People-first Employer Branding with Riley Stefano

Empower Brand Advocates and Tell Compelling Employee and Culture Stories with Employer Branding Pioneer

July 8, 2023


Riley Stefano

Listen on:

Sharing options:

Show Notes

Employer branding is as much a retention strategy in keeping great talent as it is an attraction strategy in hiring great candidates.” - Riley Stefano

In this episode, we dive deep into the core of employer branding, exploring practical tips and fascinating professional stories—successes and failures alike—with Datadog’s Employer Branding whiz Riley Stefano. We discuss storytelling tips, how to spot brand ambassadors, the metrics to measure your EB success, answering tough comments on Glassdoor, and everything in between to give listeners a great foundation to start building their dream employer brand—and EX!

Riley's go-to Recos: Check out the HubSpot Culture Code. Tune into the Employer Branding Podcast. Don't ignore Glassdoor.

For more Employer Branding tips (and to watch her travel adventures), follow Riley on LinkedIn!

Podcast transcript


Riley Stefano: Ultimately, your employer brand isn't built on your employee's personal brand. It's the stories that they're sharing and the content that they are creating, that's building your employer brand strategy.

Janine Ramirez: Okay. I am so so ready to get in fired and pumped up with insights on employer branding with our special guest, Riley Stefano.

Riley is a brand enthusiast culture champion and dog mom who's also a data-driven people manager. With a passion for engaging and attracting candidates through authentic storytelling, Riley believes in the power of positivity and stories to build genuine human connections, as the team lead of employer brand marketing at Datadog, she's helping to make the company a magnet for top talent globally plus she's a travel vlogger and former culture content creator at HubSpot. Thank you. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us today, Riley, and welcome. Thank you. Thank you. Thanks for having me Janine.

I'm so excited to learn from you. I have like a sneak peek into your answers a bit and I got so excited just browsing through it. So I don't wanna waste any time. Perfect. Let's get started.

Okay. So how did your journey and employer branding start?

Riley Stefano: Absolutely. So I feel like most people who end up in the employer branch I did not expect to end up in the employer brand space.

It's a pretty niche new kind of world within a marketing and recruiting scope. So I started as an English major in college. Everyone asks, did you want to be a teacher? I never wanted to be a teacher.

I am not the best when it comes to patience with young children. That is why I have a dog instead of a child right now. But so, I went from being an English major in college, I had the opportunity to both study abroad while I was in college and also after college worked for a travel magazine in Scotland, which actually kind of gave me a start into understanding and really finding this passion for just different cultures, and different communities, and really understanding the way that people work and the way that they work in different environments and in different offices around the world.

So, I kind of fell into this world of employer brand marketing as I say through the company HubSpot. Many know HubSpot as being a really great ambassador for company culture. I was so fortunate to end up there as one as my first workplace.

And where it all started was I attended their big conference inbound one year and really got an understanding of the vivacity that HubSpot is, the speakers that they bring to a stage And, I really just fell in love with how they think about company culture. So fast forward probably four months and they had a culture content creator role open on their team. And in my mind, I'm like, what the heck is a culture content creator? Like, what is what is this role what would I be doing?

And ultimately, what it was and what I realized now, it was an employer brand specialist role. It was the second person on a two person employer brand team, and my manager at the time really took a chance on me, I had started my travel blog while I was in Scotland writing for that travel magazine and she absolutely loved creativity that I brought to the table and just the way that I told the story of humans, of people, of how they work, of the cultures that they are you know, inspired by every single day.

Employer Branding is about showcasing company culture

Riley Stefano: So while I was at HubSpot, I learned all the ins and outs of employer brand. How to really tell a culture story through the lens of the people who matter most, the employees, right?

The people who are doing the work, building the software, creating the marketing campaigns, whatever they're doing, And while at HubSpot, I touched everything from social media to workplace awards, employee reputation, so think of like glassdoor as a perfect example. And in that time, was able to help them secure thirty different workplace awards, including the number one company on Glassdoor.

Learned so much while I was there, and after three years, I had the opportunity to start again and build an employer brand strategy from scratch at my now company Data Dog. Kind of fell into my lap. I became their first employer brand expert really building an EB--I say e-b because employer brand a lot of times is abbreviated to e-b. So if you hear me say it throughout, that's what I'm referring to.

I had loved building the employer brand strategy so much at HubSpot that I wanted and was ready for this next challenge. I then was able to grow a team under me, which is so exciting.

