Facebook vs. Corporate websites

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Facebook vs. Corporate
websites
A study on the communicative difference
between two media and their use of persuasion
strategies in employer branding
A Master Thesis by Anja Dalsgaard Nielsen
Student number: 283572
Cand. Ling. Merc - English
Supervisor: Poul Erik Flyvholm Jørgensen
Institut for Erhvervskommunikation og Sprog
August 2012
Number of characters (without spaces): 143 884
Table of contents
List of figures and tables.................................................................................................................................... 4
Abstract ............................................................................................................................................................. 5
1.
Introduction ............................................................................................................................................... 7
2. Methodology ................................................................................................................................................. 9
2.1 Structure .................................................................................................................................................. 9
2.2 Empirical data ........................................................................................................................................ 10
2.2.1 Transcriptions ................................................................................................................................. 12
2.3 Choice of theory .................................................................................................................................... 13
2.4 Research approach ................................................................................................................................ 14
2.5 Delimitations ......................................................................................................................................... 14
3.
Employer branding .................................................................................................................................. 15
3.1 A definition ............................................................................................................................................ 15
3.2 The employer branding framework....................................................................................................... 16
3.3 Best practices and benefits ................................................................................................................... 18
3.4 Employer branding and social media .................................................................................................... 19
4.
Persuasion ............................................................................................................................................... 22
4.1 A definition ............................................................................................................................................ 22
4.2 Mass persuasion .................................................................................................................................... 24
4.3 The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) .............................................................................................. 25
4.3.1 Complications and criticism ............................................................................................................ 28
5.
Persuasion strategies............................................................................................................................... 29
5.1 Persuasion triggers for peripheral processing ....................................................................................... 29
5.2 Persuasion strategies for central processing ......................................................................................... 29
5.3 Taxonomy of persuasion strategies....................................................................................................... 31
5.3.1 Reward ............................................................................................................................................ 33
5.3.2 Esteem ............................................................................................................................................ 34
5.3.3 Guilt ................................................................................................................................................ 34
5.3.4 Allurement ...................................................................................................................................... 35
5.2.5 Conformity ...................................................................................................................................... 35
5.3.6 Contrast .......................................................................................................................................... 36
5.3.7 Similarity ........................................................................................................................................ 37
5.3.8 Ingratiation .................................................................................................................................... 38
5.3.9 Threat ............................................................................................................................................. 38
5.3.10 Authority ....................................................................................................................................... 39
5.3.11 Direct request ............................................................................................................................... 40
5.3.12 Credibility – Expertise ................................................................................................................... 40
5.3.13 Credibility - Goodwill .................................................................................................................... 41
5.3.14 Explanation – reference to value system ..................................................................................... 41
5.3.15 Explanation – inference from empirical evidence ........................................................................ 42
5.3.16 Altruism ........................................................................................................................................ 43
6.
Analytical approach ................................................................................................................................. 44
7.
Analysis .................................................................................................................................................... 46
7.1 Analysis of video 1A: Qualcomm (website) ........................................................................................... 46
7.2 Analysis of video 1B: Qualcomm (Facebook) ........................................................................................ 51
8.
Results ..................................................................................................................................................... 56
9.
Discussion ................................................................................................................................................ 60
10.
Conclusion ........................................................................................................................................... 65
11.
Bibliography ......................................................................................................................................... 67
12.
Appendices .............................................................................................. Error! Bookmark not defined.
Appendix 1. Fortune’s list of the 100 best places to work .............................. Error! Bookmark not defined.
Appendix 2. Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman’s taxonomy of persuasion strategies .......... Error! Bookmark not
defined.
Appendix 3. List of empirical data ................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
Appendix 4. Abbreviations and tags used in the transcriptions ...................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
Appendix 5. Empirical data transcriptions ...................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
1A. Qualcomm website ............................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
1B. Qualcomm Facebook ............................................................................. Error! Bookmark not defined.
2A. Scottrade website ..................................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
2B. Scottrade Facebook ................................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
3A. General Mills website ................................................................................ Error! Bookmark not defined.
3B. General Mills Facebook ............................................................................. Error! Bookmark not defined.
4A. Marriott International website ................................................................. Error! Bookmark not defined.
4B. Marriott International Facebook ............................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
5A. Ernst and Young website ........................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
5B. Ernst and Young Facebook ........................................................................ Error! Bookmark not defined.
6A. Genentech website ................................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
6B. Genentech Facebook ................................................................................. Error! Bookmark not defined.
7A. Bright Horizons website ............................................................................ Error! Bookmark not defined.
7B. Bright Horizons Facebook.......................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
8A. Factset website.......................................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
8B. Factset Facebook ....................................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
9A. Google website.......................................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
9B. Google Facebook ....................................................................................... Error! Bookmark not defined.
10 A + B. Quicken Loans Website and Facebook............................................. Error! Bookmark not defined.
List of figures and tables
Figure 3.2.1 The Employer Branding Framework
Figure 3.4.1 Socialnomics
Figure 4.3.1 The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM)
Figure 8.1 Converting to percentages
Table 2.2.1 Question of comparability
Table 8.1 Results of registered persuasion strategies
Table 8.2 Results of registered persuasion strategies (in percentage points)
Table 8.3 The nature of reward
Abstract
The purpose of this thesis is to uncover whether or not there is a communicative difference
between corporate websites and a social media platform like Facebook. Specifically, the
theoretical background and analysis shall reveal if the persuasion strategy of Conformity is applied
more frequently in employer branding communication in social media than it is on corporate
websites. The truth to this hypothesis is uncovered through quantitative research based on an
empirical data sample consisting of 19 employee video interviews. The videos originate from 10
different companies which are all present on FORTUNE’s list of the “100 best places to work”.
The communicative difference between the two media is expected because special focus is put on
social media in employer branding theory. Unique techniques and recommendations are proposed
for this medium. If there was no difference in how practitioners ought to communicate in the two
media, then theory would have made the same, and thus no unique, recommendations for social
media, as it does for employer branding communication in general. For instance, it is suggested
that Goodwill should be used to attract and retain audience attention in social media. Social media
are also characterized by its focus on joining groups in order to fulfil the human psychological need
to belong.
In order to find out if the hypothesis of this thesis can be confirmed or not, it is necessary to
provide a theoretical background of employer branding and its use in social media along with an
introduction to the field of persuasion and a look into some of the most prominent taxonomies of
persuasion and compliance gaining strategies.
From employer branding theory it is clear that social media communication focuses on the
audience and is trying to humanize the organization by communicating emotional benefits and
referring to possible shared values. In general, employer branding practitioners need to be
updated on candidate needs as these constantly change. In recent years, it has become
increasingly important for employees that their job is meaningful and adds self esteem.
The introduction to persuasion reveals that people process messages in two different ways;
centrally and peripherally. Depending on the relevance of the decision, the central route of
processing is chosen when the choice has immediate impact on the personal life or has emotional
relevance.
A new taxonomy of persuasion strategies is developed for the purpose of this thesis and it is based
on previously published taxonomies and the following critique of these. The new taxonomy is
mainly build around Schenck-Hamlin and Wiseman’s list of compliance-gaining strategies. But
because employer branding communication is not a standard example of a compliance gaining
situation, other strategies are also included for a more thorough analysis.
The results of the analysis show that the two media do not differentiate from each other in the
expected way. But a communicative difference is evident from the results. However, it is the
strategies Expertise, Authority and Value References that mainly set the two media apart.
Employer branding theory and industry speculations in audience behaviour are suggested as
possible reasons for these differences in application. Furthermore, it is possible that the results
are influenced, and possibly weakened, by themed video interviews that only include managerial
interviewees. Consequently, an overweight in Authority and Expertise on corporate websites can
be the result of this video.
Regarding the hypothesis and subsequent research questions, it is possible that the lack of
Goodwill is caused by less relevance assigned to this strategy by practitioners. Alternatively, it is
possible that empathy is expressed in other segments on the corporate Facebook pages in order
to leave more room for other, more relevant, strategies in the employer branding message.
When it comes to the strategy of Conformity, the difference in application frequency between the
two media is so slight that the hypothesis can only be called plausible at this point. Future
research including a larger empirical data sample may provide a more clear result. A possible
explanation for the current result regarding Conformity may be that the characteristic of social
media which encourages people to join groups and satisfy their need to belong, is overruled by
employer branding theory which entails a focus on other persuasion strategies.
Abstract number of characters (without spaces): 3.794
1. Introduction
Employer branding has gained in strength and popularity since its first appearance in business
communication in the early 1990’s (Rosethorn, 2009: 3). This field of branding originates from the
recognition that people are extremely valuable to an organization. Philip Kotler was one of the
first to focus on people in marketing and proposed to regard current and future employees as
consumers consuming a job (Rosethorn, 2009: 5).
Employer loyalty has become increasingly difficult to retain and studies (Rosethorn, 2009: 3) show
that people are more loyal to colleagues than to an organization. This has made the study and
practice of employer branding even more important and communicators have taken up the use of
various persuasion strategies in order to achieve their goal of attracting, engaging and retaining
the best candidates.
Today, employer branding is becoming a common phenomenon on social media platforms such as
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. The social media sites provide a multi-functional medium in a less
formal tone and with the potential to reach an unbelievably large audience (Hunt, 2010: 3). In this
kind of medium, marketing is often presented in short text segments, images and through video
clips. Employer branding theory suggests that employee testimonials and video material are
effective methods of communicating with potential candidates. Furthermore, companies are
recommended to include social media in general to strengthen the corporate brand (NAS, 2010:
3). Social media platforms like Facebook revolve around joining networks and smaller
communities which will fulfil the human psychological need to belong and feel accepted
(Qualman, 2009: 4). Our need to belong will motivate us to join groups that include our friends,
admirable people or larger crowds but it may also encourage us to adopt the opinion of others
because agreement invokes a pleasant feeling in us (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 132). Communicators
may exploit this trait by employing the persuasion strategy of Conformity by communicating that
smart people and/or thousands of employees work at a particular company. Wanting to belong to
the favourable group of smart people or thinking that such a large group of people cannot be
wrong, the target of the persuasion may be motivated to conform (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 132).
But in order for a social media profile to attract any attention, theory (Solis, 2011: 8) states that
communicators need to express empathy. If the senders of the communication do not express
their interest in them, then the social media users will not care about the company or spend their
time listening to the message. Therefore, it would be reasonable to assume that the persuasion
strategy of Goodwill will be frequently used in social media communication.
Social media sites like Facebook are relatively new mediums of communication and it could be
interesting to investigate whether or not practitioners of employer branding have embraced this
new medium and adapted communication. It is reasonable to expect that there will be a
communicative difference between the social media sites and the corporate websites because
there are specific theoretically based techniques pertaining to the use of social media in employer
branding. If there did not ought to be a communicative difference, then social media would not
have received so much attention within employer branding theory. It is to be expected that
communication extracted from corporate websites will follow the earlier recommendations for
best practices in employer branding, meaning that focus will be on benefits (Barrow & Mosley,
2005: 119-125).
This thesis will investigate the use of persuasion strategies in employee interviews in relation to
employer branding. Because social media sites revolve around joining communities and
considering that large groups of people with one particular opinion can be persuasive (Perloff,
2003: 133), I state the hypothesis that:
Employer branding communication is more dominated by the persuasion strategy of
“Conformity” on social media sites than it is on corporate websites.
From this, I wish to examine if the change of medium influences the use of persuasive strategies
used in employer branding and how employee interviews are used to form positive attitudes
towards a company. I will base my thesis on the following research questions:
RQ 1: What persuasion strategies are applied in video employer branding communication on social
media sites and corporate websites, respectively?
RQ 2: Are the strategies of Conformity and Goodwill more frequently applied on Social Media sites
than they are on corporate websites?
If my hypothesis is confirmed it could indicate that the characteristics unique to the medium of
social media have a significant influence on the choice of persuasion strategies applied.
2. Methodology
2.1 Structure
This thesis is divided into 12 main chapters. Below follows a description of the individual chapters.
1. Introduction: Chapter one includes an introduction to the area of research of this thesis
and a presentation of the problem statement. The problem statement consists of a
hypothesis and two subsequent research questions which shall be answered in order to
confirm or disconfirm the hypothesis.
2. Methodology: The second chapter consists of an outline of the structure of this thesis, a
presentation of the empirical data and a discussion of its relevance. Furthermore, the
theory and method applied to this research is presented in the second chapter. Finally, the
research approach and delimitations are outlined.
