45-second read (+1:33 video)
If you’re a high-growth startup, an SME with a personal brand is your greatest employer branding asset. Full stop.
This is a somewhat controversial stance. Employer brand traditionalists will scream EVP, brand alignment, and consistent formatting as opposed to giving someone the autonomy to create off the leash.
The risks are too high! What will candidates think? Will they be confused by an inconsistent “brand narrative”?
In my opinion, no. And if I’m being really honest, these are just excuses.
For me, it comes down to three things: trust, attention, and retention.
- Startups are primarily recruiting passive candidates where trust is already very low. Most brands lack the credibility of their larger competitors, and due to historical baggage and the pure volume of messages they receive on a daily basis from overly aggressive recruiters, these candidates are guarded and frustrated.
- Employer branding content struggles to gain attention even in the right channels because people just don’t care about company-branded content. We know that it’s highly curated PR that only tells the part of the story that companies want us to see.
- Employer brands have zero retention value. Nobody follows employer branding content to continually learn, grow, and build connection. There’s no reason to keep coming back for more.
Now, think about an SME who’s consistently putting out industry-leading content in the right channels—someone who has unique takes on their space and the work they’re doing.
We can all think of an industry expert whose content we follow and the trust we associate with them. And I guarantee that most of us would love to work at their company—all because of them.
The risk: this person gets recruited by your competitors and leaves.
Yep, that’s a reality.
But if you have this “silence our people so the others can’t have them” mindset at your company, run.
That’s a broken mentality that is going nowhere but down—and fast.
This might sound like an unconventional idea. But it’s not.
Converting a passive candidate is the highest level of enterprise selling. And this approach is simply based on observing what turns the most distrustful buyers into enthusiastic supporters.