So now I am able coach some amazing people around the world. I have people who sit in Paris, in Tokyo, in Denver, in Denver, in Boston, and really they're helping me to bring the Datadog life brand to life. And I've been so fortunate to just, you know, be in the position that I am now and I love this space and I love to talking to people about the value of employer brand and how it really can help to just share and amplify the stories of the people within their companies.

Janine Ramirez: Okay, a quick follow-up question to that. In HubSpot, how did you learn the ins and outs of employer branding? Like was it thought to you, did they have, like, a manual? Or was it more, you know, like getting the hang of it yourself and testing it out?

Riley Stefano: Good question. It was research. I think it was a lot of research.

It was a lot of talking to new people that, you know, were doing similar worked to what I was doing, but in different companies and also around the world. And I think that that was one of the key components of what I loved, about what I did, was that I was really trying to make sure that the culture story that we were telling was gonna be unique to each office that HubSpot had because one of my favorite things that our chief people officer, Katie Burke always said, is offices should be siblings, not twins. They all have their own culture story. And their own company culture that is inspired by, you know, different nuances that are brought to life through different heritages and different cultural backgrounds.

And those are the stories that I wanted to tell. And so, it was talking to other employer brand professionals in companies like, I had the opportunity to go to Singapore and meet with some fantastic people at the company grab. Or, you know, people within the New York space, which has a very different, fast paced, you know, environment to something even like Boston where I sit out of. And so doing that research, it was a lot of flying by the seat of my pants.

I'm not gonna lie to kind of learn this employer brand space, but also employer brand you know, five years ago isn't what it is today. There has been so much new discovery that has happened that I think has really positively impacted the way that employer brand can show up and make an impact and really have strong, just ultimate, you know, growth on a company, both from a candidate lens, but also from a customer and even from a total company brand growth lens.

Janine Ramirez: I love how your your love for travel translated to your employer branding role! Okay. What's your favorite office that you've been to so far?

I have Around the world. Absolutely. So I the one that surprised me the most was probably Singapore. It was one place that I'd never in my life thought I would end up going to.

Janine Ramirez: And I It's a tiny dot on the map!

Riley Stefano: Oh, my gosh. It's I mean, the food. I'm a foodie.

So going to the hawker centers all around Singapore was absolutely incredible. I always have a soft spot for Dublin because I studied abroad in Ireland, so I've had a couple two needs to go. And then for the first time ever this past summer, I had the chance to go to Paris. And I loved Paris instantly.

It was like, the city of love, the city of romance, all these amazing people, beautiful language, great food. So, everywhere I've been, I've just fallen in love with and all the people that I get to meet along the way, it's what makes me love what I do because essentially, I'm kind of the cheerleader of my company. It's I think of an employer brand professional. Right?

You're the first person who interacts with someone, even before a recruiter gets on the phone, you know, with a candidate. You're the one that's telling people what it is that you love about your workplace and about your job?

Why invest in Employer Branding and Brand Champions?

Janine Ramirez: More about making the employees star shine a little bit brighter, but I just wanted to go through: what would you say is like the top benefit of employer branding for organization? Just to get people's buy in to, like, invest in employer branding. One hundred percent. I would say the biggest thing that an employer brand strategy does is it builds brand champions through your own people.

That employee advocacy is so huge when it comes to even thinking about how you grow your brand as a business. Because ultimately, you know, you could have five people on your marketing team, but you could have five thousand employees that are brand champions of yours that are untapped potential to help market your company, your business, and grow both again, that customer base and that candidate base. So when you think about why invest in employer brand, it's really because your people are your biggest advocates. They're the ones that are going to be telling you or telling your customers why they should work with that product, with that business, with that corporation.

They're the ones who are amplifying those stories And also, you know, happy customers wanna work with happy candidates. They wanna know that they're investing in a place that takes care of their people that takes care of that company culture and shown and told through the stories that employer brand strategies are bringing to life through the voices of the employee.

Employer Branding for Global Companies

Janine Ramirez: Are you seeing that around the world, like, I don't know there's more of an investment and an interest in employer branding and that the benefits cut through cultures? Or is it more in the United States?

Riley Stefano: I would say the United States is definitely where I've seen a lot of the momentum begin. I'm seeing especially in these last few years, there's more, I think, appetite for employer brand than ever before, especially with, you know, I think the the first industry that really took advantage of an employer brand strategy was the tech industry. Because we all know, software engineers, you know who you are. You are hard to hire.