3. Employer branding: Chapter three presents a definition and introduction to the field of
employer branding which is the field of communication from which the empirical data is
extracted. The focus of this chapter will be on various branding strategies employed in this
field and on the employer branding framework which is to be presented. A sub chapter
introduces the use of social media in employer branding. Chapter three shall function as a
theoretical background for understanding the nature of the empirical data.
4. Persuasion: The fourth chapter presents a definition and theory on persuasion. This field
constitutes the main theoretical focus in this thesis as it provides some of the “tools” for
the analysis of the video clips which constitute the empirical data. This chapter will in
particular focus on mass persuasion - because this is the kind of communication up for
analysis – and on the Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM) which describes the two routes
to persuasion.
5. Persuasion strategies: Chapter five discusses how the different routes to persuasion (from
the ELM) entail the use of different strategies and how these may be employed most
successfully. Furthermore, different taxonomies of persuasion strategies shall be presented
and discussed before an adapted typology designed for this thesis is presented. The
adapted typology consists of 16 strategies each defined and explained in individual sub
chapters.
6. Analysis approach: The sixth chapter will briefly present an approach to analysing TV
advertisements developed by Feng and Wignell (2011). This approach focus on the various
‘voices’ used in advertisements and the supportive function of images complimenting the
‘text’ of the TV advert.
7. Analysis: Chapter seven presents the analysis of the empirical data which consists of 19
video clips originating from 10 different companies. However, it would be too extensive to
show the whole research. Therefore, two exemplary analyses shall be presented in this
chapter, one from each communication channel. The rest of the analysed video clips will
only be available in the appendices.
8. Results: Chapter eight presents the results of the analyses conducted on the empirical
data. All the persuasion strategies registered will be presented in tables and converted into
percentages in order to facilitate comparison. In this chapter, it will be revealed whether or
not the use of the Conformity strategy is more extensive on Facebook than it is on
corporate websites.
9. Discussion: The ninth chapter presents a discussion and evaluation of the results of the
analysis of the employer branding video segments.
10. Conclusion: Chapter 10 sums up the results of the analysis in relation to the main focus
point of this thesis which is the use of different persuasion strategies. Along with a recap of
the subsequent discussion, this chapter shall confirm or disconfirm the stated hypothesis
by answering the research questions posed in the problem statement; what persuasion
strategies are applied in video employer branding communication on social media sites and
corporate websites respectively? And are the strategies of Conformity and Goodwill more
frequently applied on social media sites than they are on corporate websites? Thus, the
purpose of this thesis is to be fulfilled.
11. Bibliography: Chapter 11 provides a complete list of literature employed in this thesis.
12. Appendices: Chapter 12 provides a complete list of appendices for this thesis. These
include the full analysis of the empirical data, the main taxonomy of strategies used in the
theoretical background as well as the list of companies from which the empirical data is
extracted.
2.2 Empirical data
The choice of empirical data is based on the idea that this thesis should work with companies that
are actually aware of their employer branding. In order to have enough and relevant material from
each company, they needed to be doing a conscious effort in this particular kind of branding.
Therefore, 10 companies from the list of the best employers were selected (“FORTUNE 100 Best
Companies to Work for – 2012”). Each company is represented by two video clips; one video from
the corporate website of the company and one video from the Facebook page. This should result
in 20 different video segments. However, one company (Quicken Loans) uses the same video on
both platforms which means that in reality, this thesis only deals with 19 different video segments.
Nevertheless, the video of Quicken Loans is used as if it was two videos meaning that whatever
strategies are registered in that video segment, they will be registered in the results pertaining to
both corporate websites and Facebook, respectively.
The reason why the empirical data are extracted from the Fortune list is that companies that are
recognized as great employers, most likely, also make an effort in order to earn such an honour.
This effort could very well be a well planned strategy in terms of employer branding.
In relation to the exact companies that have been chosen for analysis, they are intentionally
picked out from a range of different industries. The reason why not one industry or companies
from closely related industries were chosen is based on an intention to avoid coming up with a
result that only applies to that industry. The goal is to investigate the difference between the
media where employer branding takes place. Thus, in order to get an unbiased result, the
investigated companies are from a number of different industries. This way, the intention is to
come up with an answer regarding the medium of the communication and not the industry of the
communication.
In order to answer RQ 1 (What persuasion strategies are applied in employer branding
communication on social media sites and corporate websites respectively?) the video segments in
the employer branding communication will be investigated. In these video clips the various
persuasion strategies used will be identified, categorized and registered according to their correct
terminology extracted from a taxonomy of persuasion strategies which will be clarified later. This
will be done on both the corporate website of each company and on its Facebook site.
Consequently, the number of the various registered persuasion strategies will be converted into a
percentage point in order to compare the use of persuasion strategies in the two media, social
media sites and corporate websites, respectively.
The reason why this thesis is focusing on the use of persuasion strategies in video clips is in order
to be able to compare the two media i.e. social media sites and corporate websites. There is a
unique communicative difference between these two media as social media sites are often
dialogic whereas corporate websites happen to be more monologic. Consequently, attempting to
avoid comparing apples and oranges the focus is on video clips and thus eliminates the disturbing
elements of monologic vs. dialogic communication. Furthermore, NAS recruitment
communications (2012) states in their “9 Best Practices” that employer anecdotes ought to be
utilized in employer branding, which is why video clips are the scope of this investigation.
However, it was not possible to find 20 video clips of the exact same length, which could result in
complications regarding the comparison. It is important that the two media (Facebook and
corporate websites) are represented equally in order not to taint the results of the registered
persuasion strategies. To some extent, the video clips are picked out with the intention of them
having close to the same length in time. The ideal length of the video clips is approximately two
minutes. However, there are a couple of segments which are as much as a minute and a half
shorter or longer than this. Consequently, to make sure that both channels of communication are
equally represented, the videos are compiled in two groups according to their media and all the
video minutes were added together as seen in table 2.2.1. Furthermore, as the length of the video
segments are more concerned with the amount of visual material available for analysis, the
number of words spoken in the segments are more representative of the strategies possibly used.
Therefore, the number of words is also registered in table 2.2.1 below.
Channel
Company
#1
#2
#3
#4
#5
#6
#7
#8
#9
#10
Total
Difference
Website
Minutes
Facebook
1:39
1:45
2:29
1:05
1:58
1:33
1:07
1:15
2:25
1:53
1:03
2:13
2:49
1:52
2:01
3:34
3:34
2:17
1:07
1:07
20 min 20 sec 18 min 56 sec
1 min 24 sec
Word count
Website
Facebook
263
284
361
171
435
261
129
182
416
362
187
420
464
318
227
571
616
444
129
129
3 227 words 3 142 words
85 words
Table 2.2.1 Question of comparability
The result shows that despite various lengths in the video clips, when compiled in their respective
communication channels, the segments constitute two entities of almost identical size which make
them very suitable for comparison. In fact, the weight distribution between the two, when looking
at word count, is a mere 1.4% difference (Websites = 50.7 % vs. Facebook= 49.3 %).
2.2.1 Transcriptions
The transcriptions of the 19 video segments made for this thesis are not made as a second-tosecond transcription as it would be both unnecessary and self-defeating. Instead, the
transcriptions are formed from the position that “the aim of transcription should be to note down
with a fair degree of parsimony only those features which are strictly relevant to the purpose of the
subsequent analysis” (Feng & Wignell, 2011: 4).
Because some of the employee interviews that constitute the empirical data are not scripted or
meticulously directed there are a certain amount of ‘noise’ in the transcriptions. With ‘noise’ is
meant a lot of “uhms” and “you know” which Americans especially have a habit of using as filling
when talking. With regard to the aim of transcriptions stated above, the majority of this ‘noise’ is
excluded from the transcriptions placed in the appendices. These exclusions will have no relevance
to the analysis and is therefore justifiable. The only instances where “uhms” are included in the
transcription are when the speaker regrets starting a sentence, stops mid-sentence and then starts
a new sentence.
Furthermore, the rendition of the visuals of the video segments will only occasionally include a
description of the appearance and clothing of the interviewees. As will be clarified in later
chapters, the appearance and dress code of the speaker may influence their persuasive power but
only when they wear a suit and tie which may insinuate authority. However this will be described
in detail in chapter five. But as a consequence of the intention of only rendering the relevant
aspects of the visuals, appearances will not be described with all interviewees. It will merely be
noted when the interviewees wear a suit and tie and not when they are wearing a green sweater.
2.3 Choice of theory
In this master thesis, two areas of theory are in focus i.e. that of employer branding and
persuasion. However, first and foremost, the purpose of this thesis is to explore and establish the
employment of persuasion in employer branding. Thus, although the subject of employer branding
is included in the theoretical background it is merely as a means of understanding the
communication that is the empirical data. Therefore, only a brief presentation and definition of
employer branding will be provided whereas a more thorough examination of the field of
persuasion will be presented.
In relation to employer branding, the presentation of the theory shall mainly be based on
Rosethorn (2009). Barrow and Mosley (2005) will function as a secondary resource. Literature on
social networks (Qualman, 2009) is included in order to relate social networks to the field of
employer branding. The section on employer branding and its relation to the use of social media
platforms shall function as a theoretical background for understanding the field of employer
branding which will be the theme of the empirical data analysed in this thesis.
In relation to persuasion, the presentation of the theory will mainly be based on Perloff (2010) and
Gass & Seiter (2006), supplemented by Reardon (1991) and Mills (2000). The theoretical
presentation of persuasion shall be much more thorough than the presentation of employer
branding as persuasion is the main focus point of this thesis. This section shall be an introduction
to the field of persuasion and function as a theoretical background for the subsequent analysis of
the empirical data. Besides a general introduction to the field, the chapter on persuasion focuses
particularly on the two routes of persuasion (The Elaboration Likelihood Model) and the different
strategies that persuaders use to gain compliance. The subordinate chapters all serve to cover a
cohesive range of areas within the field of persuasion which should provide the best possible
theoretical conditions for the analysis.
Furthermore, the focus on the routes of persuasion and the various strategies used to gain
compliance will be of additional use when a taxonomy of persuasion strategies will be adapted to
fit the purpose of this thesis. The taxonomy presented later on will be based largely on the
typology of strategies developed by Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman (1981) but will include a few
alterations and additions extracted from the general theory on persuasion by Perloff (2003) and
Gass & Seiter (2006).
Finally, in the exemplary analysis of the empirical data, the terminology and approach will be
extracted from Feng and Wignell (2011) who studied the use of various ‘voices’ in TV advertising.
Their approach to analyzing TV advertisements gives a thorough study of the material and
emphasizes how pictures support the ‘text’ of the video clip.
2.4 Research approach
In this thesis, the research will be conducted according to the desk-top method, meaning that
secondary sources will be used. Moreover, this thesis will treat both theoretical as well as practical
aspects of both employer branding and persuasion and the empirical data and the literature
chosen will reflect this. Thus, the empirical data can be categorized as employer branding
communication and all the resources referred to will specialize in one of the fields of this thesis
(employer branding and persuasion) or in closely related areas.
This thesis is a case of quantitative research and will not focus on any one piece of empirical data.
Instead, data will be collected and evaluated in order to compare the two media channels and
thereby answer the research questions. Consequently, the hypothesis of this thesis will then be
either confirmed or disconfirmed.
2.5 Delimitations
It was stated in the introduction that the interest of this thesis was on the difference between
corporate websites and social media network sites due to their unique and new opportunities of
communication. However, there are a number of different social networks currently available and
it would be a much too exhaustive assignment to investigate them all. Therefore, this thesis shall
merely focus on Facebook as its social network of choice. The reason why Facebook was chosen is
based on its immense popularity and consequent richness in communicative material from
companies all over the world (Howley, 2011: 39).
Furthermore, it is not the purpose of this thesis to subject a number of theoretical aspects to
extensive research and scrutiny. Rather, the theories presented in this thesis shall be used as tools
in the subsequent analysis and thus assist in fulfilling the goal of this research which is to answer
the research questions above and consequently confirm the hypothesis or not.
3. Employer branding
3.1 A definition
Employer branding originated in the early 1990s (Rosethorn, 2009: 3) and is therefore still a
relatively new field of research and practice. This area of business communication has two roots to
its family tree namely that of Human Resource Management and Marketing (Rosethorn, 2009: 4).
