Is Transmedia Storytelling The Future Of Recruiting?

This post originally appeared in Forbes.

Transmedia storytelling is a narrative that conveys stories across multiple platforms. This medium is probably not the first thing you’d associate with recruiting - but could it be the future of how you hire?

The legacy of recruiting is transactional. A job opens. A job posts. A recruiter sifts through resumes. Interviews commence. A short list of finalists is determined. An offer is made. An offer is accepted. A new hire joins your organization.

This model is based on notions of “active” and “passive” job seekers. It was built on job boards and recruiting agencies. It drives mostly reactive processes.

Today’s recruiting is different. The old transactional models aren’t necessarily gone, but they’re augmented by an entirely new set of approaches and platforms borrowed from marketing. That’s right; recruiters are now marketers.

Recruiters As Marketers

Consumer brand is a well-established part of marketing’s domain. Employer brand is a growing field within HR that applies branding principles to the employee experience. “Talent brand” is found at the intersection of the two, where stories and campaigns illuminating the employee experience can influence both consumer and employer brand. This shift towards branding is driving a new evolution in recruiting.

These changes are driving our technology and our approach in recruiting. Social media in recruiting has become mainstream. New platforms like The Muse were launched to give job seekers a more intimate view of company culture, teams, and opportunities through custom multimedia sites. We've become much better at telling stories about what it's like to work at our organizations. Change is happening.

Our approaches are shifting from outbound to inbound. Successful companies go beyond push messaging, working hard to build affinity and engagement with prospects through social media, blogs, and other channels. The field of recruiting has become a creative field, and storytelling has become a differentiator for organizations looking to stand out in a hiring market full of noise - but how?

Visual is often at the core of how organizations are telling their talent brand stories. Today’s candidates don’t want to read a text job description rooted in compliance and legacy. They want to hear from their manager about projects they’ll work on and what’s expected. They want to see their desk and office. They want an unfiltered view of what employees do on a day-to-day basis. Those are the elements that convert passive to active, and oblivious to interested.

The popularity of social and ubiquity of mobile provide fertile ground for visuals in recruiting. Let's explore how you might use different channels for branding and storytelling below.

Snapchat

There is no denying the growing reach of Snapchat. Recent figures show 100M daily users, with 60% of users creating content every day. This traction and popularity with the millennial audience have led to an increasing presence by brands looking to tap into the growing usage.

Recruiting is all about meeting candidates where they are. For some companies, that's Snapchat. Does that mean every recruiter needs to rush out and start snapping? No, but if the candidates you’re trying to hire are there, you may want to make the investment.

The visual focus of Snapchat makes the platform unlike any other social platform. It's all about capturing a moment - through video and photo. No links, no self-promotional “thought leadership” blog posts or auto-scheduled posts - just moments, raw and real-time. That intimate nature of sharing is likely one of the reasons Snapchat app installs recently overtook Twitter on the Android marketplace.

Brands like GE are harnessing the branding power and reach of Snapchat through branded lenses like the one below. While branded lenses may be outside the budget of most recruiting departments, recruiters can still use Snapchat to provide things like job previews, office tours, and conversation with hiring managers and team members.

As Snapchat is all about raw visuals, it provides the freedom to lose the polish expected in other platforms and get creative. Don’t get hung up on framing, lighting, and editing - just shoot.

A limiting factor of Snapchat is the fact that it’s a closed ecosystem - meaning what happens in Snapchat, stays in Snapchat. That creates problems for brands and recruiters investing time and effort on content that disappears in 24 hours and won’t be seen outside of the platform. Certainly something to consider, but if the audience you’re trying to reach is there - you should be, too.

Instagram

Instagram recently entered Snapchat’s sandbox with the release of Instagram Stories. This feature runs parallel to the traditional Instagram photos and videos. The launch of stories gives users more options on how they might leverage Instagram as a storytelling platform and opens more options for recruiters to tell employee stories.

Instagram has grown to over 500M users, half of whom follow brands. That’s a huge audience for recruiting. The key now will be determining how to tell your story across posts and stories.

Stories

Like Snapchat, Stories are a 24-hour timeline of photos and videos (up to 10 seconds) stitched together in chronological order. They allow users to share what they’re up to at any given moment and allow viewers to comment. Recruiting can take more risks here, as the fleeting nature this visual content makes it more forgiving.

Posts

Instagram posts allow photos and video up to one minute. Both are accompanied by text, enabling users to include a narrative of what they’re seeing. In recruiting context, this provides more opportunities to showcase your team, managers, culture, etc. in a longer form medium.

As Instagram is part of Facebook, you can also easily share the content to other platforms for broader amplification. Instagram posts tend to be more stylized than Snaps, so you can channel your inner photographer to make a lasting impression. This allows companies to do things like take photos of their office and surrounding areas to provide a preview of the things candidates will see (and do) if they work for you.

A collection of instas from the inside and surrounding area of a company in DC.

A collection of instas from the inside and surrounding area of a company in DC.

SoundCloud

There are few things more intimate than the human voice. Stripped away of all distractions, the sound of a voice sharing a story draws you into their world in a way visuals often can’t. There’s a reason why one in five U.S. adults listen to podcasts on a monthly basis. So how do you share sound in a visual way?

SoundCloud is a platform that allows makers of audio (Musicians, DJ’s, podcasters) to upload audio. Each upload includes an image. When shared and embedded in other platforms (websites, job descriptions, or blog posts like this), the post presents with that rich visual. This simple marriage of audio and visual allows users to share an audio narrative that’s still visually engaging when embedded in other platforms.

In recruiting context, think about an employee sharing a story about their most memorable day at work or why they joined. You can include a candid photo to bring the listener closer to them, but allow their voice to draw the audience into the story.

Live Broadcasting

The CEO of Periscope, a live streaming app bought by Twitter, when describing his new platform in 2015 referred to it as a “teleportation device." Let that definition sink in for a moment. Through livestream platforms everyone is a broadcaster, able to take viewers anywhere in the world at any given moment. Anyone. Anything. Anytime.

Globally, 25% of internet users watch an online video every day. Brand content is an increasing amount of that daily consumption, and recruiting has an opportunity to be inserted into that mix with content that’s relevant, snackable (format and message drive length, but longer videos may shed viewers if not particularly compelling for informative), and entertaining.

What livestreaming means in recruiting is access. In a function often constrained by budgetary restraints, live streaming offers a low-cost way to provide access - to your offices, your hiring managers, and your teams. More than just access, you can broadcast interactive streams that allow viewers to connect directly with your team. This creates ample opportunities to stream content ranging from fireside chats with hiring managers and teams, cultural events, or office tours.

I sat down with Weber Shandwick's SVP Media Innovation, Danielle Deabler, to discuss transmedia storytelling on Facebook Live (below).

Stories are a great leveler when it comes to recruiting. While many large companies have teams dedicated to employer branding, that’s not what ultimately determines success. A small business with a willingness to invest some time and resources, and an appetite to share, can easily make as great of an impact by sharing meaningful stories that connect with the audiences you’re trying to attract.

That connection may lead to conversion, and it’s not necessarily driven by the budget invested. That’s a big difference from many traditional recruiting channels (job boards, agencies, etc.) with a direct spend to ROI correlation.

Every company has stories. If, how, and where you choose to share them can make a significant impact on your ability to hire great talent. How will you share yours?