They're you know, enterprise sales professionals, anyone across sales there, two, you know, two of the hardest, most toughest, most sought after talent communities to really try and be hiring from. And in the tech space, it became really important for these companies to really educate their their potential candidates about why that workplace. Why come work here versus anywhere else in the entire world?

But now we have the opportunity to work anywhere in the world with remote work, which has totally put, you know, turn employer brand on its head.

The ball really got started in the US. That momentum to really highlight and showcase company culture, I think has only become even more important in like EMEA and APAC because of the cultural differences that a lot of these companies want to show you know, if you work for a global organization that has a US headquarter. How do they bring, you know, their Office in Tokyo, those cultures and traditions of the Japanese people to life because they don't wanna just be, you know, a US globally com headquartered company that that's the only culture that people see.

So I do think that it's really starting to trickle into, you know, the entire world. And I'm really, really glad for that.

And it makes it more colorful and more interesting. Right? Like, now as an employer branding professional, you're like, oh, how can I use like that office and that culture and kind of bring that into the content?

Storytelling Tips for Employer Branding

Janine Ramirez: That brings us to storytelling, which you mentioned in the very beginning is very important and was, I guess, key for you getting the job in the first place. Right? So what are some of your favorite concepts from storytelling and writing that you apply to employ your branding.

Riley Stefano: Yeah. I would say, I love love love. I mean, some of when you think of like the content itself, right? So the content mediums and platforms It's both long form and short form content, and it's all about how you tell the story in I think the right lens to make sure that it lands with the candidate. So, you can write a blog post, but that blog post could also create social media posts that have a specific quote that kind of comes from it. There could be different market narratives are a big thing that we're working on as a team right now to build an employee value proposition in EVP.

That really brings to life these certain stories that we know are going to resonate with certain candidates. You know, different audiences want different stories kind of told to them. So it's even building a strategy of what type of storytelling should you be sharing based on the candidate persona that you're trying to attract. It could right now, I think a big one that comes to mind is sustainable scaling, thinking about the current tech environment that we are in.

How do we, as a company, ensure and give comfort to candidates that we are still growing, that we have this narrative around, you know, the great success. Maybe it's a career growth journeys. Right? So, looking at how have people grown in their own careers, and how does that relate to the sustainable scaling or that you know, that growth story of a company overall.

So, I think to answer your question in two parts, there's two different ways to kind of look at storytelling. Right? It's the narratives that you're bringing to life through the stories of your people, through the products that they're building, their own career, pathing, the culture of the offices, but then it's also the ways that you're translating it through different mediums, things like blog posts, podcast, a great way to share an employer in Rand's story. Right?

By hearing and talking about it versus just always you know, showing or reading it. Social media, probably the first platform I would argue starting with. It's a free opportunity to really highlight some of those stories, And then you have some of the partnerships that exist. Glassdoor probably being the biggest one that exists out there.

Right? It's not a story that you necessarily can control as much, but it's one that you should really actively pay attention to because that's the place in space that your employees are being the most authentic and honestly themself, because they're sharing with you feedback on ways that, you know, they're loving your company culture, but also ways that you could continue to work on and improve it because ultimately employer brand is as much a retention strategy in keeping great talent as it is an attraction strategy in hiring great candidates.

Janine Ramirez: Nice. I love that sound bite. We got that right there.

The Dos and Don’ts of Employer Branding

Janine Ramirez: On social media, since it's public, do you get any pushback from employees when you're gonna feature them?

Riley Stefano: One hundred percent. And I think that it's something that we're very conscious of especially with GDPR, with, you know, I think there's a lot of rules within, you know, EMEA specifically versus some other countries or regions such as the US. So, it's something we're very cognizant of if we ever want to feature anyone ask them, you know, if there's a photo for example that was shared by an employee on LinkedIn, we make sure to try and figure out who's in that photo so that we can ask every individual, are you comfortable with us sharing this from our own social media channels or even our career site, you know, a career site arguably that other platform alongside social media and you know glassdoor, that a candidate is gonna come to, and so we wanna make sure that anyone who's being featured, a wants to be featured and wants to share that story and is comfortable in doing so, because we don't want to be just you know, amplifying voices who don't, you know, want to be amplified, because really there's so many people within an organization who do want to share their story.