As mentioned in the introduction, Philip Kotler was one of the first to recognize the importance of
people (Rosethorn, 2009: 5). Kotler proposed that employees should be considered as consumers
consuming a job and that they, if motivated properly, could be extremely powerful organizational
drivers. This new insight gave branding a central role in recruitment (Rosethorn, 2009: 5). In
employer branding, it became clear that the branding efforts of a company should not only be
associated with customers. Companies also need to compete for the top talent. Recruiting and
retaining the right employees has become increasingly important because, first of all, the global
market has made it easier to imitate competitive advantages and consequently made it equally
difficult for companies to differentiate from the competition (Barrow & Mosley, 2005: 61-63). The
classic four Ps of marketing (Price, Place, Product, Promotion) are no longer sufficient as a source
of differentiation. Now more than ever does the personality of the company need to stand out
(Barrow & Mosley, 2005: 61). The corporate personality is mainly constructed by the behaviour of
the employees, the company values, beliefs and actions. Thus, the employees play an important
role in the overall corporate brand.
The second reason why employer branding has received more attention is because customer
loyalty and a strong bond with all stakeholders have become increasingly important in order to
retain and improve profits. And in order to create customer loyalty, the company needs qualified
employees to meet customer expectations. The employees need to feel and live the brand. Thus,
the employees also play a role in building and maintaining a strong relation with customers as they
act like a bridge between the company and its many stakeholders. This is yet another way that the
employees can help strengthen the corporate brand (Cornelissen, 2008: 66).
Because these internal stakeholders are so important, their needs and aspirations need to be
considered. Corporate performance has been linked to employee satisfaction which means that if
the staff lacks motivation, then it is likely to lead to low profitability (Barrow & Mosley, 2005: 7172). Therefore, in order to attract and retain the most productive employees, the companies must
offer much more than just a good salary. Today, employees seek personal as well as professional
development when looking through the fields of potential employers. Furthermore, the employee
wants the values and beliefs of the company to match the ones of him/her self. Consequently, the
employer must offer both functional and emotional benefits in order to engage the most qualified
employees (Barrow & Mosley, 2005: 17-19). Social media platforms are also great places for
companies to humanize the organization by communicating in a less formal and more personal
voice when addressing the issue of values (Solis, 2011: 8).
But employer branding is not only about attracting the best employees. Hiring the top talent is just
the beginning of a long-term process of retaining the talent, making them feel engaged in the
company and thus making the extra effort. According to Rosethorn (2009: 36) there are three
dimensions of engagement and management should strive to get their employees to meet all
three of them. The first dimension is the Emotional or Affective Dimension which is concerned
with how the employees feel about the organization. The second dimension is the Cognitive
Dimension which deals with what the employees think about the organization. The third and last
dimension is the Behavioural or Physical Dimension which links to the actual behaviour of the
employees and whether or not they will make the extra effort (Rosethorn, 2009: 36-37).
Rosethorn (2009) states that:
“When employees are proud to work for you (1st dimension) and believe in your vision and business
strategy (2nd dimension) that is what drives that discretionary effort (3rd dimension) and willingness
to stay”
Rosethorn, 2009: 37
The continuous job of employer branding is to engage the employees and this is achieved partly by
making the workers feel that they contribute something valuable to the company. The better the
employees understand how their work contributes to the business strategy and success, the more
engaged they will be (Rosethorn, 2009: 39).
3.2 The employer branding framework
Figure 3.2.1 below is the framework of employer branding and should visually explain the impacts
of this practice (Backhaus, 2004: 505). First, there are two main results erupting from the
execution of a thorough employer branding campaign; it helps form Employer Brand Association
and Organization Identity.
Employer brand associations are the thoughts and feelings that a brand name evokes in the minds
of consumers and other external stakeholders and thereby the brand associations help form the
employer image of the organization. A strong and positive employer image will then in turn
improve the employer attractiveness in the eyes of potential employees (Backhaus, 2004: 504).
But employer branding will also affect the organizational Identity and the organizational culture. If
the employer brand communicates good values and is able to generate a stronger community,
consequently the organization will experience more Employer Brand Loyalty which in turn will
entail an improved Employee Productivity since the more engaged employees are also more
willing to work harder towards the common goal (Backhaus, 2004: 505).
The employer image has important power as it has been found to influence the amount and
quality of applications received by organizations (Backhaus, 2004: 506). A positive image improves
the attractiveness of the corporation and Backhaus (2004: 506) argues that one explanation for
this connection could be related to similarity attraction or person-organization fit. Potential
candidates will compare the employer brand image with their individual needs, personality and
values. Consequently, the better the match of corporate and personal values, the more likely the
individual is to be attracted to the organization. Furthermore, this position is supported by social
identity theory which posits that people often derive their self-concept from the communities to
which they belong. Considering that we spend approximately a third of our time at work it only
adds importance to the self-concept that we can extract from this community (our job) in
particular (Backhaus, 2004: 506).
Though the field of employer branding may be relatively new, the interest is evident by the vast
amount of articles written on the subject in the business and practitioner press (Backhaus, 2004:
501). Based on the considerable resources spent on employer branding campaigns it indicates that
corporations are finding value in the practice too (Backhaus, 2004: 501). If planned and executed
correctly, employer branding can lead to a competitive advantage in form of helping employees
internalize corporate values and retaining the most resourceful and skilled employees (Backhaus,
2004: 501). The reason why companies invest in employer branding these days is thus based on
the belief that human capital brings value to an organization, which dates back to the ideas of
Kotler (Rosethorn, 2009: 5). And so, through careful investment in human capital, organizations
aim to enhance corporate performance and consequently obtain a competitive advantage
(Backhaus, 2004: 503).
However, engaging in employer branding and launching a campaign will not result in an instant
competitive advantage. The practice of employer branding is slightly more complex. First and
foremost, the employer brand portrayed must align with the existing corporate brand and the
actual practice and behaviour of the organization (Cornelissen, 2008: 71-72). It is crucial that the
employer brand does not promise any benefits that do not currently exist since one of the goals of
this practice is also to retain current employees. Should they detect any misalignment between
what is communicated externally and what they experience in reality it will compromise the entire
employer brand (Backhaus, 2004: 502-503). In this way, the employer brand is quite similar to that
of corporate identity which should also be aligned with the image and reputation of the
organization. Misalignments and gaps will arise if the firm does not practice its promoted values
and this may happen if employees are not sufficiently informed about the strategy and goal of the
management (Cornelissen, 2008: 71-72).
3.3 Best practices and benefits
Practitioners in employer branding are advised to offer as much and as detailed information about
themselves in order to ensure potential candidates that they are the right fit. Today, employees
will not apply for a position if they are not sure that the organization is the right spot for them.
Communicators should know what drives people to act and regard potential candidates as
customers shopping for their next career (NAS, 2010: 1).
According to NAS Recruitment Communications (2010: 1), there are two kinds of customer
personas. The active personas will seek out the best deal and simply look for the best quality at
the best price. Contrary, the passive personas are more emotionally driven. They show a high level
of brand or company loyalty and will identify the features of a particular product as “made for
them”. Should they change their preference, they need to feel a connection (NAS, 2010: 1).
In recent years, the candidate behaviour has become more emotionally based and a survey (NAS,
2010: 2) reports that 15-20 % of the U.S. workforce are very active, 20 % are passive and the
remaining 60 % show a combination of the two. Thus, it is likely that the majority of the workforce
is making their choices based on emotional reasoning which has led NAS Recruitment
Communications (2010: 2) to propose the following best practices. For instance, companies should
use testimonials to explain candidates how they will contribute to the organization and thereby
make the employment value proposition come out in a more personal way. Companies should also
give potential candidates plenty of opportunity to interact with the organization and its recruiters.
This can be done with the use of a live chat portal or through a social media connection.
Furthermore, it can be useful to present “a day in the life” of a current employee. By doing so, the
job position becomes more real and it helps the candidate identify the features that will make a
good person-organization fit. Employee testimonials also appear to be a more genuine form of
communication which is more engaging than static page content. Additionally, video material is
able to provide details that copy cannot, which is why it is the ideal medium for engaging
candidates with passive personas. Videos can be used to display employee testimonials or give a
virtual tour round the facility. This way, candidates also get the chance to meet managers or
potential future colleagues (NAS, 2010: 2-3).
However, candidates exhibiting passive and emotional behaviour will most likely seek validating
information from a third party. Therefore, companies should provide alumni connections
whenever possible. As candidates will seek out information on discussion boards it will be
advantageous to the organization to point them towards brand ambassadors that will help the
case of the companies. It can also be a good idea to build a talent network for those candidates
who are not yet ready to apply for a position but nevertheless have an interest in the organization.
The talent network allows candidates to keep in touch and be in the loop for new opportunities as
they come along (NAS, 2010: 3).
Companies may also provide candidates with the opportunity to create more personal relations by
having an event calendar and keeping it current. Besides having the personal connections with
recruiters help solidify candidates’ decision to apply, the event calendar may also help attract
some attention to the events and create some excitement about them. Another way to engage
potential candidates is to integrate social media marketing into the company career website. A
simple link that allows people to friend the company on Facebook or Twitter will bring people back
to the company site and encourage two-way communication. Additionally, companies then have
the opportunity of reaching all the friends of their “fans” by adding a Recommend button to their
posts. Finally, companies may attract the passive and emotional job seekers with a blog that
shows candidates that they will have a voice in the company. People will see that the company
appreciates their employees and values their ideas. This will seem very attractive to many of
today’s employees (NAS, 2010: 3).
In return of these efforts, companies are likely to experience that a strong employer brand may
lead to a range of benefits. A strong brand may among other things increase a company’s ability to
attract, retain and engage people. And the engaged people will then in turn help deliver a
consistent customer brand experience. Additionally, research (Barrow & Mosley, 2005: 83) show
that a healthy employer brand may help reduce the costs associated with recruitment, staff
turnover and sickness-absence. When the staff turnover of a company is lower than that of
competitors, then it provides an obvious advantage in terms of the cost base. Furthermore, strong
employer brands tend to enjoy higher levels of employee retention (Barrow & Mosley, 2005: 70).
It is also estimated (Barrow & Mosley, 2005: 70) that disengaged employees take an average of 11
more sick days per year.
Another benefit of a strong employer brand is that it will improve employee engagement and
commitment which is strongly associated with higher levels of customer satisfaction which
consequently is likely to lead to higher revenues, profit margins and overall return of investments.
Finally, HR, Marketing and Communications functions in the company are all likely to benefit from
a more coordinated approach to developing and managing the employer brand (Barrow & Mosley,
2005: 83).
3.4 Employer branding and social media
So why should employer branding use social media sites? And what do social media do for the
company exactly? Social media platforms are part of the new “web 2.0”. This is a collective name
which encompasses all the online services that allows users to share knowledge and experiences
(Roberto, 2011: 1). Engaging in social media can help make a company more visible and available
to its stakeholders as well as strengthen the corporate brand by meeting the customers where
they are hanging out. This makes it easier for organizations to communicate their desired message
and offers the opportunity to create a personal dialogue with
stakeholders. In a dialogue, the company can explain its
motives and actions as well as nurse the users and make them
feel appreciated. The opinion of the consumers matters. In
general, social media provides a much more casual discourse
(Roberto, 2011: 2). A powerful device within marketing and
branding has previously been “word of mouth”. But social
media has taken this concept to a whole new level. Before, a
person who had a product experience would probably tell a
Figure 3.4.1 Socialnomics
person or two per week about it. They would then share the
information with a couple of friends but in the process is the
risk of the original message being altered. Now, with social media, the message will be send out to
a lot more people instantly, and because of the digital nature of the message, the integrity of the
original is to remain intact. Qualman (2009: 2) calls this phenomenon “Socialnomics” and explains
that it is the difference between “word of mouth” and “world of mouth” (see figure 3.4.1 below).
Social media has become quite popular within the field of employer branding. A survey (Hunt,
2010: 1) reports that 35 % of the participating companies use social media to promote the
company. Furthermore, 21 % of those companies use social media in recruiting and to research
potential employees. And 18 % use their social media presence to strengthen their employer
brand. It can be crucial for companies to be present on this scene because the candidates expect
their future employer to be there (Hunt, 2010: 1).
One of the reasons why social media has become so popular among consumers is grounded in
human nature. Users of social media are online because they desire the social contact with their
network. Although human beings have a psychological need to be individual, they still need to feel
connected and accepted by larger social sets (Qualman, 2009: 4). According to Maslow’s hierarchy
of needs study, it is suggested that right after the basic needs of survival and security, the greatest
need for humans is to feel accepted (Qualman, 2009: 4). By using social media and joining
different networks of people, this medium is able to satisfy part of that need. Users of social media
will be motivated to join networks or publish their opinions on products and companies because it
will make them belong with people of similar minds. Consequently, if someone sees that friends or
a large group of people are supporting a company, it will motivate them to support it as well in
order to belong and feel connected. This ripple effect can be extremely beneficial for the
companies which will suddenly reach an enormous audience (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 132).
