The line between employer brand and talent brand is becoming blurred, causing many to struggle when it comes to distinguishing between the two.

Social media has changed the branding game and the distance between employers, employees and prospective candidates has shortened. Consequently, it can be hard to tell where the employer brand ends and talent brand begins.

However, there is a clear difference between the two concepts and in order for a business to source the talent it needs, it is important to bring the blurred lines of branding back into focus.

Employer or talent?

Employer and talent brands may well be both sides of the same coin, but they differ in several ways.

Mark Bevans, founder of branding agency ‘Welove9am’, perhaps explains it best: Employer brand says “come work for us” and talent brand says “this is what it’s like working for us”.

Employer brand is defined by Workopolis as “an organisation’s positioning as an employer compared to its competitors”.  This is the messaging sent out from the heads of a business on what it will ideally be like to work at a place.

To do this effectively, you need to have a good idea what your business is about, what it wants to achieve and how staff fit into this grand plan.

It’s about creating a great business reputation,too. This can be seen in the case of Apple. Employer Brand Insights explained that Steve Jobs himself played a crucial role in the employer brand and talent management, bringing together all the key elements of the company.

This included having helped invent some of the best devices of the age, being the visionary behind one of the strongest consumer brands and being involved in every small part of his business. This passion and innovation attracted the talent the company needed to grow and pushed forward the Apple brand among potential candidates.

Talent branding works slightly differently and is shaped by employers and employees alike. A talent brand is about how everyone involved in an organisation – past, present and future – feels about a company and defines the workplace culture. This has become more important as social media has risen to prominence, providing a forum in which people can actually discuss their experiences. However, it has always existed and historically talent branding has been created through word of mouth.

Social media – muddying the water

Social media has caused the lines between employer and talent branding to weaken in two key ways. Firstly, where once an employer brand was something decided in boardrooms, pitched ahead of delivery, it is now shaped by opinions on social media and disseminated on channels like Facebook at Twitter, with changes capable of being implemented relatively swiftly.

Secondly, it’s now easier for employers to get engaged in talent branding and introduce employer branding into dialogues. For example, businesses can shape their talent brand by engaging in social discussion, publicising good work through video or giving people insights into a ‘day in the life’ of an employee through blogs, tweets and instagram.

Thirdly, the effects of having a poor talent brand are now far greater for a business, as information can be shared quickly and there is much more data available in the public domain outside of the control of an organisation.

The importance of working together

“Employer and talent branding can work in perfect harmony together,” Mr Bevan declared. “As with all successful strategies, it’s a case of researching, planning, timing and consistency.”

There is certainly a consensus that employer and talent branding must work together to be successful.

After all, a talent brand is shaped by how much a company lives up to its employer brand and this relationship has been thrown into even clearer focus with the rise of social media.

” If you start professing to be the best company to work for, flexible in working attitudes, social media-friendly and don’t deliver, then not only will you lose employees but you will gain a hard to shake negative reputation. Getting candidates through the door is one thing, keeping them is another,” Mr Bevan explained.

The two certainly complement each other, but it’s important to remember that they are unique entities that have their own roles to play.

While employer brand is about acquisition, talent brand is about retention too. It’s important that the latter is built around policies that encourage people to be around for the long haul, rather than flashy statements and strategies that are perfect to get people through the door but aren’t sustainable over the long-term.