Building Your On-Campus Brand

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On-campus recruiting involves a little marketing, a little charisma, and a lot of one very important ingredient: branding. Let’s take a look at why branding matters so much and how you can build your employer brand to further your recruiting goals.

Why build your brand?

Which would you prefer for your college recruiting efforts: for everything to be effortless—or excruciating? To fill every space with students vying for your attention—or to show up to an empty room? To receive help from students and faculty—or to bear the sole responsibility of marketing and promotion? The difference between this type of success or failure is surprisingly simple: It all comes down to building your brand.

According to the 2013 National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) Recruiting Benchmarks Survey Report, branding is the most important aspect of the typical college recruiting program. Nearly 90 percent of respondents rated on-campus branding as very or extremely important.

So what can you do to strengthen the presence of your brand on campus? Building your brand does not happen overnight; it’s a slow and steady process that involves getting support from upper management in your company, developing relationships with students and faculty at target schools, and liaising with your marketing department or agency to ensure you have a consistent message.

This may also involve rethinking your goals and desired outcomes any time you participate in on-campus events. The best recruiters use a relationship-based approach rather than a transactional one. This means that instead of thinking of events as a place where you will interview and hire employees for open positions, you will be building the foundations for a talent pipeline that will supply you with applicants for years to come.

Who’s doing it right?

You probably already have an idea of who’s excelling at building a brand—just look at any of your competitors who attract large groups of students to all their on-campus events.

But let’s look at a few specific examples of industry leaders. In 2013, ERE awarded the title of “Best Employer Brand” to Ernst & Young and PNC. The ERE article notes that Ernst & Young has distilled its brand into three main messages: “the company’s learning and leadership opportunities, its diverse resources and mobility options, and its culture (inclusiveness, flexibility, giving back).” These messages helped guide Ernst & Young’s on-campus recruiting materials, its social media outreach, and its job-seeker publications.

PNC launched a campaign based on how an individual can help customers and communities and began using personalized search so potential applicants could find positions based on their LinkedIn and Facebook profiles. The number of positive mentions of PNC in forums and search engines increased 140% between November 2011 and October 2012.

There’s a good chance you already have an idea of your brand presence and success in general. If you’d like to expand that knowledge, AfterCollege offers the Employer Popularity Index, a tool that lets you see how well your branding efforts have worked, both amongst students in general and at specific schools.

What can you do differently?

We’ve established that building your brand on campus is important, but how exactly can you achieve this? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  • When you have an on-campus event coming up, work with your agency or marketing department to come up with a clear message. Figure out who you want to target and how.
  • Look at your past records—do you have a database of students you’ve spoken to previously? Students who’ve applied to internships at your company? Do you have a consumer-facing brand and the ability to use social media to let your followers know?
  • Are you a member of a department affiliate program? If so, will they inform students?
  • Will your current interns spread the word? Can you launch a “referral contest” to drive traffic to your event?
  • Find out from the organizers what type of publicity they’ll be doing. Can you supply an article for a newsletter or blog post?
  • Ask the student groups that you have connections with to inform their members.
  • Ask the national organizations that you engage with to let their student members at your target schools know when and where you will be on their specific campus.
  • Do you have alumni on staff who can help?  Even if they are not attending the fair, do they still have connections with campus organizations? Can they contact faculty in key programs to ask them to let their students know?
  • Do you have a student ambassador program? If so, do members know when you’ll be on their campus? How are they incentivized to drive traffic?

Still unsure of what to do? Check out NACE’s post on “Maximizing your career fair success.”

Let us help you!

AfterCollege offers a range of services to help employers build their brand on campus. Promote your upcoming events to students so your travel spend nets results. Get your promotional content in front of students throughout their academic careers to make your company more competitive. To learn more about how we can help you build your on-campus brand, stop by our Employer Events Page.


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