Furthermore, people value the opinion of other people which is why so much information is
shared on social media. In fact, 78 % trust their peers’ opinion (Qualman, 2009: 91). Social media
has made it much easier to disseminate information and people enjoy spreading their knowledge
and experiences. Not only do people like being considered as experts or knowledgeable on a
subject, but the Y and X generations also feel compelled to share information if it can benefit
others. They feel a need to give back to the community that gave to them (provided them with
useful information), (Qualman, 2009: 94).
For a while, it has been known in marketing that companies should stick to one message. It should
be kept simple and convey one salient point. However, as many organizations have experienced,
this can be very difficult due to the pressure from all the different elements and parties involved
(Qualman, 2009: 129). Now, with social media, there is no longer a choice between one simple
message and a complex, multidimensional message as we live in a 140-character world (the
general limitation on status updates). The good news with social media is then that once an
organization is determined on an initial message strategy, they have the opportunity to reevaluate and tweak it for relevancy based on the feedback from the marketplace. By engaging
with customers, companies are able to adapt to their changing needs much quicker which offers a
huge advantage. This is the benefit of entering the groundswell (the huge amount of information
provided by customers via the web 2.0. For more information see Li & Bernoff, 2008). Being able
to correct misconceptions is one of the returns of investment in using social media and companies
can achieve huge labour savings (Anonymous, 2011: 6).
A social media site like Facebook is optimal for engaging people because it offers a variety of
mediums for companies to communicate their message and corporate culture (Hunt, 2010: 3). For
instance, Facebook allows the companies to use everything from simple text and mini blogs to
photos, video and audio clips, polls and surveys. Facebook is recommended as a useful tool in
employer branding by several sources (Hunt, 2010, NAS, 2010 & Anonymous, 2011). The company
Kobo is benefiting a lot from using social media in their employer branding and states that only 4
% of the last 110 hires came from external recruiting agencies (Anonymous, 2011: 1). Employing
social media is a very cost effective model and allows companies to save a lot of money which can
then be put back into the employee experience which helps retain current employees.
In order to benefit the most from including social media in the employer branding strategy,
companies should actively attract new “friends” by keeping the content fresh and engaging.
Staying active on the sites and being responsive is critical (Hunt, 2010: 3-4). The uniqueness as well
as the drawback of social media is the fast pace which is often an ongoing challenge. Companies
will need to work hard to ensure that information continues to be relevant and useful
(Anonymous, 2011: 5). However, if used correctly, social media can also be an opportunity to hear
from the internal stakeholders and thus be used to bring more egalitarianism and inclusiveness to
the company (Anonymous, 2011: 7).
4. Persuasion
4.1 A definition
When dealing with persuasion, there are a range of related ideas that overlap with it in some ways
and differ from it in other ways. In order to fully understand what persuasion is, it is necessary to
know what it is not. Persuasion is not coercion (Perloff, 2010: 12). While persuasion deals with the
use of reason and verbal appeals, coercion employs force and threats. However, considering a
relativist perspective on the two matters it is possible for them to somewhat overlap. In a relativist
perspective, focus is on the role of perception, meaning that in this view it is all a matter of how
individual people perceive things. It is argued (Perloff, 2010: 13) that when people feel free to
reject the position of the communicator then it is a case of persuasion. In other words, the
persuadee must feel that he or she has a choice. However, when people feel that they have no
other choice than to comply, it is a case of coercion.
Following the relativist idea, the line between persuasion and coercion gets blurred when we look
at the individual target. It is possible to have the exact same situation and communication of a
message but with different outcomes depending on the individual audience. It all comes down to
the level of confidence by the persuadee (Perloff, 2010: 13). For instance, in a situation of peer
pressure among teenagers, the confident and independent teenage girl may feel strong enough to
reject the pressure of smoking a cigarette even though she has been presented with the possibility
that it might make her unpopular among her peers. The confident teenager will feel that she has a
choice and stand by her own position on the matter of smoking. However, the less confident
teenager may feel that there is no alternative but to comply since the possibility of social suicide is
not an option. From this scenario it becomes clear that persuasion and coercion are not polar
opposites but do have overlapping characteristics (Perloff, 2010: 14). Nonetheless, there is a key
difference between the two ideas. Unlike persuasion, coercion is less likely to lead to long-term
changes in the behaviour of the target. This is the case because the persuadee has not chosen to
adopt this new behaviour and is thus not motivated to retaining it (Reardon, 1991: 2).
Some people may be inclined to perceive persuasion as a sort of manipulation because the
communicator is consciously using techniques to achieve a personal goal. However, according to
Reardon (1991: 1), manipulation involves pushing to achieve the goals of the manipulator at the
expense of the person being manipulated. This differs from persuasion as manipulation does not
involve up-front reasoning with someone. Rather, manipulation attempts to deprive the audience
of a choice through deceptive tactics. Contrarily, “persuasion attempts to guide people to make, of
their own free will, the persuader’s preferred choice”, (Reardon, 1991: 2).
This was a brief discussion of what persuasion is not. The following pages present a discussion of
what characterizes persuasion and will come up with a working definition that will be the basis of
this thesis.
One characteristic of persuasion is that it is always a conscious activity (Reardon, 1991: 3).
Theoretically, one cannot unintentionally persuade another human being as the act of persuasion
involves conscious intent. However, it is argued (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 24) that in borderline cases
of persuasion it is possible for influence attempts to take place without any conscious awareness
of the persuader. This could be the case in parenting, when parents model behaviour for their
children. They may not realize how much of what they say and do is absorbed by their children.
Another example of unintentional influence could be when a third party accidentally overhears a
conversation and is persuaded by facts presented by the two parties talking. This could happen
when someone overhears to people discussing a movie. The third party may thus be persuaded or
influenced to either see the movie or not. Nevertheless, considering that the empirical data of this
thesis is extracted from marketing and thereby can be classified as intentional and conscious
persuasion, it would still be reasonable to include this characteristic as a partial definition of
persuasion.
Another characteristic of persuasion is the persuader’s perception of threat to his or her goals.
This threat does not need to be explicit. It merely needs to be sufficient in the eyes of the
persuader and will thus set off the attempt to change the opinion or behaviour of others
(Reardon, 1991: 3).
A third characteristic of persuasion is that it often involves harm to the persuadee’s self-concept.
The issue of self-concept is of higher importance when dealing with interpersonal persuasion
rather than that of mass media persuasion (Reardon, 1991: 3). This is so because in interpersonal
persuasion, the message is directed to one or a few people in particular, thus indicating that
something is utterly wrong with what he or she does or believes. Implying that someone is acting
wrong and consequently needs to change will undoubtedly result in a feeling of inadequacy on the
part of the persuadee. Such situations are what make persuasion a delicate activity since the
persuader must attempt to bring forth change but without pushing the persuadee into a defensive
position (Reardon, 1991: 3).
Persuasion is also characterized by some degree of strategizing (Reardon, 1991: 5). In order to get
what one wants it is often an advantage not being too up-front about it. Therefore, with
persuasion one often “dresses one’s intentions in an acceptable fashion” (Reardon, 1991: 5).
People are rarely willing to change their behaviour, meaning that if the intention of the persuader
is not properly presented, it may result in an audience who closes their minds to change
completely. The fact that strategizing is a part of persuasion further confirms that persuasion is a
conscious act that is performed intentionally (Perloff, 2010: 8) A discussion on persuasion
strategies will be presented later on, but first, some points on mass persuasion will be discussed
considering that the empirical data of this thesis can be categorized as mass communication.
Finally, persuasion is often defined as including a free choice on the part of the persuadee (Perloff,
2010: 12)(Gass & Seiter, 2006: 28). As mentioned above, whether or not the target of the
persuasive communication feels free to comply, is often said to be what differs persuasion from
coercion. Perloff (2010: 12) defines the free choice as when the persuadee “has the ability to act
otherwise – to do other than what the persuader suggests – or to reflect critically on his choices in
a situation” (Perloff, 2010: 12). However, as touched lightly upon above, ‘freedom’ is a subjective
term and often, whether a message is perceived as persuasive or coercive is largely in the eyes of
the beholder (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 29).
Perloff (2010: 8), has developed a definition of persuasion that encompasses almost all of the
characteristics mentioned above.
“Persuasion is a symbolic process in which communicators try to convince other people to change
their attitudes or behaviour regarding an issue through the transmission of a message, in an
atmosphere of free choice”.
Perloff, 2010: 8
4.2 Mass persuasion
As a form of communication, employer branding via corporate websites and social media
platforms, belongs to the category of mass persuasion, as does most of the activities of businesses
intended to promote themselves or their products (Cartwright, 1971: 254).
We see an enormous amount of campaigns that attempt to change the behaviour of people when
it comes to safe driving, smoking, alcohol or political ideas. However, evidence shows (Cartwright,
1971: 254) that significant changes in behaviour as a result of a campaign are rather the exception
than the rule. One of the reasons why so many campaigns fail in altering the behaviour of the
general population could be the relation between the encouraged behaviour of the campaigners
and the behaviour that the population actually desires. The distance between the two is often too
great. It will always be easier to get people to do something that they want to do rather than
something they opposes (Cartwright, 1971: 255).
Furthermore, before a message is able to persuade a group of people it has to reach them. This
could be a secondary explanation to why people are rather difficult to persuade since they tend to
protect themselves against messages that is not in line with their cognitive structure (Cartwright,
1971: 257). This is why people tend to read the newspapers whose editorial tone is fairly similar to
their own and why most of us pay better attention to politicians with whom we agree. In relation
to the case of employer branding, this means that since people to some extent chooses what
messages to be exposed to, that the receivers of employer branding communication online are
most likely of a positive attitude towards the company. Consequently, it becomes easier to
persuade these candidates to apply for a job as they possibly already like the corporation in
question (Cartwright, 1971: 258).
Cartwright (1971: 255) discusses what happens psychologically, when someone attempts to
influence the behaviour of another. He states that in order to persuade someone, a chain of
processes must be initiated within that person. First, the processes must create a particular
cognitive structure, create a particular motivational structure and finally, create a particular
behavioural (action) structure. Based on the theory of these processes, campaigns will often place
their focus largely on the first process, focus considerably less on the second process and only
touch lightly upon the third process. The extent of the focus on the individual processes depends
on the intention of the campaign; whether it intends to influence behaviour or merely educate
(Cartwright, 1971: 255).
When attempting to alter the behaviour of someone, whether it be an individual or a group of
people, initially, the message of the communication must be accepted as part of the cognitive
structure of said person(s) (Cartwright, 1971: 258). Should this happen, it then becomes important
that the encouraged behaviour will lead to the fulfilment of a personal goal of the target.
Cartwright states (1971: 260) that personal needs provide the energy for behaviour. This means
that the proposed activities will lead to a desired goal. The target must believe the connection
between the activity and the personal goal and the effectiveness of the persuasive communication
will increase if the encouraged behaviour can be related to the fulfilment of more than one
personal goal. If one single path is seen to lead to more goals it becomes more likely that the
target(s) will pursue it (Cartwright, 1971: 262). However, getting the target motivated to behave in
a certain way does not necessarily mean that it will happen right away. Therefore, in order to be
as effective as possible, the persuasive message must be very specific. When the path of action is
specifically defined it is more likely that the motivational structure will gain control over the
behavioural structure and that the encouraged behaviour will be executed. Furthermore, to locate
the path of action at a specific point in time will also increase the likelihood of success (Cartwright,
1971: 264).
4.3 The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM)
The Elaboration Likelihood Model, developed by Petty and Cacioppo has long dominated the field
of persuasion. The model emphasizes that you cannot understand communication effects without
appreciating the underlying processes by which messages influence attitudes (Perloff, 2003: 128).
The name, The Elaboration Likelihood Model (ELM), encompasses that the persuadee may
elaborate or think heavily about the arguments contained in the communication. The Likelihood
refers to the probability that an elaboration will occur or not. Thus, elaboration can either be likely
or unlikely and the model tells us when people should be especially likely to elaborate or not on
persuasive messages (Perloff, 2003: 128).
