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19 February 2014

Is your employer brand doing its job?

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This is the first in a series of case studies showing what agencies can do to appeal to the best employees in the market.

By Karen Montgomery, senior associate, f1 recruitment

Much of my week is spent highlighting the specific selling points of one digital or marcomms agency over another. The concept of employer brand, of identifying what it means to work with a particular organisation is increasingly important. In today’s candidate-led market people can be involved in three or four interview processes with different companies – those companies have to work hard to pitch their brands clearly and effectively to make sure they attract the best people. Salary is very rarely the only reason people move.

Assuming most agencies have interesting clients, smart people and the potential for career progression, how else can they differentiate themselves? One way might be to offer very different working conditions – as Drew Benvie has done at Battenhall, the agency he founded not quite a year ago.

Battenhall staff can work remotely and flexibly. One in five hours at Battenhall is spent on experimenting and innovation. The company encourages portfolio working and side projects, believing that this is where true ‘Eureka’ moments come from. There is pro bono work and every team member has a technology budget of their own. All this helps to attract the best recruits. But even though staff at Battenhall can work at home or from the coffee shop, they all want to work in the office because the workplace culture is so appealing. For Battenhall the thing that matters most, and that defines its culture, is a passion for social and digital.

Benvie explains: “What we are trying to do at Battenhall is create the next great agency. We have started, from scratch, to build a team where everyone has deep skills and a huge passion for social media and digital. We also have writers, developers, PR experts and strategists, just like every other PR firm. But everyone has to have that depth of skill and passion in social, which we feel is critical.”

He says that for an employee the main difference from a traditional agency is in how Battenhall sees the media – from TV to the papers to online. Everything is through a social media lens, meaning news travels faster and you have to nail PR and comms as well as social to make it work. He feels that’s what it will take to do mainstream comms in the future and that it’s certainly the case for the Battenhall client base now, which contains blue chips and challenger brands in equal measure.

If you want to work for an agency that feels as passionately about social and digital as Battenhall does, here are Drew’s tips for making sure it really is at the heart of what they do:  “You can tell a lot before you even interview, so you should do your homework. Check the agency out on social media – from their blog to their social media profiles. Do they look presentable? Is the content good? Are they leading or following? Then when you arrive at the interview find out who runs those social networks. If the answer isn’t ‘everyone’ then they are not taking digital and social seriously enough. If the answer is ‘marketing’ then get up and run away.”

You can read more about how Drew Benvie thinks the agency of the future will be structured here