Transparency: an open misère content strategy

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A winning trick
By Jesse Archer, contributor. 20 February, 2018
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The call for transparency and accountability is a viral and powerful force, and one we’ve seen most recently in the takedown of numerous film titans. But this push to pull back the curtain and confront the power dynamic isn’t new or limited to Hollywood. In part, it began with the 2008 arrival of Glassdoor, a site that today boasts 45 million monthly users and millions of anonymous reviews of more than 600,000 companies worldwide.

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The lure of this platform is irresistible and some 75% of job seekers now research brands before applying – job shopping a company's inner workings, salaries, perks, feuds, management style, and company culture. Frustratingly for the brand, poor reviews can't be removed even when they seem to be more of a personal grudge match than a fair account of the company’s conduct.

While this may seem like cause for alarm, there are actually positives to take from this and some takeaways for brands to consider. The first is the notion that Job seekers are your consumers and if they don't want to work for you, they won't want to do business with you either. Content marketers are recognising this and preemptively countering anonymous Glassdoor reviews with tactical content strategies. Which brings us to our second takeaway, that being transparent, laying down your cards and turning a loss into a win can actually work in your favour, depending on the scale and severity of the mark of course.

Doubling down on transparency

According to Forbes, millennials need to believe a brand is authentic before they will consume their content and only 1% are influenced by advertising. Another finding shows 94% of respondents were more likely to be loyal to a brand with complete transparency. Glassdoor is built entirely on the promise of transparency, while other brands are embracing it to various degrees.

Another finding shows 94% of respondents were more likely to be loyal to a brand with complete transparency.

Buffer is an app that manages a user’s social media accounts and built a name for themselves with a daring content strategy that details financial and management decisions. Buffer even came clean about how they made mistakes that led to layoffs, and how they would fix these problems in the future. Content that proactively admits error, shows self-awareness and offers solutions to course correct demonstrates leadership. The press ate this up, consumers responded and Buffer saw its revenue trajectory skyrocket. Imagine the potential impact of a Glassdoor review from a disgruntled employee after being laid off. Buffer has quashed the impact of such a scenario, and for the record has a 4.7 out of 5 star Glassdoor rating.

Buffer is one of several open startups practicing radical transparency and encouraging others to join. Consumers want to know free-range eggs come from chickens that roam freely, their clothes don't come from an Indonesian sweatshop, and their eyeliner hasn't been tested on rabbits. The market shows consumers are skeptical and want to feel good about doing business with you. A content strategy that’s built on transparency can offer that.

Engaging employee advocates

Another way to preempt a Glassdoor problem is to engage employees as advocates. Camila Romuld, HSBC's Digital Media Marketing Manager says, "Employee advocacy is the oldest form of marketing, and when you marry it to social media, you have a new way to build word of mouth from the people your audience trusts most." HSBC's marketing team pay for Linkedin Elevate, an employee advocacy platform that curates relevant social content that inspires employees to share. The result? A reported four-fold increase in followers of the company page.

Other brands have built entire content strategies around their employees. General Electric's "What's the Matter with Owen" campaign stresses how excited a young techie is about getting a job at GE, but his parents have no idea what he'll do there. This content shows GE's relevance to skilled youth while painting a picture of reliability and trustworthiness.

The "What my mom does at GE" campaign has a boy telling us his mum makes, among other things, "underwater fans powered by the moon". This strategy uses employees as brand ambassadors that position GE as sleek and innovative: not the greasy old manufacturing plant with punch clocks and assembly lines you may have pictured. In the same way, the finance industry can use content to move away from the image of bricks and mortar vaults, focusing instead on the stories of the innovative employees bring radical change to the industry.

While traditional marketing uses testimonials and paid actors, PWC recognises the impact of first-hand experience by using employee reviews in its branding strategy. PWC emphasises the integration of personal branding through the Corporate Responsibility and Our Culture section on their website and highlights employees' careers on the Our People page. Their employer branding strategy is working. With over 15,000 Glassdoor reviews in, 77% recommend PWC and 87% approve of the CEO.

Don't shy away

Don't ignore a negative Glassdoor review or immediately shy away from a negative story – embrace the potential in transparency. Respond openly, honestly, and as authentically as possible while creating marketing content that reflects your brand values and the conversations taking place in your office.

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Jesse has dedicated himself to creating informative and compelling content across multiple industries from film to finance. After doing ten years in New York City, he moved to Sydney where he also volunteers as a North Bondi Surf Lifesaver.