The model is based on the principle of dual processing and stipulates that there are two distinct
ways in which people process communication. The model refers to the two routes as the central
and peripheral routes (Perloff, 2003: 129). The central route is characterized by a certain amount
of cognitive elaboration and entails that the individual focuses on central features of the issue
(Reardon, 1991: 68). Central processing is the processing of a thinking person and attitudes
changed on this ground are relatively persistent, predictive of behaviour and resistant to change
(Reardon, 1991: 68). Persuasion of this kind is more long-term because message arguments are
carefully evaluated and the persuadee relates the information to the knowledge and values of his/
her own. According to the thinking of Aristotle, this would be the optimal evaluation of
information as the persuadee will make an effort to reach the truth and only be persuaded by
cogent arguments (logos) (Perloff, 2003: 129).
The alternative route; that of peripheral processing is much different. The peripheral route is often
employed when the decision is of less importance or if the mind is overloaded. It would be utterly
impossible to carefully consider every single decision or persuasive communication that one is
confronted with on a daily basis. Therefore, people will heavily rely on mental shortcuts much of
the time (Perloff, 2003: 130). Peripheral processing allows people to quickly examine a message
and focus on simple cues in order to decide whether or not to accept the position of the
communication (Perloff, 2003: 129). Here, people often rely on simple associations, inferences or
heuristics. An heuristic may be that “experts are to be believed” and for this reason alone the
persuadee may accept a recommendation (Reardon, 1991: 68). Other peripheral cues can be the
physical appearance of the persuader, pleasant connotations from the music playing, the sheer
number of arguments or the jargon or dialect used by a speaker (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 36).
Depending on the processing route, different persuasive appeals are effective and these tactics
will also differ in their long-term effects on attitudes (Perloff, 2003: 129-130). Though the two
routes can also work simultaneously, one route often dominates the other (Gass & Seiter, 2006:
36).
The key factors that decide which processing strategy is employed are motivation and ability.
People need to be motivated to properly consider a message in order for central processing to
take place. Furthermore, the central route is used when the persuadee has the cognitive ability to
properly consider the message arguments (Perloff, 2003: 129-130). Motivation is caused when the
persuadee feels a personal involvement. Individuals are high in involvement when they feel that
an issue is personally relevant or has a direct influence on their lives (Reardon, 1991: 69). In these
cases, people should process messages via the central route and study the message arguments in
depth. Contrary, individuals are low in involvement when they believe that an issue will only have
little or no impact on their lives (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 36). If this is the case, they will not be
motivated to consider the contents of the message intensely. Consequently, they will process
peripherally and look for mental shortcuts to help them decide whether or not to accept the point
of the communication. At least, this is the theory of the ELM (Perloff, 2003: 132). Unfortunately, it
is not always as simple as that. Not all central processing entails that information will be evaluated
rationally and without bias. People are not completely objective thinkers (Perloff, 2003: 140).
When people seem to be the most biased and resistant towards persuasion is when the issue at
hand touches on core values or deep-seated attitudes. The individual still employs central
processing and pays attention to the opponent’s arguments but usually rejects them in the end,
ignoring ideas that are inconsistent with his/her attitudes (Perloff, 2003: 140-141). In these cases,
people will generate many counterarguments and mentally rehears their objections to the
message (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 37).
However, research (Perloff, 2003: 133) has shown that when studying the level of involvement,
the quality of arguments and the level of expertise of the source, it appears that when individuals
are high in involvement, they pay more attention to the quality of argument and less attention to
the expertise of the source. In contrast, individuals in low involvement are more inclined to change
their attitude when addressed by a high expert source than when addressed by a low expert
source, regardless of the quality of arguments (Perloff, 2003: 133). However, Perloff (2003: 134)
states that the core issue that should be taken from this study is that people engage in issuerelevant thinking under high involvement but focus on simpler cues that are peripheral to the
main message under low involvement.
But there are other factors that also may influence motivation. For instance, there is a personality
characteristic called “the need for cognition” which entails that some people have a need for
understanding the world and wish to employ thinking in order to accomplish goals. People with a
high need for cognition tend to want more complex problems rather than simple ones and enjoy
being challenged. Consequently, they are more likely to employ central processing over peripheral
processing (Perloff, 2003: 135).
As mentioned above, the ability to engage in elaboration is equally important as having the
motivation to do so. Some people are better at grasping ideas and making sense of things (Gass &
Seiter, 2006: 37) but situations may also enhance or hamper a person’s ability to process
messages. Background noise or other distractions make people less able to process a message
(Perloff, 2003: 135). Our cognitive ability or knowledge regarding a particular subject largely
affects our choice of processing route. If an individual has an in-depth knowledge about a topic it
makes him/her able to identify shortcomings in a message and thus, this individual is much more
difficult to persuade (Perloff, 2003: 136). In contrast, a person with minimal knowledge on a
particular subject may feel insecure or less confident in his/her opinion. This makes the individual
more susceptible to persuasion in most situations and the person will most likely resort to
processing peripherally (Perloff, 2003: 136).
Figure 4.3.1. The Elaboration Likelihood Model
4.3.1 Complications and criticism
Though the Elaboration Likelihood Model is one of the most cited models in persuasion literature
(Gass & Seiter, 2006: 36), it is still subject to criticism. The model is criticized for not adequately
accounting for the effects of parallel processing of central and peripheral information (Reardon,
1991: 70). The problem is that if the ELM depicts humans as parallel information processors then it
must be clearly specified under which conditions the different types of information processing
occurs. This means that information can either be classified as central or peripheral which leads to
an ambiguity that consequently weakens the model (Reardon, 1991: 70). This weakness is based
on the fact that the development of the model allows it to explain all possible outcomes thereby
making it impossible, in principle, to prove it wrong. However, ELM supporters have counter
argued that critics simply do not appreciate the strengths of the model (Perloff, 2003: 144).
In all, both opponents and supporters of the model can agree that the ELM offers a
comprehensive theory of cognitive processing which is an important contribution. Thus, the ELM
has provided researchers with a unified framework to understand the complex and intriguing
study of persuasion as it helps explain why certain attitudes persist longer and predict behaviour
better than others (Perloff, 2003: 145).
5. Persuasion strategies
5.1 Persuasion triggers for peripheral processing
Occasionally, the human mind is overloaded with information and a vast amount of decisions that
need clarification during the day. Therefore, we often happen to switch on automatic pilot, where
most decisions are made mindlessly and without any deeper considerations (Mills, 2000: 218).
When on automatic pilot, our minds are programmed with persuasion triggers that are activated
and help us make a decision when exposed to the appropriate cues (Mills, 2000: 218). The triggers
are mainly emotionally driven and the receiver of the persuasive communication relies on simple
cues or heuristics in order to form an opinion or make a decision. The explanations for switching to
automatic pilot can be if we are pressured for time, suffering from information overload, think the
decision is less important or if we do not have enough information in order to base the decision on
fact and logic (Mills, 2000: 220). Mills (2000: 221) presents seven persuasion triggers identified by
psychologists, but other researchers have also published their take on the subject of triggers of
influence (Reardon, 1991).
In connection with Embellishment – making something appear better than it is in reality – Cialdini
(Reardon, 1991: 8) identified some characteristics of influence. What Cialdini calls “triggers of
influence” are “appeals or images that encourage the persuadee to respond in a manner preferred
by the persuader” (Reardon, 1991: 8). To Cialdini, these triggers of influence should naturally exist
in the situation in order for the act of persuasion to be ethical. Reardon (1991: 8) points to an
example where a car dealer could point out the fuel economic advantage of a smaller car over an
SUV. Similar to Mills (2000), Cialdini (Reardon, 1991) also focused on the peripheral route to
persuasion in relation to his research on persuasion triggers.
According to Reardon (1991: 8), the three most frequently applied persuasion triggers described
by Cialdini are; reciprocity, scarcity and authority. Reciprocity is described as the act of giving back
to others what they have given to us. Salespeople use this technique when handing out free
samples in the hope of making their audience feel obligated to stick around and listen to the sales
pitch. Scarcity refers to the indication that something is limited in supply. Posting in ads that some
product is only fabricated in a limited number may result in an increased demand. Authority
entails the employment of some sort of expert to advocate a given idea or product and thus make
the message of the persuasion more acceptable to the persuadee (Reardon, 1991: 8-9).
5.2 Persuasion strategies for central processing
There are ranges of different sets of persuasion strategies which have been developed in an
attempt to predict what strategies individuals will use to persuade others. Out of these many
taxonomies that have been constructed, one in particular has received special attention. The
Marvel and Schmitt taxonomy (Reardon, 1991: 118) was developed in 1967 and focuses on the use
of positive or negative sanctions in order to gain compliance. The taxonomy consists of 16
techniques which either appeal to self-image consistency or a person’s need for persuader
approval.
However, the taxonomy developed by Marwell and Schmitt has been criticized multiple times as
well (Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman, 1981 and Cody et al, 1994). First of all, it is said that the list of
strategies is not sufficiently elaborate as each strategy is merely described in one sentence (Cody
et al, 1994: 40). According to this critique (Cody et al, 1994: 40), the 16 strategies are too vague
and not sufficient in numbers in order to fully encompass the underlying dimensions and different
variations of the strategies. It is argued that the 16 strategies lacked subcategories which could
have illustrated variations and combinations of the main tactics.
Second of all, Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman (1981: 253) critique the taxonomy of excluding
significant strategies, thereby making it inconclusive. In their opinion, Marwell and Schmitt did not
account for a difference in use of strategies based on social classes. It was discovered (SchenckHamlin & Wiseman, 1981:253) that lower status individuals mainly applied alternative strategies
such as ‘nagging’ or ‘hinting’. These simple and less strategic and sophisticated tactics were not
included in the sixteen-category taxonomy by Marwell and Schmitt (Reardon, 1991: 118).
Furthermore, the Marwell and Schmitt taxonomy was also criticized for its lack of structural
positioning of the strategies (Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman, 1981: 253). The taxonomy does not
provide the persuader with any information in relation to what order to place the strategies in or
how they should be used in general. It is argued (Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman, 1981: 253) that the
consequence of this ad hoc combination of strategies is that the descriptions of the strategies
remain abstract and thereby appear rather vague.
Additionally, the method of research applied by Marwell and Schmitt in their development of the
sixteen-category taxonomy is criticized for influencing the test subjects and thus providing an
unsatisfactory result (Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman, 1981: 254). According to Schenck-Hamlin &
Wiseman (1981: 254), the problem was that the test subjects were asked to rate the likelihood of
using each of the strategies in four different situations. But lists are rarely comprehensive enough
to include all strategies possible and so some tactics may have been left out. The test subjects
cannot choose something that is not there and is thus influenced and may pick out something that
they would have never thought of themselves (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 240). Consequently, by
restricting the subjects to strategies developed by the experimenter, the data help us identifying
factors which will affect the choice of strategy but it does not tell us anything about the structural
dimensions that interconnect the different strategies (Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman, 1981: 254).
Furthermore, it is possible that strategies that the test subjects would have used is left out of the
list. Additionally, as with all research including test subjects, there is a risk of social desirability
bias. People participating in research may sometimes answer something different from what they
do in reality to appear more social desirable (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 240). A person who would
normally threat people to get his way may disguise that in the research. Thus, besides employing a
methodology that influenced the test subjects, the Marwell and Schmitt taxonomy (Reardon,
1991: 119) lacks a structural explanation and positioning of the various strategies. But
nevertheless, the research performed in connection with the creation of the taxonomy does shed
some light on the perceived effectiveness of the individual strategies, due to the likelihood-of-use
method applied. Thus from the research performed by Marwell and Schmitt, we gain some insight
into what strategies are popular among people (Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman, 1981: 254).
Due to their extensive critique of the typology developed by Marwell and Schmitt (Reardon, 1991),
Schenck-Hamlin and Wiseman (1981) decided to perform their own research on the matter. They
opted for a different methodology where they asked the test subjects to generate a list of
strategies that they would use in different situations. This way, they believed to avoid influencing
the experiment. The result of their research was a new taxonomy of 14 strategies which were
described slightly more detailed than the ones by Marwell and Schmitt (Reardon, 1991: 119).
Following these two types of research it became extremely popular to create typologies of
persuasion strategies. Kellermann and Cole (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 239) identified 74 different
typologies across several areas of communication and later constructed their own super typology
consisting of 64 different strategies.
However, later research (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 240) has shown that whether the test subjects are
asked to pick from a list or to generate the strategies themselves, there is only a slight difference
in the results, indicating that the methodology is of less importance. But, what is important is that,
in 1988, Dillard (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 240) found out that what people write down on paper in an
experiment rarely corresponds with what they actually do in persuasive situations. Dillard
concluded that researchers had been looking in the wrong place. The use of persuasion strategies
should not be studied in artificial laboratories but out in a more natural context (Gass & Seiter,
2006: 240). Therefore, this thesis will investigate what is actually done out in the real world rather
than what communicators intend to do.
