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The importance of social media and employer brand (especially in a COVID-19 world)

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Social media and employer brand have an important relationship during, and in the transition out of, the COVID-19 pandemic. This piece is part of Stories Inc.’s ongoing series on crisis communications for employer brand and recruitment marketing leaders.

We don’t know exactly how long the phases of social distancing will be in place. 

But, we do know that the coronavirus’s Spring 2020-level grip on our businesses will not last forever. 

Now, as we work during the transition phase from sheltering in place to social distancing, your company should be communicating with your audiences all the while. 

Company communications carry enormous weight right now 

In Edelman’s special COVID-19 Trust Barometer’s report, respondents listed their employer communications as the most credible source of information about the coronavirus. Respondents ranked their employers 18 points higher than business in general and NGOs, and 27 points higher than government and media. 

The same study reported that 71 percent of respondents stated that if they perceive that a brand is putting profit over people, they will lose trust in that brand forever. 

So, if you’ve been silent on your communications channels, it’s time to speak up. If your company has had to make tough decisions or weathered any negative feedback, it is even more important that you speak to how you value your employees. No matter the pandemic’s impact to your businesses, employees and hiring, the health of your employer brand depends on your communications. 

It is essential that your company is making timely, consistent, and public statements about how it is responding to the coronavirus and caring for its people. If creating a COVID-19 resource hub or responding to the crisis on your career site seems too daunting, start first with your social media channels. 

Social media and employer brand are interconnected for your audiences 

Your audiences have shifted the bulk of their interactions to digital and social media, so they are attentive on those channels. Additionally, the media outlets that your audiences consume rely on your social channels for updates. However, I am working my way through the social media feeds of the Fortune 500 and am surprised to see that many have not updated their social media channels since early March. Their feeds often have frequent, if not daily, social media posts leading up to the crisis. And then, abruptly around March 12, nothing, or perhaps one message addressing the pandemic.

Some companies’ have no mention at all of the pandemic in their social media activity, but have continued posting as if the world had not drastically changed. Either a halt or omission in social media communications can damage the trust in your employer brand.  

However, you can begin connecting with candidates and your employees again. Or, if you fear your communications during the pandemic have missed the mark, you can connect with your audience more effectively.

Start with stories. Employee stories are the easiest and most effective way to earn trust from candidates and your teammates. Start with sharing stories that prove exactly how you have cared for your people during the crisis on your social channels.

Share stories of appreciation for essential employees on your social media channels 

If your employees are dedicated and working harder than ever during the crisis, tell your social media followers about it. Share those stories with photos, videos, and quotes to show your followers those employees. And this goes for stories of all essential employees, not only our healthcare heroes.  

General Electric Chairman and CEO, Larry Culp, wrote a LinkedIn article to share the stories of GE employees going above and beyond in service to others during COVID-19. GE employees in the field are ensuring the powering of hospitals, electricity grids and water utilities. Culp highlights individual employee stories in his essay, such as the computer scientist who volunteered to move from his office job to the factory floor in order to help speed production. These individualized, personal stories show GE’s appreciation for the hard work of all its 200,000 employees. 

GE is also sharing videos of these employee stories on their social channels. Their LinkedIn video features an engineer who came out of retirement to help GE Healthcare on the ventilator production line.

Bring the employee experience to life on your social channels 

As Amazon responds to heightened consumer demand, scaling hiring, and seeking to protect the safety of its employees, it’s receiving big coverage in the news of its employee experience. In response, Amazon had to act. Amazon turned to the strategy of sharing employee stories on its social channels, and these stories serve to answer the questions the public has about its current employee experience. For example, Amazon is sharing specific stories of new hires who came to Amazon after losing jobs due to the crisis. It’s also sharing stories from veteran employees who oversee the health safety procedures in effect at the warehouses.  

Communicate hard decisions with compassion and empathy on social media channels 

If you have had to make hard decisions at your company due to the impact of COVID-19, address it on your social channels, leading with empathy. Your social shares are also the place to follow up with your plans for when business picks up again. 

WestJet airlines placed nearly 7,000 employees on voluntary and involuntary leaves. Their CEO Ed Sims immediately and compassionately took to social media to personally address this and the company’s plans for employees when air travel resumed. WestJet is one of many companies who have had to lay off or furlough employees, However, WestJet’s direct, frequent, and heartfelt communications on social media about how they are seeking to help employees is rare, and admirable. Even in the face of furloughs they are building trust with candidates and employees. 

Show how you’re helping employees in hardship on your social media channels 

If your company has had to make cuts due to the coronavirus, how are you caring for the affected employees? Transparency regarding the hard times your employees are now facing and efforts to assist them should be conveyed on your social channels. 

Hyatt Hotels had to suspend operations at many hotels all over the world, reduce pay and work for some employees, and temporarily furlough others. In response, Hyatt set up the non-profit Hyatt Care Fund to help employees in need. The fund launched its initial funding with contributions from the Hyatt Hotels Foundation, salary reductions by senior leadership and its board, donations from the founder’s foundations, and donations from some Hyatt hotel owners. Hyatt’s told the story of the Hyatt Care Fund for employees with a video on its social channels. 

In a dedicated effort to help our colleagues who have been the most financially impacted by COVID-19, we recently came…

Posted by Hyatt on Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Keep sharing stories on social media throughout the transition 

On some beautiful day in the future, closed businesses will reopen, crisis-remote employees will return to their workspaces, and frozen hiring will thaw. When those days come, your employer brand can be stronger than before. But, you must have done the work to earn the trust of your employees and candidates through real and compassionate storytelling. Start sharing your care for your employees, and your employees’ stories, on your social media channels. 

We can help. 

Social media content that proves, protects, and strengthens your employer brand in a crisis? It’s hard. No one has ever before had to communicate at a time like this. But it is so important. 

The entire Stories Inc. team is working full steam ahead right now to serve the employer brand and recruitment marketing needs of organizations during the COVID-19 crisis. We are currently supporting remote teams, capturing stories, and providing content libraries for our partners to use in their social media feeds and other content channels. 

We at Stories Inc. are here for you to help you navigate this unprecedented time, and best capture and share the stories that your audiences really want to hear. Send us a note if we can help you in any way.

And for more tips on social media that strengthens your employer brand, get our guide!