Things I learnt this week…Branding and Penguin Herders...

Many of my blogs begin with the familiar line… I’m on a train again. Well guess what… I am again… heading back North from London… It’s been a busy week again with varying levels of success and interest. There are two big things that stick in my mind and as luck would have it they tackle a familiar problem from two different perspectives and I suspect ultimately different results.


On Wednesday I was in Dublin.  I tell you this to demonstrate to my clients that when I say EMEA I mean it.  Also that my world does not revolve around Manchester (WB!) although if all my clients could move there how much happier and easier all our lives would be.

I was in Dublin for a purpose though and having spent what seemed like a lifetime in the company of Ryan Air I needed to have a purpose.  I was meeting with a potential client.  I met some of their team last week in London and this was a chance to get to their global HQ. 

I am hoping to engage then to deliver a piece of work that will revolutionise their recruitment capability.  Or maybe evolutionise their recruitment process. Not sure yet but either way they have lots of ideas about what recruitment is or isn’t.

To some recruitment is simple.  Ring up an agency.  Shout at them for CV’s and take it from there.  This can leave people feeling a bit disappointed at the results but then without me there is currently no one to manage this process more effectively.

What was a huge and pleasant surprise about my meetings were the questions their COO asked about talent pooling, engagement and branding.  On the face of it they are a traditional business with the traditional views on certain aspects of their business.  However their e-commerce business is changing that.  The business is online.  The clients are online and for the moment at least they now see that the people they need to deliver the service, develop new products are online and need to be engaged out there in the interweb.

Make no mistake this is scary stuff for many businesses and developing and understanding of what needs to be done, what the ROI is, how to make it consistent, robust and scalable are all daunting aspects.  The good news for me is that what they are currently doing isn’t delivering what they need  but more of that hopefully another day.

So, back to the COO.  He was all about branding.  He knew that delivering a strong recruitment brand, employer value proposition and a method to engage with candidates would not only get him the people he needs for his business but also raise the profile of the business with his customers in a very positive way.

But he is a business man and a highly successful one at that so is looking for tangible ROI.  Real simple.  Spend £30,000 what will I get?

Today (Thursday) I was lucky enough to be at the HB RIDA and ukrecruiter directors networking event organised by Louise Triance.  It is a chance for Recruitment Directors/Owners to get together, network and get an insight into an area of our industry.  Today’s topic was branding, so you can see where I am going.

We got to look at three approaches to the same topic.  BlueSky PR took the PR led route.  Some of it was traditional PR based activity but no worse for that.  In fact for all my social media engagement a good dose of traditional PR would probably help.  Next up was Steve Evans from Net Natives.  He was all about now, social media, connections and he even presented in Prezi (I love prezi!). 

So far so good.  A traditional approach with a good dose of social media and  a social media approach with lots of energy.  We could all learn something from these approaches.  Some of it is very low cost (almost free) requiring time rather than cash.  My COO retailer would like this.

Then a complex one for me.


Interestingly for a presentation on branding, there was no branding or at least not until the end.  The presenter didn’t want to tell us too much for fear he would be giving us trade secrets or helping us in some way.  Last time I checked I didn’t have the marketing spend or Randstad or the 2000 or so people so I’m not sure I’m competition for them.  Or if they do see me that way then I’m onto a winner as my marketing budget is 50p.

He took us through a useful look at how to create a brand proposition using Martin Lindstrom’s 5 brand senses.  Make the brand real what does it see, hear, smell, feel or taste like.  I love this approach to many things, including of all things candidates but do struggle with a service industry.

I wonder what Randstad tastes like?

He accurately described what an awful perception clients and candidates have of our industry before finally getting to his finale. 

Throw money at the problem.

You can brand like crazy if you have the money.  Yes they tweet a bit, although based on a quick search around twitter they are all corporate job feed accounts. Yes they have a lovely website but with no transparency here or on twitter and no interaction with individuals they have become faceless.  This is the one thing they acknowledge they can’t do because it was the thing that their customers told them.   Their version of branding sets the tone for what they would like you to think about them but knowing them as a supplier I wonder If that is enough.  If customers don’t get the service they expect they will be off.  And let's be clear, Randstad have told their customers what to expect and it sounds amazing.

What it lacks and something the COO from yesterday got is that it is more than money.  It is about understanding the ROI, transparency and that candidates want more than a job posting feed.

So what is the point that I am trying to make?

Social media in recruitment here to stay, development of engaged connections, more than fans (although right now a lot of organisations would settle for fans) it will evolve but it is real.  The snake oil salesman you have already met, the social media guru’s will have to up their game as the business men are going to get involved.  Business want social media strategy but they also want execution.  Strategy without ROI will fail.  Interestingly my potential client with their ‘retail’ hat on and the man from Randstad did agree on one thing then.  You can waste a lot of time messing about on the interweb with no return.

And now a message from our sponsors... 


On a serious note it is just sour grapes.  I would LOVE to have the budget Randstad have.  At the moment it’s smoke and mirrors and aspirational branding but won’t be long before the company develops behind the brand and can execute on that promise.

Oh and the Penguin Herders? I saw a report about the top 10 jobs needed for 2011.  So thought I would tweet about it.  So I started what turned out to be a very disappointing twitter conversation about penguin herding.  It was disappointing in that the response was very poor, proving the point that no matter how big your network you need to not talk too much crap.

about mckinley|resource® and Martin Dangerfield

mckinley|resource® is an innovative recruitment practice providing executive search, recruitment, talent advisory and project resourcing services. Delivering full UK and European coverage, we focus on identifying and engaging talented individuals within the IT services, IT outsourcing, management consultancy and technology marketplaces.

We can deploy for a day, a week, a month or longer. This means we can support your recruitment peaks, deliver spot advice or have an ongoing engagement. All we need is a desk in your office and a brief that we have agreed and signed up to. We won’t ask you to sign any long term contracts either. 

We have already proven to be a great success for our clients and are happy to work completely autonomous or alongside your current HR team / recruitment agency. Not only can we help free up the process to help find great new people but help you to look after the great people you already have.

To learn more about our approach give Martin Dangerfield (email, linkedin, twitter) a call on +44161.955.3647.