And so, how do we tap into and find those people? And there's a lot of ways that you can do that. I mean, working with your recruiter's directly to figure out who's someone that they have recruited or hired that has a great story that would wanna be shared or told, working with your ERGs, you know, working with some of leaders across your employee resource groups to make sure too that the stories that you're amplifying are coming from diverse voices and from people of diverse backgrounds. So, it's not that you're amplifying all of the same individual, but also on the flip side, you're not tokenizing anyone either.

Because that is so important in finding that balance making sure that you're telling the stories of the people who want to be told because then you build that thought leadership and you again build a lot of that employee advocacy naturally through those stories and through those people that are sharing those stories.

Yeah. Like from there I think it's a good transition to talking about like authenticity.

Mhmm. Right? Because it's like, okay, like putting words in someone's mouth and just you know, like can you sign off on this quote versus actually featuring them in a in a story and using their words? So what are your thoughts on authenticity in and brand design.

Yeah, I mean, it's vital, especially when it comes to the stories that are being told through your employees to your point, a lot of what we do is a very interview type of style or format. I come from, you know, that English literature, journalism type of background. So, I've always been such an advocate and a fan of How do we sit down and have a conversation with someone to learn what their passions are, what it is that they're excited about talking about, and then translate that into a piece of content that's really going to highlight them and make sure also that they're involved in every piece of the process.

Now, that being said, of course, there's also a brand voice that we do have to follow as a company. Right? And so, it's finding again that balance between the story that you're trying to tell from an employee versus the brand that you do have as a company, and just making sure that that tone of voice is always present in the story that you're telling. Now that doesn't have, you know, to be the exact brand voice when an employee is sharing their own story through their own lens, which is something that we You can't control everyone, right?

So different, right? Because you can't necessarily always say like, or put guardrails around like, hey, this is how you should be saying this. No one wants that. Right?

No one wants to be told, you know, first of all, please go, you know, help us build some employer brand strategies, but also like you have to do it this way. So instead, it's encouraging positive behaviors, things like, you know, I conduct a personal brand workshop as a perfect example to kind of build best practices in showing people, here's a great way to think about thought leadership or building your personal brand in a way that is not just uniform to our current company, but is going to help you in the long run by building those really strong long term skill sets so that they know how to, I think, present themselves both professionally and personally on a platform such as LinkedIn, but also, they're doing it in a way that's still authentically telling their story and amplifying you know, what it is that they're impacting within their organization.

I mean you you mentioned diversity and now, like, that's It's like a trend now but I feel like it's also the feature like we talked to some of the experts also on the matter. And it's like, okay, there's the brand identity, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you're creating soldiers. Right? I could just with the same face, the same way of talking about the brand and all of that. It's like celebrating the differences of each as well as just making sure that, you know, as it relates to the DEI space and even content that we share out that is more specific to any of our DEI initiatives or heritage months is a perfect example, we wanna make sure even that content that is more tied to diversity narratives is more so proactive versus reactive and not just performative. I do feel like to your point, diversity is such a hot topic right now.

Sometimes it can feel like a a a tick mark in the checkbox, and that's never what the employer brand lens is meant to bring to life. It's meant to bring up to life more so just the voices of all the individuals across an organization, and the stories that they have to share And also how, you know, those different moments of celebration, heritage month, etcetera, have positively impacted the community that they've been able to build within the culture. So, it's more so thinking about, you know, how do we talk about this one diversity initiative that we ran and the result? That feels so performative. It's more so like how did we celebrate this specific unique moment, but also how do we continue to celebrate it long after that month, that moment that celebration has passed and ended.

Building Trust and Earning Buy-in

Janine Ramirez: Okay. So the brand employer brand has to be authentic. It has to celebrate the employee.

Let's talk about trust building now. I mean like, okay, you can show authenticity but some people see through it sometimes when it's not a hundred percent authentic. So how do you get people to truly believe the content, I guess? And know that this is not just some, you know, marketing campaign that's trying to get them to join the company.

Riley Stefano:  I think the first thing I'll caveat is that you are always going to have the people who question you. No matter what you do, no matter how authentic you think you're building an employer brand, you're always gonna have the people who are hesitant and who don't necessarily always see it the way that you see it and that's okay too. I think it's really focusing on the people who are really bought into what you're trying to build because they're the ones who are going to be the brand champions. They're the ones who you I mean, because you can know that you're building something authentic, but that doesn't always mean that that's what everyone else is going to see it either.

Right? It's very subjective. Employer Bram, Like English literature, it's so subjective. It's it's, you know, it's based on the person's perception.

