Skip to main content
Commsy creative stuff straight to your inbox


Do you really know what your employer brand needs? 

< Blog home

Do you really know what your employer brand needs? 

In overcrowded external and internal markets, the struggle to stand out, create value and remain relevant is a daily grind.

The quest for that edge, point of difference or badge of the remarkable is constant and relentless. The pressure is causing chilly drips of perspiration to trickle down collective hairlines…

Today, your employer brand is a key ingredient in creating that ‘edge’ formula. Until the robots or Artificial Intelligence (AI) have taken over, your employees contribute significantly to your point of difference and business success.

Who will champion the employer brand? Marketing? HR? PR? Internal Comms?

It is high time you throw out the old script

The truth is that in our highly networked, super connected reality, the lines are blurred between Marketing, PR, HR and IC.

Engaging in a brand turf war over who owns what piece of the organisation’s brand territory is a road to ruin. You will become a liability to the business and a menace to the community you are meant to serve.

In reality, an individual can be your customer, your investor and your employee all at the same time.

It is increasingly common for Marketing, PR, IC and HR to build a relationship with the same individual depending on the nature of the engagement with the organisation. Squabbling to secure influence and silo-thinking will herald disaster.

But the employer brand still needs a champion.

How to be your employer brand’s guardian

It is time for a (r)evolutionary mind shift from obsessing about brand ownership to stewarding the brand experience at different connection points.

This calls for stepping out of your comfort zone.

Step 1: Collapse the walls between disciplines and instead build bridges.

Step 2: Connect new bridges with lashings of joined-up thinking between external and internal focused brand partners.

Step 3: Create a new paradigm for value through coexistence and collaboration across the 4 spheres of expertise.

  • Marketing and PR lead external brand experience guardianship (customers, guests, investor relationships)
  • HR and IC lead the internal brand experience guardianship (employee relationships).

There is no need for HR and IC to play second fiddle to their cousins in PR and Marketing.

Here is why.

Transformational change in the way organisations are structured is shaking up our understanding of the employee-employer relationship and its value to the business.

People want to feel heard, cared for and valued. They want work that makes them feel fully human and less of a ‘human capital asset’ or ‘resource’. Employees want to be seen and treated as individuals whilst being a member of a vibrant community. They want to rally behind an idea or mission that is in tune with their own values and ideals.

Stop entertaining the employer brand’s moniker as the consumer brand’s poor unsophisticated country bumpkin cousin. Stop envying Marketing and PR. Sure, being labelled a profit-generating centre instead of a cost-sucking centre definitely has its perks. But start delivering what matters to the business and the employee community; and hello ‘value-centre’.

Tell me, what is the condition and reputation of your employer brand?

Look around you. Locate the fault lines and get to work. Fix broken, rickety, make-do processes and communication channels that disconnect employees from the business. HR and IC are perfectly placed to position employees at the centre of the organisation’s employment offering.

Here is how you can make a difference.

Employee storytelling needs a remarkable new hero

Never underestimate the value of stories nor take the power of storytelling lightly.

Marketing and PR are already capitalising on the power of storytelling to enhance the customer experience at every touch point of the customers’ contact with the organisation’s product / service brand.

It is true that great strides have been made, particularly in recruitment marketing. The employees’ experiences and their unique stories are increasingly used to great effect in employer brand messaging across traditional and digital media.

But now the stage is set for a brand new hero – a high impact HR-IC super tag team who uses storytelling to connect with the wider employee community in a meaningful way.

Here are 3 essentials to set you on the right storytelling path


The Hero: Starting out as a candidate, the employee is the hero of the story. The heroic character undergoes a transformation through experiencing, connecting and learning at each stage of their journey within the organisation.

The Narrator: HR and IC create stories from the perspective of the organisation but written to give the employee maximum opportunity to perform the star role as the hero. A committed narrator constantly reviews the organisation’s script to ensure that the employee is doing work that matters and makes a difference. Depending on their area of expertise, they edit and rewrite processes to ensure that the employees’ activities contribute value to the business and has meaning for individual members of the employee community.

Critical areas ripe for regular review and edit are:-

  • Recruitment Marketing
  • Employee Selection
  • Induction / Orientation
  • Job Descriptions / Role Design
  • Organisation / Business Performance Communication
  • Employee Performance Management and Assessment
  • Meetings and Internal Messaging
  • Learning and Development Activities
  • Employee Engagement and Advocacy

Savvy HR and IC pros skilfully use a variety of communication styles to share, reinforce, change and narrate stories relevant to the employee community.


