Attracting top talent: How to define and promote your higher education employment brand

New realities, new story

Higher education marketers are continually busy creating student recruitment campaigns, event promotion ads and internal communications. But we’re seeing a change - more and more of our higher education clients are creating employment marketing campaigns to recruit quality faculty and staff.  

The question to answer: what story can you tell candidates about your unique employment brand that differentiates your institution from others and helps you become a magnet for exceptional talent? 

To tell that story, you must revisit or change your employment brand strategies, plans and tactics to be more relevant and competitive to attract and retain great new hires. In the past, this was largely the job of human resources and recruitment teams. The change now has those teams working with marketing to utilize new tactics to help in recruitment.   

This article gives marketers and communicators a top-level view with solid tips to help you establish or polish your employment brand, the foundation of any employment communications effort. And we offer some ideas on how to get the word out. 

Talent acquisition managers know the importance. A recent LinkedIn Survey with them reports that 80% believe employer branding has a significant impact on the ability to hire top talent and that turnover can be reduced by 28% by investing in employer branding. 

Why? Your employment brand defines how people will think about your brand. It can be your make-or-break chance to get them more interested in you than your competitors. But by creating an impactful and employee-centric employment brand foundation, you’ll be able to attract high-quality candidates who want to be a part of something bigger than themselves. 

Capture the power of your culture

You can be a top-ranked and well-respected institution, but without a strongly defined and authentic culture, you’re missing an opportunity to tell an emotive and inspiring story. We’ve seen culture-driven employment branding grow over the last few years because it works to differentiate your brand from your competitors and reflect what potential employees or potential hires care about getting from their employer.  

Culture isn't built overnight. It takes time, patience and continual nurturing to develop a welcoming, positive and inspiring environment that supports your organization's mission and values.  

Your culture is based on your unique mission, vision and values and how they live authentically within your walls and halls every day. Your values should define how you treat each other as individuals, your role in the world and most importantly, why it matters. These points should become part of your messaging in recruiting materials in a way that inspires, motivates, triggers emotion and defines why being a part of your school is special and meaningful.  

Employment messaging should also include the special rituals, traditions and little things that make your institution stand out. Do you have reoccurring staff events, unique faculty recognition tactics, community give-back events, and virtual or live social gatherings? Reach out to other departments to get more of those special things your institution does that will make applying irresistible. 

And including your school’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion policies and practices in your employment brand story is key to being relevant to all potential candidates. 

Define your employment brand's value

Your brand value proposition defines the key functional benefit and attributes to your audience. Create a differentiating statement about what you stand for, who you are and why you exist to pinpoint the value your organization provides.  

Then pinpoint why the benefit is important to a prospect. Is it about the emotional benefit tied to your mission, vision or culture? Is it about how your institution benefits your community? The final proposition will drive your messaging and create an instant “get” to potential hires and your students, existing staff and faculty, and alumni as well. 

A strong messaging platform is true to you and stands apart from the competition. It should persuade by reflecting your unique brand value proposition, brand promise, brand personality and stand-out differentiators. Use it consistently in all channels, mediums and in your local, regional and national recruitment sites like Indeed based on your employment marketing plan.   

Follow your marketing plan

Now put it into action, focusing on your goals and what your budget will allow. The tactics below are what we’ve seen successful higher education marketers use to get quality prospects.  

Your website

This is your most important marketing recruitment tool. So edit your employment page with emotive, benefit-driven messaging around the functional facts, culture, and brand platform content you created. 


Video is the most powerful way to tell your story. Its emotive power sells and compels like no other medium. Testimonials can reinforce the mission of your institution, and convey what makes you great to your internal audiences. Repurpose your video into short segments in organic and paid social media, and share all videos in an employment YouTube channel for your institution.  

Social media  

LinkedIn is an employment opportunity headquarters for millions, so make it a hub for frequent updates. In between job postings, all of your social channels can promote the benefits of working at your unique institution.   

Earned media 

Keep your institution vibrant through local stories that highlight your impact, distinct programs and contributions to the community.    

Tell the story internally 

Internal communications help reinforce your recruitment efforts and can make a huge impact on retention. Create an internal communications plan to ensure a steady stream of messaging that reinforces your story and what makes your institution a special place to work and be a part of. Add your brand platform messaging to your intranet and internal emails, share your videos, post signage and posters about your mission and share branded gear to build messaging and community within your walls and halls.  

Want to learn more about telling a compelling story with higher education employment branding? Our team of higher education marketing and communications experts can help. Just contact KW2 CEO Jen Savino. And check out our other articles and work in higher education marketing.