Of what you're trying to build. And, that's going to be different if you're, you know, in one area or department versus another. And that's why the narratives are so important too and the specific narratives that you're trying to tell to the right candidates. But ultimately, that authenticity is vital in bringing to life, the company culture, and making sure that you're also attracting the right candidates through that authentic lens.

I think a perfect example is everything going on in the world right now with remote work. There are so many companies who are moving back to this more office centric hybrid culture, mind being one of them. And if you're inauthentically telling the story of Oh, remote work, this is all of the great perks and benefits of our remote employees, you're not going to be attracting the right talent into your organization because they're going to expect and anticipate they're gonna have that opportunity to work full time remote, where there are so many candidates out there who miss that in office connectivity, And by telling that inauthentic or that, you know, just, I think, shadowed story that doesn't tell the full truth, you're not attracting the right people in the door.

You're not you're not getting the right candidates in, and you're ultimately not converting the right people. So it it does a disservice to you and your own employer brand. If you are leading with any type of lens of inauthenticity.

Employer Branding in a Remote Setup

Janine Ramirez: How much harder is it building the employer brand in a remote workforce because I can imagine I mean, I've worked in an office in the past and if we had like employer branding then, it would be so easy because it would be like oh let's meet up in the pantry and let's make a video on whatever, but now it's like everything's online.

Riley Stefano: Everything's online. It was so difficult. When when all of a sudden the pandemic happened and it you were in the office one day and they're like, nope, you're gonna go work from home for the foreseeable future. It's like, Well, how do we share that experience now to candidates?

Like, what can we build to show them that you know, remote culture that we've now moved into, that we've never experienced before. Right? Right. For us, it was using a lot of employee content.

So, really, we relied, we built an internal Slack channel called hashtag datadogLife that encouraged employees to stay connected through this, you know, Slack channel, through this remote space and also contribute content to us such as photos such as, you know, videos of their like at home remote work setup. You know, we created these like virtual office tour videos of different photos that employees sent to us, so we could still give candidates an idea of what, you know, our Boston office versus our Sydney office looked like. So, we really relied heavily from a remote culture perspective on our employees to provide that content to us and honestly, it's what continued to amplify our employer brand strategy and build that advocacy.

We saw how important user generated content really was Because ultimately, your employer brand isn't built on your employee's personal brand. It's the stories that they're sharing and the content that they are creating, that's building your employer brand strategy, and building the stories that are resonating with candidates that make them want to come work here. So there's always creative ways around figuring out, you know, how do you build an employer brand strategy when you're remote, when you're in office? Because even in office creates its own challenges of how do you make sure that you're balancing out every single office so that you're not giving too much I think recognition to one office versus another office because that can, you know, be be harmful too to your employer brand strategy or your company culture because once people are bought into employer brand, they are all over your social media pages, they wanna be sharing, they wanna be, you know, posting, they wanna make sure that they're part of that employee advocacy strategy. And so, you've gotta make sure that you're also balancing out content that resonates with offices around the world as much as that remote employee base.

Empowering Brand Champions

Janine Ramirez: But how do you get employees to get in on that? Like how do you get that energy out of them? Because sometimes they feel: Okay. We have so much work to do already and then we have to like, what? Take a photo and share it and, you know, write and it's like just on top of of the work that we're already doing. Yeah. I think a lot of it is finding the people who are naturally creating and influencing people already on social media.

Riley Stefano: There are so many people within an organization who, especially I think in today's you know, environment of social media with Instagram, with TikTok, with all of these different social platforms, you have so many creative people in your organization. And it's just figuring out who they are and tapping into the right ones to create that that continuous just I don't domino effect, whatever you wanna call it -- Right. -- of advocate. Because once you get one, two, three people bought in, they share it with their friends, and it's a lot of word-of-mouth.

When you're first building an employer brand strategy, it's word-of-mouth, and then the second layer to that, is the leadership buy in. So how do you get leaders to really be advocates of your employer brand? One of the things that we did or we offered was ghostwriting to some of our leaders. So, to show them the value of employer brand and the power of storytelling, we offered them the opportunity to, hey, we will interview you and write in your authentic voice, share out that article and we can start to see how your thought leadership gains traction over time to help build that employer brand strategy, and it was a wild success.

We ended up getting so much more engagement on those ghost written pieces of leadership content, which then encourages more employees to be sharing their thoughts and perspective because they see that trust, that transparency coming directly from leaders across platforms such as LinkedIn. And they're like, oh, cool. Like, I could share a story too. I could talk more about, you know, my anniversary or my, you know, that great product that I just worked on or whatever it is.

