Donald Trump Taught Us All We Needed to Know About Employer Branding

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Sep 21, 2015
This article is part of a series called Branding.

This article is not about politics; instead, it’s about how organizations can build a powerful employer brand in a short period of time. As an ardent advocate of cross-industry benchmarking (where you discover and adapt best practices from another industry), I recommend that employer branding leaders try to learn from the recent amazing image building campaign of Donald Trump. No matter what you might personally think about him, the approach that he used to successfully built his image as the front-runner candidate for president is worth analyzing. His approach is full of effective and unique approaches that are seldom even considered, no less used, by conservative and risk-averse corporate employer brand builders.

Valuable Tips to Consider For Strengthening Your Employer Brand Image

The possible lessons that corporate employer branding leaders can learn from the recent Donald Trump brand building success include:

  • Say bold things and avoid corporate speak — being bold in your messaging is clearly an attention getter. Saying bold things stands out because most corporate websites and recruiting ads are painfully dull, because the lawyers have cleaned out all of the bold materials. Individual job seekers now get as much as 80 percent of what they know about a corporation from outside sources. And that percentage is likely to get higher because they don’t trust what they find on corporate web pages and in recruiting ads. If you want your information to be credible, include materials that will definitely make your lawyers uncomfortable.
  • Say memorable things that will be repeated — saying things that can be easily remembered and that people will likely repeat helps to ensure that you’ll get a lot of attention. Saying quotable things means that your message will be spread virally across social media. Talk on topics that are on everyone’s mind but that few others are addressing. And finally encourage your employees retweet and spread your message on social media.
  • Come across as un-choreographed and avoid scripted materials — whatever you say, make it appear to be straight from the heart. Whether it be a narrative, a talk, or a video, a significant part of any audience doesn’t believe anything that is scripted, rehearsed, or overly controlled. If you want to be considered as authentic, real, genuine, and credible, everything you present can’t be perceived as perfect and pristine.
  • Be a rebel and show that you push against the tide – a significant part of your audience in the U.S. likes a rebel. Occasionally push back against what most people do and expect. Appearing to be overly politically correct may make you appear timid to some. Being a rebel firm means that you must have a few visible policies, practices, or employees that do unique and even brash things that most would be afraid to do.
  • Be forthcoming and don’t appear to hold anything back — transparency is a trait that many admire. Always appear to be forthcoming, so that the audience thinks that you are revealing everything and holding nothing back.
  • Say what most people are afraid to say — as a result of the last few years of layoffs and the less-than-stellar treatment of employees, there is animosity toward corporations. So saying things that have some shock value because most corporate people are afraid to utter them may impress some applicants because that makes you stand out and appear different as a corporation. Many are impressed by leaders who say what many are thinking but few have the courage to even comment about out loud.
  • Let them feel your passion — many applicants want to work at a place where the employees are passionate about what they do. Make that passion easy to see, feel, and experience by including real employee comments, stories, and by providing a chance to interact with your employees. Employee-made videos showing exciting moments in your workplace excel at revealing the passion that your employees feel every day.
  • Never miss an opportunity to be seen and quoted — Mr. Trump loves the camera because he knows that the media can help to spread his message (for free). In the corporate world, it is critical that, rather than being afraid of being misquoted, executives and managers take every opportunity to blog, write articles, be quoted in the media, and to appear in news videos.
  • Make them think that they are speaking to me — rather than relying exclusively on broad messages, include some personalization, so that the listener/reader feels like the message is “speaking directly to me”. Do your market research to identify what different segments of your target audience are really thinking, and directly address those issues or thoughts like you are personally addressing each individual listener.
  • Provide simple and direct answers — although some portion of your audience might want detailed answers, much of the audience prefers short, simple, and direct answers. When your audience has a short attention span, make sure that your message fits within their time span.
  • Make it clear that you get things done — everyone seems to be impressed with someone who always gets things done. So when you’re talking about your past successes and future plans, make it clear that your firm does what it promises. Don’t dwell on the many problems that you will face, but instead show confidence and a strong track record of successes. Saying unabashedly that you make a lot of money, that you are a great negotiator, or that you always find a way to win may seem arrogant to some, but many others will take you at your word and admire you for being a doer.
  • Be tough and don’t back down — it might not be a good idea to be perceived as wishy-washy, neutral, or forgiving to your opponents. Being viewed as scrappy and that you fight for what you believe in by directly attacking “your enemies” on their actions will impress many people because most corporations avoid confrontation at any costs. Direct comparisons with your competitors show you have the courage to say that you are better, and many will believe that you are, because you had the courage to say it. When you say or do something bold, don’t back down when it receives the inevitable criticism.

Final Thoughts

I’m not proposing that every corporation completely follow Mr. Trump’s approach. But even if you are not personally a political supporter of Mr. Trump (I am not), it’s hard to argue against his approach that has built his name and his brand image both in business and in politics (he stands alone with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ronald Reagan with that dual success).

Even with 16 candidates and the media continually attacking him, he has not only maintained his lead but he has also over several months clearly remained the most-talked-about candidate. And isn’t being talked about one of the major goals of any corporate employer brand campaign? Incidentally, he built his image without running a single ad and without providing many details about most of his proposed solutions. Every corporation can learn from Mr. Trump, but if your firm currently has a weak employer brand image, look at his approach, because in the political arena his brand-building approach produces results almost immediately.


image from Shutterstock


This article is part of a series called Branding.
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