5.3 Taxonomy of persuasion strategies
For the purpose of this thesis, a new taxonomy is developed. This taxonomy is based on previous
theory by Reardon (1991), Schenck-Hamlin and Wiseman (1981) and Perloff (2003) who describes
various techniques of effective persuasion without having developed a taxonomy.
The reason why one of the existing taxonomies of strategies in compliance-gaining theory is not
applied in this thesis is that the study of compliance-gaining belongs within the field of
interpersonal influence (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 226). Therefore, the taxonomy developed by
Schenck-Hamlin and Wiseman (1981) should not be blindly followed for the purpose of this thesis
since the empirical data is more related to mass persuasion than that of interpersonal. However,
the communications of the empirical data do attempt to make the target audience comply, or act
in a particular manner, namely, to apply for a position at the company in question, which is the
general purpose of employer branding communication.
According to Gass & Seiter (2006: 227), compliance is concerned with changing a person’s overt
behaviour and not with changing beliefs. Contrary, persuasion is focusing on changing beliefs,
attitudes, intentions, motivations and behaviour. From this, it will be reasonable to deduct that
aspects from both the theory of compliance gaining as well as theory of persuasion in general
should be extracted in the development of this new taxonomy of persuasion strategies. The
reason why this is the case is that though the communication of employer branding may
encourage the target audience to act or behave in a certain way, it may not be necessary for the
encouraged behaviour to take place right away. Rather, the communication of employer branding
may attempt to form or change the persuadee’s attitude towards the company with the intention
of letting this new, positive attitude lead to action on the part of the target.
Additional support for the extraction of compliance gaining theory in the construction of this new
taxonomy is that compliance gaining has a tendency to focus on what strategies are most likely to
be used. Thus, there is a focus on the sender of the persuasive communication. Traditional
persuasion research has focused on what strategies are the most effective to persuade people,
thereby focusing more on the receiver of the communication (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 227). The focus
of this thesis is to investigate which strategies are applied in employer branding communication
and thus has a sender focus. The results of this thesis may help to predict what strategies are most
likely to be used in this field of communication.
Besides using and developing some of the strategies in the taxonomy by Schenck-Hamlin and
Wiseman (1981), some aspects and tactics will also be extracted from the original list by Marwell
and Schmitt (Reardon, 1991: 119). Though it may have made compliance gaining seem simpler
than it really is, the old taxonomy is still important research because it became the springboard for
the studies within compliance gaining that followed (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 230).
Below, the taxonomy of persuasion strategies specially developed for this thesis is presented. Each
strategy is defined and explained based on the theory of mainly Reardon (1991) and SchenckHamlin et al (1981) but supportive information is also extracted from Perloff (2003). The
description and definition of each strategy will also include an example of such a strategy.
Wherever possible, this example will be extracted from a situation of either mass persuasion or
employer branding.
This new taxonomy is mainly build around the typology of Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman (1981).
However, a few strategies are excluded as for instance, Aversive Stimulation, Dept, Warning and
Deceit. The reason why Aversive Stimulation is excluded from this taxonomy is that the persuader
does not have the option of exposing the target to continuous punishment or irritation (SchenckHamlin & Wiseman, 1981: 257). Therefore, this particular tactic seemed irrelevant, given the
situational context. Furthermore, the strategy of Dept is excluded because the persuader and the
persuadee do not have prior relations meaning that one cannot have performed favours for the
other (Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman, 1981: 257). Additionally, Warning is left out in this case
because it is unlikely that non-compliance of the target will result in anyone being offended.
Considering the context of the communication and the subject of employer branding, most likely
no one will ever know that the target did not comply since no one necessarily knows that the
target was exposed to the persuasive message. Finally, Deceit is excluded from this list because it
is not possible for this research to decide whether or not the sender of the persuasive message is
untruthful regarding the promises and rewards stated in the communication (Schenck-Hamlin &
Wiseman, 1981: 258).
Besides the exclusions mentioned above, a couple of additions have also been made to the new
taxonomy. The first addition is the strategy of Conformity, which is included partly due to the
presence of social media in this research. In other words, as mentioned in the chapter on social
media, these platforms are highly characterized by their ability to persuade people into liking
something by effect of the sheer number of “likes” that a product in question has already
received. The aspect of persuasion in this case is basically that people tend to follow the crowd, so
when a target sees a large group of people supporting a product or a company, this can work as a
persuasive element (Perloff, 2003: 133).
Furthermore, a couple of strategies related to Liking have been included. Schenck-Hamlin and
Wiseman (1981) acknowledges Ingratiation as a compliance-gaining strategy. However, Similarity
is also included because it is a strategy likely to be used in connection with fulfilling the
psychological need to belong. Considering that we spend most of our time awake at work, it is
important to people that they fit in at that community. Therefore, it could be effective to
communicate that the given company is very diverse and therefore has a place for everyone.
Additionally, the strategy of Contrast is included because this is one of the most frequently used
strategies when sales personnel are branding a product (Mills, 2000: 220-221). This tactic was not
initially included in the new taxonomy of strategies but was added because preliminary
investigation of the empirical data showed evidence that this strategy was employed several
times. Finally, the strategy of Authority was included. Though this tactic resembles the one of
Expertise, the Authority strategy has a focus on the exterior appearance of the speaker. However,
this will be covered in the following description of the various strategies.
5.3.1 Reward
The strategy of Reward is fairly simple and often entails that the persuadee is promised some sort
of reward if he/she complies. The form of this strategy is that compliance implies future reward
from the persuader (Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman, 1981: 257). In the case of employer branding,
the promised reward could for instance consist of a 401K retirement savings, dental insurance or
early advancement. However, the reward need not be exemplified. Instances will occur where it is
only stated that hard work will be rewarded. The nature of the reward may also be either tangible
or intangible. A tangible reward would be free lunch at the company whereas the promise of
opportunities for advancement is a more intangible concept as it is not specified what that entails.
Rewards may also be characterized as being either emotional or professional, and practitioners of
employer branding are encouraged to provide both in order to meet the needs of potential
candidates.
What is unique to this strategy is that the reward is completely in the hands of the sender. This is
not to be taken as explicitly as understanding that the reward is in the hands of the speaker (the
interviewee) but rather what he/she represents, which is the company. When the sender is able to
influence or have the power to administer rewards, the promise becomes more effective and
powerful. It becomes easier for the persuadee to believe and accept as true when her/she sees
that the reward is not conditioned by a lot of additional circumstances. Consequently, the promise
of a reward becomes more persuasive. This is what separates the strategy of Reward from Esteem
and Allurement, where the reward is in the hands of the persuadee and a third party, respectively.
However this will be clarified below.
5.3.2 Esteem
The strategy of Esteem entails that the persuader explains how compliance will lead to an
increased, positive self-feeling (Reardon, 1991: 119). The reason why the persuadee will feel
better about him/her-self may vary from an increase in the target’s power, success, status, moral
or attention of others. The positive self-feeling may also be the result of improved competencies,
the ability to handle failure better and/or attempts to aspire. The persuader will attempt to make
the target imagine how good it will feel to comply and what personal benefits will follow. In the
case of this strategy, the benefits promised (the positive self-feeling) is in the hands of the
persuadee. It is up to the individual target to evaluate whether or not feeling important or
successful will result in personal happiness.
In the case of employer branding, the persuader will often present the target with interviews or
statements from current employees who express how happy they have become since working for
the company in question. These employee interviews are also what the empirical data of this
thesis consist of. Typical statements that should invoke the Esteem strategy could state that the
employee is very happy to go to work, that he/she feels important to the success of the company
or that the position offers room for personal development.
5.3.3 Guilt
The strategy of Guilt is almost the polar opposite of Esteem. Here, instead of feeling good about
him/her-self, the target of the communication is persuaded to believe that non-compliance will
result in an automatic decrease in self-worth. The persuader may attempt to make the target feel
socially irresponsible or professionally inadequate and thus motivate the persuadee to comply.
When using this strategy, non-compliance entails future self-punishment (Schenck-Hamlin &
Wiseman, 1981: 257).
In the case of employer branding, the persuader may invoke guilt in the target if it is suggested
that all people should engage in a job where there is time for voluntary activities. The guilt is
caused by the insinuation that the target violates a norm or fails to follow a social norm. Guilt is an
unpleasant emotion and studies (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 278) show that people feeling guilty are
more likely to comply with a subsequent request. Furthermore, it is indicated that people are even
more likely to comply if the persuader is not the source of their guilt. This could be exploited by
persuaders if they communicate that it is society in general that condemns the behaviour of the
target and not the company in particular.
However, communicators should be cautious when applying Guilt. People who have wronged a
person tend to want to avoid this person in order to eliminate confrontations or further loss of
face. Therefore, the Guilt tactic should be fashioned in a way that emphasize the positive feeling
of doing the right thing rather than focusing on the negative guilt (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 279).
5.3.4 Allurement
The strategy of Allurement entails that the persuader communicates that compliance of this
request will lead to circumstances that will please and satisfy others. The reward hinted at in this
strategy thus arises from persons or conditions other than the actor as the people who have
profited from the compliance will reward the persuadee with their respect and admiration
(Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman, 1981: 257). Thus the reward that the persuadee will gain from
compliance is receiving the admiration and respect of others (clients or customers). The reward is
thereby in the hands of a third party outside of this communication.
In the case of employer branding, the persuader will express what a difference it makes to other
people that the target complied. The people who have gained from the work of the target are
often clients and customers of the company. In connection with this, current employees may state
in an interview that they feel the respect of their clients, that they help them find the best possible
solution or that they feel appreciated. This strategy resembles Esteem and Promise, but in this
case, the ‘reward’ of compliance is not in the hands of either the persuader or the target.
Consequently, there is a risk that this reward may seem more vague than the concrete promise of
dental insurance. However, if it is part of the personal value system of the persuadee to help
others and enjoying working with people, then this strategy can seem very persuasive.
5.2.5 Conformity
The strategy of Conformity is closely linked with social influence and basically entails that the
target of the persuasion is encouraged to follow the crowd and act according to a larger group of
people in order to fit in (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 121). The effects of this strategy are most prominent
when looking into why people who have joined a cult may perform strange activities or adopt
extreme behaviour. For instance, there have been numerous mass suicides in American cults over
the years and researchers have suggested that the cult members follow the bidding of the leader,
partly because the cult satisfies a need to belong that most people have. In cults, there are often a
strict set of rules, but when the need to belong is satisfied, people will behave in extremes in order
to keep fitting in.
Some people are more prone to conformity than others but in general, people do not like going
against the flow and take a position that opposes the majority. The reason for this is that we
experience positive emotions when we conform to a group of people which we admire or like.
Contrary, we experience negative emotions when we go against this group of people.
Consequently, the more a person identifies with a particular grouping, the more power these
people have to influence that individual (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 124-128). Furthermore, it has been
suggested (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 124) that the bigger the group of people, the harder it is for an
individual not to conform.
As mentioned above in the chapter on social media, these platforms may encourage people into
conformity by their nature. By providing the users with an enormous range of different groups and
encouraging people to express their opinions by joining groups whose cause they support, social
networks like Facebook provide a lot of pressure to conform. Basically, there are two different
ways to which Facebook groups encourage users to conform. Either the individual see his/her
friends or admired acquaintances joining a particular group or the individual may see that millions
of people have joined a specific group. Consequently, the individual may come to the conclusion
that if so many people support this product or position, then maybe it is the right thing to do.
Cialdini (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 132) called this “Social proof” and positioned that people see an act
as more appropriate if other people are doing it. Additionally, people will use observations to act
in accord with social evidence as an attempt to make fewer mistakes in life and thus avoid the
unpleasant feeling of failure.
This strategy also resembles the strategy of Altercasting from the Marwell and Schmitt Taxonomy
(Reardon, 1991: 119). By their account, it can be persuasive for a target to be told that a person
with “good” qualities would accept this message as true or comply with a particular request. Thus,
wanting to be perceived as a person with “good” qualities and thereby fit in with societal
expectations, the target is persuaded. This may also be one way for employer branding to employ
this strategy. The communication might state that a lot of smart people or even the brightest of
the industry work in the organization in question and thereby insinuate that if the target believes
him/her-self to be an intelligent person or wishes to become one of the best, he/she should join
the company.