So it kind of creates again that continuous domino effect of just the more people you see starting to do it, but also the brand that you can build with it. So we added a half tag. We said, alright, we are going to coin all of this as hashtag data dot life. Get people to get bought into the hashtag.

And then as soon as they are sharing content that's going to be building their personal brand, if they can use that hashtag, more and more people will start using it And again, it creates this continuous cycle because it's all about that word-of-mouth initially when you're trying to get people bought in to really sharing their experiences. And the hashtag you start, like, from the beginning, from the get go, you tell them you Day one. So we had even when I was with HubSpot, we started I mean, HubSpot Life was our initial concept. Like, how do we take hashtag HubSpot Life and turn it into some type of employee advocacy program is going to encourage people to make sure they keep creating those stories, and sharing it in a place where also we can find and track and engage back with them.

Because I tell people sometimes it's not only just as a company what you're putting out there, it's also how you're engaging back with your community. It's building that community mentality within a social media space of, you know, your your employees are talking about an anniversary or maybe you have new create example new hires who just joined your company. They're so excited. They are, you know, starting that week, they posting, I'm so excited.

To be joining Data Dog, like, here's what I'm joining, here's what I'm doing. Getting one comment back from Data Dog being like, hey, we're so excited to have you. Thanks so much for joining that goes such a long way in making them feel seen and recognized, and that builds that advocacy also from the get go because they're like, okay, like, you know, I shared this one story. It was great for my own personal brand because all these people are liking and engaging with it.

And also my company seeing it, my leaders are seeing it. It's building that trust, that transparency, that visibility for an individual, across, you know, all of their leadership, and it helps them to grow in their own career too.

Employer Branding: HR or Marketing?

Janine Ramirez: Okay. Technical question. Employ your branding for you, is it under HR? Or is it under marketing? Or are you, like, in between the two because sometimes it's under HR and it just makes it difficult to work with the marketing team, I guess, on the brand. One hundred percent.

Riley Stefano: I have always worked so far, my companies, my two companies that I've worked within the employer brand space have always sat within HR. I've heard of other companies who work within marketing. And I can see honestly the values of both and also the cons of both. Right?

When you work in an employer brand space within an HR world, you have so much more access to that company culture story. Because you see and hear and understand the things that, you know, your internal employee engagement team is doing, your recruiters are doing, your employee resource groups, and diversity teams are doing, you hear and see all of that. So, the narratives almost come to you I think more organically. Right.

But you don't always necessarily have the support or, you know, the just advice of a marketing team unless you build those strong relationships. And that was something that I was passionate about from day one. I come from a marketing background, content marketing, you know, my journalism space, my my travel writing, and so I knew that even if I was going to be sitting within I sat within the culture team within HubSpot and I sat within I sit within the recruiting team now at Datadog. I knew I needed to create those strong ties to the marketing team to be able to ensure that, again, our brand voice was the same as throughout the rest of the company, that the, you know, everything from the logos to the designs, to the, you know, backgrounds that we were using were going to be uniform with what the company was using, because your employer brand is an extension of your company brand.

If you have two or what feels like two totally separate brands, it's going to jar the candidate experience because they're gonna be like, wait. I thought I was talking to Datadog. They're purple, not green. Like, where's this, you know, And so it's like, it gives them that The font is the brand.

Yeah. Right? And they're like, who am I talking to? So that partnership with marketing is so vital if you do set up your team to sit on a HR recruiting culture function, create those partnerships as my best piece of advice.

Find your advocates within those marketing teams to ensure that you can go to them for advice for feedback. You know, get them looped in on every step of the process because they will feel encouraged and inspired by the work that you're doing also. And how that work can in turn directly impact your corporate marketing strategies and drive customers because of the positive employer brand content they're also seeing.

Influencing Work Culture

Janine Ramirez: Okay, now within HR, as the employer brand, do you find that you communicate the the culture more like it is what it is and you communicate or do you have a hand in kind of designing the the work culture?

Riley Stefano: Absolutely. A little bit of both, I would say that within my previous company, it's a lot more of how are we telling the story of the culture. At the same time though, I do think that your employer brand very much can help to steer the culture in the direction that employees want it to go. Because we also always know that culture is something that is adaptable.

It's very much something that is created based on the employee experience. Even when I was at HubSpot. HubSpot is so famous for its company culture. That culture, that culture deck, the HubSpot culture deck I got plug it because if you haven't seen it, go check it out.

