At its heart, employer branding is about storytelling. A strong employer brand is built on stories that will define how your organization is perceived, and the messages that you use when sharing information about your company will help attract talent.

Simple enough, right? But in practice employer branding is challenging and complex. Different firms have different stories and take different approaches to making their employer brand more attractive to job seekers.

Manuel Diaz, Employer Brand Strategist at Intel, has nearly 15 years of experience in the field. In a recent conversation, we spoke about the latest challenges and opportunities, and how to build a compelling—and authentic—employer brand.

Staying relevant in a changing world

Today every company must adapt to changing conditions as new technologies disrupt old ways of doing things. Old stalwarts of business fall, and new challengers are waiting in the wings. Technology companies face especially tough competition to stay relevant, but this challenge is hardly limited only to them: every firm needs to make its case to candidates that it is a place where talent belongs.

Intel, of course, is a famous brand with extensive reach: over 95% of the world’s servers run on the firm’s technology. “Intel is truly unique—from the technologies we invent to the amazing experiences we deliver. We're literally running the world when it comes to connectivity,” says Diaz.

So far so good, but the firm is also a powerful player in the Internet of Things and heavily involved in emerging tech such as autonomous vehicles. Yet Intel’s reach into these transformative technologies, more often associated with unicorns in Silicon Valley, is less well known.

The challenge, says Diaz, is telling stories that make candidates aware of what you are doing now. So how to do it?

The power of employee storytelling

Connecting in an authentic way with job seekers isn’t easy: the cliche of employer branding—taco Tuesdays and pictures of ping-pong tables on a career page—can feel gimmicky and only go skin deep.

Effective employer branding has to go further to communicate company culture to candidates. For Diaz, “What really matters … [is] the employees.”

Authentic employee experiences should be at the core of company storytelling and front and center of their employer brand, says Diaz. At Intel, this means a shift away from promoting products to capturing how and why people like coming to work. A key aspect, says Diaz, is channeling positive feelings—“being able to express the enthusiasm you feel for a company like Intel, and being able to share that same excitement through the stories of many of our own employees as they design and create the most amazing experiences for the future.”

So how can a company can go about this? One way is by creating content that directly features employees. Intel uses people who work at the company, not models, in all of its employer brand pages. They feature employee testimonials in blogs and on social media. Gathering content and feedback from employees themselves and sharing it on third party sites such as Indeed Company Pages is an even more direct way to capture authentic stories—and helps reach candidates where they are searching.

This is a way for to increase exposure “to what these real, authentic stories are all about,” says Diaz.

Focusing on the big picture

Another way to create a compelling employer brand is by telling stories showcasing how a company is making the world better. “We're not just producing the next brand new and sassy thing out there from a technology perspective,” says Diaz. “We're also using that technology in order to make the world better.”

For instance, Intel makes drone technology for the agricultural, energy, construction and utility industries. But the details are where it really gets interesting: Intel drones have been used to study polar bears and their environment in the Arctic without disturbing them. Intel drones are also deployed to help rescue teams in natural hazards.

These are the types of strong, human interest stories to highlight, says Diaz. Similarly, your employer brand can also focus on how employees are making a difference outside of work.

Intel gives the Involved Global Hero award at its high-profile Legends & Luminaries event to an employee each year for outstanding community service. The award provides the winner with $10,000 to donate to the organization of their choice.

In this way, employees get recognition for their efforts—and Intel is able to share stories across all its channels of how it supports “giving back.”

The road ahead

The most effective employer brand content often comes directly from employees. People sharing their excitement about where they work are the best ambassadors—even though they aren’t consciously promoting “employer brand.”

Just as consumers can tell the difference between a canned description of a product and a customer review, job seekers will relate more to employee-generated content than something slick from a marketing department.

Or, as Diaz puts it:

“We're moving away from the 'content is king' phrase to 'employee-generated content is becoming king.’”  

The result? Rather than be defined by an out of date employer brand, companies can highlight who they are today, communicating this through the voices of employees who are living it every day. And the companies that are able to spread the message about the humanity, fun and impact of their organizations will be better positioned to attract talent in today’s competitive hiring market.