How Colgate-Palmolive used Social Media and College Students to Enhance their Employer Brand




Since the early days of business, companies have been focused on their brand.  It may not have been specifically focused with a strategy on how to build it and how to use it to recruit top talent, but every business owner or leader has always had concern about their standing with customers and the community.

In today’s world, employer branding is not only a strategic concern for companies, but a huge investment.  Entelo’s 2017 Recruiting Trends Report showed nearly half of the organizations they surveyed will increase spending on employer branding.  The reason for this is to make sure their open positions are easier to find by ideal candidates.

Colgate-Palmolive is a company heavily focused on creating a functional and successful employer brand.  The person in charge of that strategy is Global HR social media strategist Pooja Rattan.  For the last couple of years, Colgate-Palmolive has started to rethink how they conduct their talent acquisition operations and part of that was to create an employer brand.  It took a year or so, but Rattan and her team were able to create a strategy and have begun to bring it to life.

So, how did Rattan’s team start the process?

“When we created our employer brand, we essentially started it off by engaging with employees,” Rattan said.  “We started it off by creating a lot of focus group discussions to understand what it has been.  We spoke to them.  We interviewed them.  We had some 500 plus employees that we spoke to.”

What they found were challenges, several of which they had to overcome.

The first was where the discipline of employer branding should lie:  with human resources or marketing?  For Colgate-Palmolive the answer was human resources, but that was not the end-all-be-all of the decision.  The strategy, as Rattan explains, intersects with both worlds and requires a special type of employee to manage.

“You need somebody sitting in that space that can either learn about marketing or HR or essentially has knowledge of both,” Rattan said.

She further explained that that can land the company in a precarious situation because it doesn’t always allow for the visibility the company needs to deploy its employer brand.

Another challenge facing Rattan’s team was how to target their brand.

“When talking about employer brand, you cannot target based on age.  You cannot target based on gender.  So, how do you target people,” Rattan said.

Colgate-Palmolive is not a start-up company.  Rattan suggests it would be easier for those companies to target their brand.  Her company, however, has been around for 200 years and their workforce is made up of different generations ranging from baby boomers to Generation Z.  This offers a different proposition altogether.

And finally, Rattan said the team had to deal with a huge learning curve when it came to focusing and measuring their plan’s progress.  There are many different strategies out there, but the company had to find the one that worked for them, and they needed to know how to measure its efficacy.

A year on and Rattan said she and her team are still learning.

Rattan said social media is an “amazingly fast medium and you need to be learning all the time.”

Right now, Colgate-Palmolive’s employer brand strategy encompasses LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter.  Of those three, LinkedIn and Facebook seem to have shown the most promise for the company.  Twitter presents another issue as the company has not seen a return on their use of the medium.  Based on their analytics which took at look at how traffic is coming to their site, very little if any is coming from Twitter.  Most of their traffic comes from LinkedIn and Facebook.

In fact, Rattan said LinkedIn has presented the company with a couple of milestones.

“We had the maximum number of organic acquisitions on LinkedIn.  And secondly, we ended up having the maximum number of people come to our website.  We got around 150,000 people in one month coming to our website looking for a job,” Rattan said.

When asked what Colgate-Palmolive is using in terms of content to drive these numbers, Rattan pointed to pre-produced videos.

“We created small snippet videos of our people talking about our company,” Rattan said.  The interviews last between 15-20 minutes, but through some creative editing, Rattan’s team gets the videos down to a bite-size portion; 30 seconds or so.  Rattan said the videos have given her team a lot of leverage and have brought up engagement rates.

What’s interesting about their videos  is not that they merely jumped on the bandwagon out of blind necessity, but it’s how they arrived at the decision.

Rattan said they partnered with college campuses for research.

Essentially, Colgate-Palmolive would show content to students.  Based on their feedback, the company made changes to their strategy accordingly.  Rattan recalled an exchange with one of the students.

“We did have this idea that people are looking at these videos and they are engaging people, but we didn’t understand why.  So, this one guy, he said that he liked the video better than the picture,” Rattan recalled after showing the student an still image and a video.  “I asked why is that video so much better?  He said, ‘Because you are curious as to what is going to happen next.’  That was a big moment for us.  We were like, ‘Okay.  Curiosity.  They want to know what happens next.”

Rattan said partnering with the campuses gave them great insight into what content is engaging for potential recruits.  Rattan said they now try to create content with as much movement as possible such as videos and GIFs.

The strategy, however, does not end with sending out content via social media.  Rattan said the company is also using employees as employee ambassadors.

“We are getting good traction in the U.S.  Now we are thinking of expanding it [employee ambassador program] to the next level.  So, we are thinking of expanding it to other countries like Brazil, Austrailia, and Mexico,” Rattan said.

At the end of the day, Rattan said Colgate-Palmolive wants to create the best content possible that drives a popular employer brand and increases recruitment efforts.

“When we create our videos, we make sure that we have representation from all age groups,” Rattan said.  “This is a kind of holistic campaign.”