5.3.6 Contrast
Sales personnel have used the contrast principle in a variety of ways in order to increase profits.
The base line of this principle is that most things are relative like beauty, quality or a good bargain
(Mills, 2000: 223).
In order to judge the value of a proposition or a product, you need a benchmark to base your
decision on. This benchmark is often fashioned by the skilful seller or persuader in such a way that
his/her position is promoted. For instance, a real estate agent may show the buyers a real wreck of
a house first before showing them another home in a better condition. The second house may also
have some flaws and need repairs down the road but it still looks great in comparison to the first
house (Mills, 2000: 229).
In relation to employer branding and employee interviews, the communication will employ the
strategy of Contrast when the company in question is compared with other organizations. The
comparison will make the sender look more attractive and emphasize what should be considered
as important strengths and advantages. Often, interviewed employees will explain how they have
worked with other companies, but that their current employer provides a much more supportive
environment or an abundance of benefits.
5.3.7 Similarity
If the communicator is similar in some way to his/her target, then the target will be more likely to
listen and accept the position of the persuader. This strategy leans more towards a peripheral cue,
because the persuadee makes a decision based on what he/she sees and senses about the
speaker. Especially in areas like business, on social issues and for health problems this strategy has
proven successful (Perloff, 2003: 169). The reason why similarity works is that it induces positive
affect and promotes favourable cognitive responses. In other words, if we see similarities between
ourselves and a speaker, we are prone to liking this person and a likeable person makes us feel
good. This positive emotion then gets transferred to the message because we are in a good mood.
Consequently, we easily access positive thoughts about the product or proposition of the
persuader. Furthermore, if we like a speaker, we are more likely to see that he/she has our best
interest at heart, which communicates goodwill (Perloff, 2003: 168). An additional reason why
Similarity is effective is that people tend to infer that if someone similar to them endorses a
particular position then it is likely that accepting this suggestion will also work well for the
persuadee.
The situations where Similarity is particularly effective is when the comparable characteristics of
the two parties of the communication are relevant to the message. For instance, if the message of
a piece of employer branding communication was to emphasize the diversity of the company, it
would be relevant to the persuadee to see a lot of different ethnicities in a video and hopefully see
someone matching the background of the target.
The use of a diverse group of speakers would be a way for employer branding to employ the
strategy of Similarity. Alternatively, it can be an advantage to the communicator to dress in a
similar fashion to the target. Some businesses find that much too formal attire may scare off
clients and customers whereas a more casual dress code can lead to better communication. In all,
we may conclude that assuming that the communicators of employer branding are aware of what
they wear, we may deduct the target audience of each individual company by what the
interviewees wear on screen. If businesses dress according to their clients they may also very well
dress according to the potential candidates that they wish to attract (Perloff, 2003: 170).
The strategy of Similarity will be registered in the following analysis of the empirical data when
three or more different ethnicities are used as communicators of the message. It would be
reasonable to conclude that the intentional use of a diverse group of speakers is an attempt to
reach as broad an audience as possible and hopefully appeal to the potential candidates through
Similarity by showing them someone familiar.
Finally, it will be reasonable to conclude that the strategy of Similarity will be effective within
employer branding because research (Perloff, 2003: 169) suggests that the tactic is more effective
when people are making a personal or emotional decision. An act like getting a new job is
definitely a personal decision which has a great impact on the life of the persuadee. So, by
communicating to the target that the speaker is just like him/her, a bond of familiarity is created
and will facilitate persuasion.
5.3.8 Ingratiation
The strategy of Ingratiation entails that the persuader will compliment the target before stating
his/her request for compliance. The compliment may range from a subtle remark and non-verbal
positive reinforcement to more explicit formulations that can be characterized as brown-nosing
when the persuader flatters in excess. With this strategy, it is less explicit to the target what the
persuader wants and some may characterize Ingratiation as a form of manipulation (SchenckHamlin & Wiseman, 1981: 257). Nevertheless, Ingratiation works best when the persuader’s
ulterior motives remain concealed. The more transparent attempts of flattery are less successful in
making the target comply (Gass & Seiter, 2006:291).
The reason why Ingratiation can be rather effective is first of all because it tends to increase liking.
As mentioned above in the chapter on Similarity, a likeable person makes us feel good, and when
in a good mood, people tend to transfer these positive emotions to the message of the persuader
and thereby they become more likely to accept the message. Second of all, Ingratiation can create
perceptions of Similarity (see chapter above). Finally, this strategy can work through social
labelling, meaning that if a speaker compliments his target for looking particularly happy one day,
then the target is likely to live up to that label for the day (Gass & Seiter, 2006: 292).
Should Ingratiation be used in employer branding, the persuader would probably compliment the
target for choosing to look into the different opportunities in the corporate world. Another
example could be if the persuader subtlety insinuated that he/she believes the target to be an
intelligent person; “As a well educated person, I am sure that you will thrive in our organization”.
5.3.9 Threat
Persuaders use Threat when they explain to the target how their choice will have a series of
negative consequences if they do not comply. When threatening, the punishment is in the power
of the persuader and is often associated with firing, violence or breaking off a relation of some
sort.
In cases of Threat, persuaders may play on fear which can be very motivating to people. Fear is
“an internal emotional reaction which is composed of psychological and physiological dimensions
that may be aroused when a serious and personally relevant threat is perceived” (Perloff, 2003:
187). Thus, the threat needs to be personally relevant to the target in order to achieve the most
effective result. However, compliance gained through the use of threats or fear appeals tend to be
short-lived and will most likely never be fully accepted by the target.
If the strategy of Threat should be used in employer branding, the company would suggest to the
target of the communication that it would have negative consequences if he/she did not apply for
a position with the organization. These consequences could be no opportunities for advancement
or job insecurity due to bad economy (whereas development and job security can be supplied by
the sender). But since we are dealing with mass persuasion in this thesis, the persuader will have
no way of knowing the job position of each individual viewer of the video content. Therefore, it is
unlikely that the strategy of Threat will be used in any of the cases in this thesis since it will impact
negatively on the attempt to form a positive opinion about the company in question. Furthermore,
it is unlikely that the sender of the employer branding communication will have any power to
punish the potential candidates if they do not apply for a position.
5.3.10 Authority
One of the most famous experiments, when it comes to the influence of authority, is “The
Eichmann Experiment” conducted by Milgram from 1960 to 1963 (Perloff, 2003: 153), (Mills, 2000:
246-248). The experiment indicated that a laboratory location and a man dressed in a lab coat
could make people “electrocute” a stranger due to an authoritarian feel of the situation. The
target of the experiment did not dare to go against the order of the lab coat authority. The reason
why an authority can have such a strong influence on us is partly due to early socialization (Perloff,
2003: 155). It is in our childhood that we learn to obey authorities and get rewarded for doing so.
In our upbringing we learn to value obedience and trust authoritarian figures, which is why people
tend to follow authorities. Furthermore, Perloff (2003: 155) refers to Trappings of authority as
another reason for our sometimes blind obedience. These trappings include various contextual
aspects like the status of the location, convincing props in the situation, clothing and gender of the
speaker. All of these aspects contribute to the aura of legitimacy of the situation. Additionally,
there are some psychologically binding forces (Perloff, 2003: 155-156) which make people comply
because they doubt themselves or believe that they lack knowledge or expertise on the subject.
This may help communicators in employer branding convince its targets that some of the benefits
mentioned in the material is quite important and maybe not something that is available with other
organizations. It is possible that the target will think that he/she has not worked with a lot of
different companies and therefore does not know what to appreciate. Consequently, the target
will believe the speaker when he states that a great 401 K retirement policy is not something to
take for granted. Furthermore, a person of authority also has the ability to dispense rewards and
punishments which may attract potential candidates if a person in a leading position promises
quick opportunities for advancement.
Mills (2000: 249) refers to a phenomenon called “the power of pinstripe”, which explains how
people tend to follow or copy the behaviour of persons dressed in business attire. In an
experiment, a man crossed the street when the lights were red. When he wore a suit, three-and-ahalf times as many people followed him as when he wore jeans and a t-shirt. This relates to
employer branding as it suggests that having people dressed in business suit and tie in the
communication material will most likely have a persuasive effect on the audience. When seeing a
man or a woman dressed in a suit or have a managerial title, it may induce people to think that
this person has substantial power and success and that they should follow his lead if they want to
achieve the same goals.
In the analysis of the empirical data of this thesis, the use of Authority will be registered when Vice
Presidents or CEOs are interviewed or when the interviewees are dressed in a suit and tie.
5.3.11 Direct request
The persuader will simply ask the target to comply when using this strategy. Whether a target will
comply or not often depends on the rationale of the request but in this case, the rationale is not
revealed by the persuader. On the contrary, the target must figure out for him/her-self why they
should comply with the request or accept the proposed position.
In some cases, the message of the persuader is fashioned as to offer as little influence as possible
leaving the target with the maximum latitude of choice. In the opposite end of the scale, this
strategy may also be used as a more demanding form of persuasion, not giving the target a choice
or a reason why. The persuader may simply state that: “I want you to do this”. Some may then
argue that it is not much of a request anymore.
Instances where this type of strategy is used in employer branding could be in the end of a
message or a commercial where the sender states; “Visit our website”. Thereby, it is merely
suggested to the target that he/she might do that without any further explanation as to why the
target should access the website.
5.3.12 Credibility – Expertise
There are different suggestions to what makes a speaker credible, but most researchers have
agreed that expertise, trustworthiness and goodwill are important characteristics if a
communicator wants to appear credible. Perloff (2003) defines a credible communicator as “one
who is seen as an expert, regarded as trustworthy and displays goodwill toward audience
members” (Perloff, 2003: 160).
The strategy of using persuader credibility as a reason why audience members should comply, is
here divided into two separate strategies; Expertise and Goodwill. The reason why Trustworthiness
(the third component of what constitutes a credible person) is not included as a strategy is that it
often revolves around a personal feeling. Whether a person finds a speaker credible or not is
extremely subjective and therefore difficult to define and consequently identify in the empirical
data. This is the same reason why Physical attractiveness was excluded from this taxonomy of
persuasion strategies. For now, the focus will be on the expertise of the speaker.
Communicators can be regarded as experts when they are believed to have special skills or knowhow on a particular subject. In relation to employer branding, expertise could be the reason why
staff-member interviews are used to recruit new candidates. Potential employees may quickly
infer that who to know better about working for a particular company than the current employees
and thus regard the speakers as credible or, at least, experts on the subject (Perloff, 2003: 160).
Credibility- Expertise will be registered in the analysis when the persuadee is informed about the
job position of the speaker or the length of his/her employment. Furthermore, the registration of
this strategy will be triggered when the communicator addresses the subject of superiority and
speaks about how the company in question is at the head of the industry.
5.3.13 Credibility - Goodwill
Another important factor that communicators should strive to gain is goodwill. Goodwill is
considered as perceived caring and the communicator should convey that he/she has the target’s
interests at heart. Persuaders who can show people that they care are likely to gain their trust and
inspire them to act. In the case of the video material analyzed in this thesis, the speakers may gain
goodwill when addressing the target directly or expressing statements like; “There is definitely a
place for you here” (Perloff, 2003: 161).
When people feel that someone cares about them and they are given that amount of attention,
then they often feel more trusting and safe. These positive feelings will easily transform into a
positive attitude towards the speaker of the communication. When the audience members like
the speaker they are more prone to listening and may even transfer their positive attitudes to the
message, meaning that they will be more likely to like the message and consequently accept it as
true. But in order for this to happen, the speaker needs to be likable. This is achieved by, for
instance, appearing to give people good advice regarding their career. In these cases, the speakers
will act like they are not promoting the company in question, but rather they only want to help the
audience members. These are cases that will trigger the registration of Goodwill.
5.3.14 Explanation – reference to value system
When using any strategy of Explanation, it entails that the persuader will reveal a rationale that
controls the response of the target (Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman, 1981: 257). In other words, the
persuader will present one or more reasons why the target should comply and depending on
whether or not these reasons are accepted as true by the target, he/she will comply. However,
there are different types of explanations as will be revealed in this chapter. An explanation as to
why a person should accept a message as true can be based on a reference to a value system or it
can be based on a logical inference from empirical evidence as shall be presented in the following
chapter.
This strategy can prove very effective when the values referred to in the argumentation match the
value system of the target. In a sense, this strategy works a bit like Similarity, as the target will
recognize something of him/her-self in the persuader and thus form a kinship that will facilitate
persuasion. However, whereas Similarity refers to the exterior and personal background of the
speaker, Explanation – reference to value system refers to the arguments used in the
communication when these are based on values.
