll just get left behind if you can't understand both.

Joel (16m 1s):

It's commercial time.


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Chad (16m 46s):

It's show time.

Joel (16m 47s):

You mentioned social media. I want to pivot to that real quick because I think historically recruiting would love to leverage social media, but they don't really get it. And historically there used to be a separate account for employment and there was a separate account for the company and everything that they put out as an employer was about like, Hey, we have jobs open or, Hey, here's a picture of our ping pong room. And it was totally disparate from what the company's main marketing message was, ewe with social media. So I'm curious, how do you guys approach social media? What platforms are the most important for you? What's the messaging mix if it's just one account versus two, et cetera.

Brandon (17m 26s):

Yeah. So my take on that is I've always found it funny to have these small little broken off social media handles and profiles and programs from not only recruitment versus consumer brand, but then you start to bifurcate Northwest regions, recruitment Facebook, right? And I think it comes back to when you start to understand the power of marketing terms like network reach, which is really complicated way of just saying word of mouth. You'd want to have your audience be bigger, to be able to spread the message farther. And with more connections in there from simple math, my goal is to send all of our recruitment and marketing messages through the main stage of our corporate accounts, because if we have 80,000, 90,000 people getting that message, and they're not the direct audience, well they're cousin, mother, sister, brother, roommate might be interested in pivoting getting a new job, starting a career.

Brandon (18m 21s):

And just maybe by the power of word of mouth, they'll share that message. And that network reach, you know, times, however many people they're connected to that'll see by way of the algorithm, however many people they share it with. You know, so I always thought, why not use the power of the numbers to propel your message as far as it can, rather than have this sort of like tiny life ad account where most of the time you see people have like, unless you're a massively known brand with a lot of people lining up at your virtual career fair booth, you have like a few hundred people that are the intern class in the summer, that's come and gone, all the recruiters, family members.

Brandon (19m 3s):

Right. And it's like, it just seems like an echo chamber that leads to pretty minimal results. And so what we do is, as I mentioned, two things we have in our corporate accounts, content calendar, we embellish it with recruitment marketing to go out to the main audiences. And I would think again from a reputation standpoint or maybe a, you know, call me a marketer truly through and through, that it would psychologically be cool for your consumers to know they're hiring, right. They're actually somewhat on some clip growing, trying new things, bringing on new talent. You know, if your consumers were to completely ignore the fact that you're throwing out employer brand content, cultural content, maybe cultural contents, not the best example, because that would be cool for them to see too.

Brandon (19m 48s):

But jobs that's a good signal. There's this big like, oh no, no, no, we can't send jobs out or recruitment marketing out to our consumers cause that that's not relevant to them. Yeah. I kind of disagree with that because yeah, they'll fly by it with the flick of a thumb, which these days is no effort. Right. They'll just miss it and skip it. But I don't know, I have this sort of bullish take on that, that there will be a small, significant spark ah like, oh, that's cool. Like they're growing. You know, it might be an interesting role we highlight or some things to say, they're not going backwards. Right.

Joel (20m 22s):

Let's extend that a little bit and bring in Glassdoor and Indeed reviews. And I think where a lot of employment brand people live in that world and most marketing people could give a shit. So how did you guys build that bridge? Is that an important element for you? The employer review sites? How does that work in your organization?

Brandon (20m 46s):

Yeah, it's a necessary kind of thing. I've been working with the Glassdoor relationship since the earliest days of my career and I own the relationship today. So we are really keen on making sure we look at the numbers and look at the competitive set of data. And we report out on an actually every single week. So we really care a lot about our reputation because, you know, coming back to this keyword of reputation, it is completely understood as the analog to what consumer brand looks at when they're looking for their brand reputation across sites. Like if you're a consumer brand or even a service these days, you know, your Yelp score, your Google score, your, my better business score.

Brandon (21m 30s):

So they totally understand, and we've embraced Glassdoor fully and try to maximize it as both a content platform, but also yes, as a reputation platform.

Chad (21m 42s):

Let's talk about new quote unquote "new tech" marketing has embraced programmatic advertising by about, I think like 85% of most shops on the marketing side use programmatic. And they do it in a very data intensive way. On the other side about, I don't know, 5% of HR talent acquisition actually have embraced programmatic job ads now understanding their different, buying a pair of underwear is entirely different than changing your entire career and your livelihood. Totally get that. But still there is this new way of actually targeting more cost-effectively and probably being able to target more qualified individuals.

Chad (22m 26s):

Two things, are you guys using programmatic number one and number two, is this something that you think should be catching traction much faster than it has?

Brandon (22m 35s):

I would say yes, it should. I mean, we'd love to be in the employer brand and recruitment marketing world with the times at all. For me, I will say again, this is an area where we are slowly getting into we've had some stops and starts with programmatic advertising, but the benefit for my ownership of employer brand and social media is that we've actually done some really interesting social media advertising for our jobs and, you know, with different sort of targets and lists and just cool content. We've actually been able to see some really interesting results because A. there's still not a lot of people doing truly systematic employer, brand recruitment marketing, then even less of those folks doing it on, you know, exercising their advertising through social media marketing, and then think about for my industry right now you have like us and maybe some of our biggest competitors.

Brandon (23m 30s):

So certainly I would say the first answer is I, I would love for us to get back into ramping up programmatic advertising, but in the meantime where we are doing some really cool experiments in the social media advertising world.

Chad (23m 44s):

Brandon Linn, everybody! Thanks for joining us, Brandon. For those listeners out there that want to know more about you or refinancing their house, where would you send them?

Brandon (23m 53s):

I would welcome you to hit me up on LinkedIn and for any and all home refinancing needs or to join Freedom Mortgage, for sure. Just check out and click on the careers tab.

Joel (24m 9s):

Fair enough. Chad, excellent epi Monday.

Joel and Chad (24m 12s):

We out, we out

OUTRO (25m 6s):

Thank you for listening to, what's it called? The podcast with Chad, the Cheese. Brilliant. They talk about recruiting. They talk about technology, but most of all, they talk about nothing. Just a lot of Shout Outs of people, you don't even know and yet you're listening. It's incredible. And not one word about cheese, not one cheddar, blue, nacho, pepper jack, Swiss. So many cheeses and not one word. So weird. Anyhoo be sure to subscribe today on iTunes, Spotify, Google play, or wherever you listen to your podcasts, that way you won't miss an episode. And while you're at it, visit just don't expect to find any recipes for grilled cheese. Is so weird. We out.


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