The Stage: The organisation’s culture.

The Quest: To fulfill the organisation’s purpose and help employees achieve their personal dreams and professional aspirations.


Storytelling: It is easy to become enamoured with telling your story and dreaming up creative ways to deliver your message. Of course it is important; but it is only one part of crafting meaningful stories that connect people. Storytelling without listening is merely self-serving broadcasting.

Story-listening: You want to ensure that your story has been accurately received.

  • How did it make your audience feel?
  • Did your employees take the action you had intended?
  • What processes did you use to enable your employees to share their thoughts, feelings or contribute their ideas?

Be genuine in your interest to listen and discover what matters to your employees. You will be able to reframe the organisation’s stories so they have meaning to them. Authentic messages that resonate with personal values and aspirations increase the chances that your employee will feel motivated to gift their energy and contribute their skills to the organisation.

Story-Connecting: Once you have discovered what matters to your employees, their strengths, interests and aspirations for personal growth you are ready for your next story-crafting challenge. As the HR-IC tag team you must then carefully align and connect the employee’s story with the organisation’s purpose. True story-connecting artistry is best demonstrated when there is a near perfect match between the employee’s personal purpose and that of the organisation.

Story Co-creating: Story-connecting sets the stage for enhanced levels of employee engagement and advocacy that serves to help both the employee and the organisation develop and grow.

Calling all HR and IC pros, combine forces to form a super tag team – The Employer Brand Guardians

HR and IC can create value and make a difference to the business by re-imagining creaky industrial-era heirloom processes and redesigning the least beloved contact points in an employee’s journey with the organisation.

Employee storytelling needs a new remarkable hero and that is YOU!

How are you practicing story crafting and using employee stories in your organisation?

What are the most creative and successful ways you know of employee storytelling being used in an organisation?

Nicole Antonio-Gadsdon is an advocate of the craft of Creative HR and a radical activist for putting the ‘human’ before the ‘resources’ and cross-discipline collaboration.

She is particularly fond of ruffling Establishment feathers to help revolutionise HR as a valuable business discipline.

Her main purpose is to help organisations and HR pros transform from blah to cooking with gas through her company Aquarius Human Resources Consulting Ltd.

Nicole writes stories about her Creative HR journey and shares tips and discoveries in her blog The HR Rabbit Hole and on Twitter.

“The guys at Alive understand the complexities of our business which means we don’t need to explain the detail of every project or design piece – they’re already on it, which keeps things moving and delivers the results we need.”

Emily Stoten — Head of Marketing, Selecta

“I feel like they own and care for the project as much as we do! I would not use anyone else for my creative work and think Alive is ahead of the game.”

Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

“Thanks for all your help. We are delighted with the campaign, both in terms of the creativity and messaging but also the thought taken over the rollout of the materials. All looks absolutely fabulous!”

Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

“We went to ‘Alive’ for ideas on how to run a specific employee program in Europe. Alan and his team were brilliant in coming up with fresh, creative and practical approaches. The team took charge and executed brilliantly. We are pleased with the progress made so far and hope to have the same level of partnership and commitment going forward.”

Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

“Our mission was to update our brand visuals to better reflect our innovative and forward-thinking organisation. After receiving numerous pitches from different branding agencies, Alive stood out with their clear passion and understanding of our identity and goals. We thoroughly enjoyed working with the Alive Team to create an engaging new brand that we are immensely proud of.”

Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

“Alive wowed us during the pitch process and they didn’t stop wowing us throughout the whole project. Every person we worked with at Alive were so friendly, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about what they do. They have worked with us to really understand what we do and have created a new brand and website that really stands out from our competitors. Thank you!”

Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“Alive helped us create a video of our response to the floods of winter 2019. Our Chief Officer received messages from all round the country praising us for it and was really pleased with both the video and the response to it.”

Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Alive were professional, friendly and great to work with. Most importantly they were creative, helping us to bring an extremely important safety campaign to life.”

Jack Grasby — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“This looks amazing - brought a smile to my face scrolling through it :-)”

Jack Ford, Head of Marketing — streamGO

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
Alive logo