That was created by HubSpot's co founder years before I joined the company. And so that strong culture was always in place before the employer brand team strategy initiatives ever started. But like I said, the power of employer brand is that it has the opportunity to really show and highlight the things about a company culture that employees both love and also the things that they see areas of improvement and I think the biggest telltale sign of that is your glass door. It's something not, you know, it's probably one of the biggest platforms that employees go to to really share with their company and with candidates what their experience working there has been.

There's good, bad, ugly. You know? It's not everyone's favorite platform, and it's something that I am passionate about because I do think that there's so much value that can that comes from hearing from the feedback of your employees, no one wants feedback to go down a black hole. Right?

They wanna know that if they're taking the time to write that feedback on on such a public forum, especially, you know, if it's an initiative coming from the employer because we're place awards are coming up or whatever it is, that they're being heard. And so one of the things that we're passionate about as an organization at Datadog is making sure that we respond back to every single review that gets left on glassdoor, on blind, which is a big one, for, you know, the software engineering audience and just making sure that employees feel heard because it does really can help to adapt positively a company culture based on the feedback that you're getting from your employees.

Biggest Mistakes in Employer Branding

Janine Ramirez: We're delving into the world of the negative. So what's the biggest mistake anyone can ever make when it goes to EV?

Yeah. I think one of the biggest mistakes that you can make is probably not getting enough eyes on something for a piece like, my biggest piece of advice would be test test test. Like, try an AB test as much as you can to see and understand what works. Because you're not gonna be a success overnight.

You know? It definitely even that when I was at HubSpot, like, it took almost three years for us to build an employer brand strategy that was so strongly recognized. And now, those HubSpot based social channels, like those, little baby project of mine from years back. I'm like, they have almost like forty thousand followers.

I'm like, it's amazing to see the magic that has happened. And I still communicate with so many members of that team like they're I I the people are so incredible in the employer brand space, but I think that what I wish I had done differently in the beginning is test more. Figure out like what do people wanna hear, what's going to resonate with them, but also don't get don't try and take on too much. There is so much that you can build an employer brand And I think one of my biggest mistakes by not testing was that I was trying to do too much.

It was so Almost reactive. The strategies that I was building was a recruiter would come to me and be like, hey, I'm having a hard time hiring for this job. What can we do? Or hey, I wanna go to this event.

Can we go? Or hey, like, I wanna build this social campaign, like, can you do it? And I'm like, Instead, really think about what are three things that you can impact and build a road map, build a strategy of what within your scope can you positively impact, maybe it's this quarter, maybe it's this year, and focus on those three okRs, those three objective key results that you really want to drive and make sure that you stick to them. Because otherwise, you could go any which direction in the world of employer brand and fall flat on your face because you're like, oh, crap.

That didn't work. Failure's okay. I am the biggest advocate of failure. That's how you learn and that's why you test.

Because when you test, You iterate, you adapt, and you build a stronger strategy from it year after year after year.

Measuring Success and Impact

Janine Ramirez: Okay. So we're in campaigns, we're in testing, how do you measure sure like whether it's a success or not, what are the common KPIs?

Riley Stefano: Great question and a loaded question. It's tough. I will say like It has been one of my biggest struggles in the employer brand space is knowing how to and what to track. Because ultimately, what you wanna see is an applicant or, you know, a higher. Like, if you can get a higher, from, you know, the video that you put out there, the paid advertising, the blog post, the, you know, whatever it is, phenomenal, but there's so much more that goes into employer brand beyond just that ultimate pipeline conversion, that ultimate lead that you get in the door. There is so much brand awareness and brand affinity that you are building with a community.

And you can measure that through engagement metrics. Right? Like, how many people are you reaching? Think for like the typical marketing metrics that you would think about in how you're measuring reach, how you're measuring engagement, how you're measuring likes, shares, clicks, click through rate, cost per click, those all tell a unique story in itself.

And ultimately, how does that then feed into the engagement? So, I think of it in almost a funnel format. Right? You have awareness at the top.

How are people being made aware of what you are building, what you are sharing, of your company, of your culture, of your employer brand. Then are they engaging with it, right? Are they actually interacting with the content that you're putting out there? Are they navigating to your career site?

Do you see a spike in career site page view traffic? Do you see more unique users coming to your career site? Do you see more reviews getting left on your last door? All of those, I would consider those engagement metrics.

Right? And then ultimately, the bottom of the funnel, that conversion. How many applicants are you getting in the door, but also are they quality applicants.

And at my current company, we look at quality applicants as anyone who applies and is moved into a recruiter phone interview. So anyone who gets on the phone with a recruiter, that is a qualified applicant because it's someone that we know, you know, our recruiters wanna have a conversation with. And so, ultimately, we can't always impact that end all be all higher because there's so many steps that happen within recruiting that ultimately leads to that. But are we driving people in through that funnel, through making them aware, getting them engaged, and ultimately converting them into that qualified applicant to ensure that Datadog's the right fit or whatever company is the right fit for them as much as they might be the right fit for us.

Riley’s Fave Tech Tools for EB

Janine Ramirez: I'm taking up too much of your time, so I'm gonna narrow it down to the last two questions. One is really quick, favorite tech tools that help you strategize, plan, implement measure employer branding. Absolutely.

I would say some of the ones that we've been experimenting with now that I absolutely love. First and foremost, I have to shout out Canva. If you are someone who is brand new to design, you've not done much in the design space before. It is three my God.

It's amazing. It's a free easy to use design tool that you can also create a lot of your own brand guidelines or branding within, which is the best part of Canvas. So you can upload your entire employer brand toolkit or company brand cool kit.

Templetize it. That's it's like it's like saves you time in the long run once you get it set up, once you get it organized, You can create all these amazing templates to push out on social media to create, you know, blog post headers, whatever it might be. So I definitely have to call it Canva.

One great employee advocacy tool, if you're ever exploring employee advocacy, and this is for someone probably who's matured their employer brand strategy slightly, great platform called disseminate. It's something that we are actually looking into in testing right now. And it's beyond employer brand for any type of corporate marketing brand even. It's a way for you to really have a measurable and tangible process for building employee advocacy.

So making sure that, you know, you can see How much more reach are you generating based on all of these people that are sharing your content out? How much earned media are you saving because of the people who are sharing your content rather than you having to get that same reach through paid advertising.

Canva is the other one, I will shout out more from a learning perspective than anything. There's a great podcast called the employer brand podcast.

And they feature phenomenal leaders across the employer brand space. You can find it on any of the podcast platforms online, but They have great episodes that just educate you about all different ways that different leaders think about building employer brand strategies. So those would be three of my favorite tech tools, disseminate, Canva, and just the employer brand podcast from a learning perspective.

Riley’s Top Advice to Build your Employer Brand

Janine Ramirez: Awesome great. Last question and I guess like for anyone who wants to start out and employ your branding, what's the one piece of advice that you would give?

The one piece of advice that I would give And I kind of touched on this a little bit, but there are a million and one things that you can really do to build an employer brand strategy.

Riley Stefano: Start small and bite sized.

Know also that you don't necessarily need budget to build a strong employer brand. Employor brand can be scrappy. It can be on an end. It can be, you know, really that employee driven voice that generates that employer brand.

So, my advice, where I would recommend leaning into to start your employer brand journey, is really three three areas. Your glassdoor or employee review sites because that's where your candidates are already going and your employees are already talking. Your career site. It's the second place that any any candidate is going to go to really understand what is it like to work at your workplace.

And three, social media. If you already have social media platforms within your company, fantastic partner with your social media marketing team to figure out ways that maybe you can incorporate more of an employer brand type of post into platforms, I would say LinkedIn and Instagram have been our two most influential platforms.

Twitter probably being a third that I would recommend exploring, but LinkedIn and Instagram are two that you can really show instead of just tell what your company culture story is by bringing it to life through the different people and those stories that, you know, are being talked about by your employees. So glassdoor, get on it, because your employees are already on it, your career site, it's where your candidates are going, and ultimately social media because it's free, it's accessible, and the world is using it.

Janine Ramirez: Awesome. Thank you so much, Riley.

It was such a good discussion. I wish I had more time. I have so many questions. There's so much to learn. I'm so happy that we had this conversation and hopefully we get to talk again in the future, thank you.

Riley Stefano: Appreciate it, Janine. Thanks everyone.

Never miss an episode!

Check our latest episodes

Balancing Data and Emotions with Kaitlin Paxton Ward

Balancing Data and Emotions with Kaitlin Paxton Ward

Empathic approach as a data-driven decision maker
Managing en Masse with Emma Auscher

Managing en Masse with Emma Auscher

Untangling Culture, Diversity, and Imposterism for Global Organizations