In relation to employer branding, the strategy of Explanation – reference to value system is
exemplified when the persuader informs about the CSR activities of the company or when the
target is informed about what a great work-life-balance the company in question provides. Most
potential candidates are likely to appreciate that their employer is not just a corporate machine
but instead cares about people and the environment in which they do their business activities as
mentioned in the chapter on employer branding. The employee of today is only satisfied in his/her
work when he/she feels engaged and when the mission of the company is something meaningful
to the employee (Rosethorn, 2009: 36-37).
5.3.15 Explanation – inference from empirical evidence
As mentioned in the chapter above (Explanation – reference to value system), this strategy also
renders itself effective by proposing a rationale as to why the target should accept the message as
true or comply to a request. In this case, the explanation will be based on empirical evidence and
often the persuader will present a logical conclusion from this evidence. Thus the persuader will
argue that his message should be accepted as true because the evidence states so. The evidence
and reasoning used in connection with this strategy will often be numbers, statistics or other facts
that are difficult to dispute.
In the case of employer branding, communicators may use this strategy when stating how many
employees the company has or how many branches the organization includes in order to explain
why this employer in particular is a stabile organization or that they have a diverse work force.
Furthermore, as the empirical data of this thesis is selected from Fortune’s list of the 100 best
places to work, it is not unlikely that the companies will use the mentioning of awards or
nominations as arguments as to why their organization is in fact a great place to work and thus
attempting to persuade potential candidates to apply for a job. However, the registration of this
strategy will also be triggered with more general explanations. In fact, when a rationale is
presented as an explanation as to why the audience members should comply, it will be a case of
Inference from Empirical Evidence, unless it includes a reference to a set of values like engaging in
community work. An example of a general explanation could be; “For more information please
visit our website”. Here the audience is presented with a request and explained why they ought to
comply. This could be characterized as undisputable facts since the audience members cannot
avoid finding more information if they visit the website.
5.3.16 Altruism
The strategy of Altruism focuses on communicating that the requested behaviour will benefit the
persuader and not the persuadee (Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman, 1981: 257). This strategy often
involves the persuader asking the target for help. In order to increase the likelihood of compliance,
the message may be fashioned in a way to make the target feel unselfish, generous, selfsacrificing, heroic or helpful. This strategy often attempts to make the target feel good about
himself but is different from the strategy of Esteem because the target does not get anything out
of complying.
Communicators employing this strategy often attempt to gain sympathy by emphasizing that
he/she is in dire need of help or focus on empathy and make the target put him/her-self in the
position of the persuader. In all, the persuader will request the target to comply for the sake of the
persuader (Schenck-Hamlin & Wiseman, 1981: 257).
6. Analytical approach
In the following analysis, the approach developed by Feng and Wignell (2011) is adopted as a
supplementary means to analysis. Feng and Wignell do not deal with registering persuasion
strategies but they do analyze TV advertisements which are closely related to the video segments
of employer branding which constitute the empirical data of this thesis.
According to Feng and Wignell (2011: 3), advertisements have become a hybridized discourse as
communicators are trying to disguise the commercial nature of adverts and move away from the
propaganda-like appearance. Now, advertisements draw on styles from all kinds of discourse types
as for instance science, education etc. Furthermore, different voices (experts, children and
celebrities) are used to imitate other discourses than advertising. It is these ‘voices’ and their use
as appraisal tools that is investigated by Feng and Wignell (2011: 3). Additionally, they research
how social practices are recontextualized in advertising and take a multimodal approach as they
take the visual resources into consideration when analysing.
The reason why this analytical approach is suitable to adopt for the purpose of this thesis –
besides the similarities in target material – is that Feng and Wignell (2011: 4) are concerned with
what they call the ‘narrative stage’ of the advertisements. The narrative stage is where a story is
told and then made relevant to the product or service and this is also the nature of the majority of
the empirical data up for analysis in this thesis.
In their article, Feng and Wignell (2011: 5) identify two different voices in regard to TV
advertisements. The first one is ‘character voice’ which is defined as utterances and nonverbal
behaviour of participants who play the role of a character in the advert. The second voice is the
‘discursive voice’ which is understood as the social practice that is rendered in the advert. A social
practice could be to go see a doctor or any other action that has a socially accepted formula (Feng
& Wignell, 2011: 6). The character voice in advertisements is used to construct the two following
propositions; 1) The character believes that the product is effective (attribution) and 2) This belief
together with other evidence demonstrates to the viewer that the product is effective
(endorsement). Relating this to employer branding, an interviewed employee may construct
attribution to a given company by stating that it is a great place to work. Then by explaining why
the company is a great place to work by for instance mentioning benefits and rewards, the
interviewee endorses the company.
Feng and Wignell (2011) conducted their research on 21 Chinese Colgate TV advertisements and
sought to examine how the characters in the adverts expressed their belief and pro attitude
through multimodal resources, meaning that they looked at both what was said but also facial
expressions and gestures. In connection with this examination, they also uncovered what features
and statements enhanced the persuasiveness of the advertisement. Had they been attempting to
register the use of persuasion strategies it would easily have been implemented as part of the
analysis. Therefore, the analytical approach of Feng and Wignell (2011) will be adopted in the
analysis of the empirical data pertaining to this thesis. However, the focus will not be on the
identification of voices but rather on the identification of persuasion strategies.
In their analytical approach, Feng and Wignell (2011: 9-10) start out by describing the outline of
the advertisement and emphasize what is the content of the different shots. From this, they then
explain how most advertisements are built around the same formula of having an intertextual
voice express a personal desire followed by a preference (the product). Then typically, the voice or
character will justify his/her preference by stating all the positive qualities of the product. As the
focus of the research by Feng and Wignell is the intertextual voices, they scrutinize the
identification of the source of voice. They describe how the voice is constructed through actions
and attributes and thus made possible for the viewer to identify.
Furthermore, Feng and Wignell (2011) look at the character endorsement and how it is
constructed by the means of gestures, linguistics, facial expressions or other visuals. A smile or
energetic movements of the character can be a great supportive tool for emphasizing the
endorsement. From the visuals, it is also possible to decode the social distance between the
character and the viewer; whether they are equals or the viewer is encouraged to look up to the
character. The social distance is constructed through camera angles and whether the character is
filmed at eye level or slightly below. Eye contact with the viewer may also be used as a tool for
engaging the viewer by assigning him/her a role and thus increasing involvement and improving
the persuasive power.
The study of Feng and Wignell (2011: 22) concludes that TV advertisements are filled with
intertextual voices and that they interact with the advertised message in complex ways to
enhance the adverts’ persuasive power. In particular, the research developed by Feng and Wignell
(2011) proves that the visuals of video segments can have a great supportive function to the ‘text’
of the communication.
The registration of persuasion strategies, in the transcriptions, will be conducted by identifying the
strategies, underlining the statement that constitutes the strategy and marking the strategy with a
‘stamp’. This stamp will consist of a little red box which identifies the strategy. With the exception
of the two exemplary analyses which are included in chapter seven, the full transcriptions
including the identification of persuasion strategies are only available in the appendices.
7. Analysis
7.1 Analysis of video 1A: Qualcomm (website)
“MIKE: Program Director, Qualcomm Labs” (1.39)
shot
1
Speech
[music]
Crisp, clean cut tones of a keyboard. The instrumental piece
plays throughout the video but only as background music
when people are talking.
2
3
Exp. + Auth.
4
Mike (White male in his 40s): “There’s no question that
wireless immobility and being able to be connected to
the broader world, it just represents a huge opportunity
right now.
My name is Mike and I’m a senior director at Qualcomm
and I’d like to think of myself as a corporate
entrepreneur within Qualcomm labs.
Pictures
Qualcomm logo appears on a
twinkling background of purple
and golden colours.
A man is sitting in his modern
office, working on two cell
phones.
Momentarily change in camera
style: old fashion and flimmering.
Close up of Mike with his name
and position written besides his
face.
Qualcomm is really just a super exciting, innovative place The camera moves over an office
environment where people of
to be and there’s kind of a.. eh.. I’d call it a quiet
multiple ethnicities work on high Similarity
confidence here about everything it is that we do.
tech computers.
Everyday there’s a new opportunity to go out and put
forth an idea or work with smart people about ways to
innovate in ways that haven’t even been contemplated
before.
Pictures from a testing facility
where a cell phone is strapped
onto a dummy.
6
There’s all kinds of great ideas that come from a
company this large and those ideas can really come from
anywhere.
7
If there’s really something that might be special there
and when you put together a business plan around it and
it comes into Qualcomm lab, it’s in a place where we can
actually create the product and take it to the market
place.
The camera is outside the
building, filming the company
logo in front of a clear sky and a
shining sun. A tree is in the
background with bright green
leaves.
Mike is in his office with a huge
window and view in the
background. He is talking to a
person next to the camera and
almost has eye contact with the
viewer.
8
Basketball fuels my energy, my exercise, my competitive
nature, and it really is a great outlet for that.
What’s really interesting here is that the company does
understand that the employees do have lives and
5
Conformity
Ref. value
Mike plays basketball in an
outside yard with a young boy.
Mike scores.
families.
9
Conformity
Altruism
There are a lot of really talented and smart people here.
And the company needs people with that innovative,
entrepreneurial spirit to run with these new ideas. We’re
entering, really, a golden era of wireless and it just looks
like such an exciting future and such a great road ahead
for this company”.
Mike is in his office again,
speaking to the person next to
the camera.
Pictures of Mike working on his
cell phone again as in the opening
scene.
Mike is standing in his office and
looks directly into the camera,
smiling.
10
Direct
[Music becomes louder]
[written: Hear from other employees at
Qualcomm.com/careers]
Qualcomm logo appears on a
twinkling background of purple
and golden colours.
The main character in video 1A is Mike from Qualcomm. The structure of the video is as follows.
The first shot presents the sender of the message by showing the emblem (the company name). In
the second shot of the video, a personal desire of Mike’s is expressed as he indicates that he
believes it important to be part of the wireless community. Mike even makes it a fact by stating
that “there’s no question about it”. This certainty helps make him seem more authoritarian. In the
third shot, Mike states his preference as an answer to fulfilling his personal desire from the second
shot. Working at Qualcomm is the solution to fulfilling the personal desire of Mike’s. Thus there is
a cause-relation between shot two and three. Almost all of the remaining shots of the video (Shots
4-9) are used to present the justification for his preference (working at Qualcomm) and using
several persuasion strategies in the process. Visuals are also used to compliment and empower
the statements. For instance, Mike smiles at the camera in the second and third shot which
symbolizes his positive attitude towards his preference (Qualcomm). When facial expressions and
gestures that match the audio-linguistic expression are used, it multiplies the meaning of the
message (Feng & Wignell, 2011:9). In other words, the words of the video become much more
effective when supported by the visuals. So when Mike encodes his positive attitude by using the
expression “super exciting” (shot four), it becomes a more powerful statement if the audience can
decode the sincerity and truthfulness of the speaker. This can happen when the speaker is
portrayed smiling or gesturing excitedly.
The source of the voice speaking in this video clip is easily identified by the audience as both the
images and the caption on screen inform about Mike’s identity and show that he is the one
talking. The visual identification of the voice source makes it more dramatic and consequently
increases persuasiveness (Feng & Wignell, 2011:9). In the third shot, Mike identifies himself as a
senior director at Qualcomm and this identity is represented by Mike sitting in a modern office.
From the view in the background, the audience can also infer that Mike is sitting on one of the
higher floors in the building which also adds authority to his person as it indicates that he is a
person of status and power. His action of sitting behind a desk along with the attribute of his outfit
is part of what constructs his identity as a senior director. This identification of Mike as the senior
director also constitutes the two first persuasion strategies employed in this video. As mentioned
above in the chapters on the individual strategies, the explicitness of job positions triggers the
strategy of Credibility- Expertise because a position within the company makes the interviewee an
expert on the subject which consequently makes the speaker more credible. The construction of
his identity as a Qualcomm employee also adds credibility to his character. The fact that he is
filmed sitting in his office, working on the phone makes it easier for the audience to believe that
he is a Qualcomm employee and that he knows what he is talking about. Thus, the location of the
shots, the props put in the office are all used to construct a reconstruction of reality (a narrative)
which makes it easier for the audience to trust the speaker and accept the message as true.
However, a second strategy is triggered by the mentioning of Mike’s job position, namely
Authority. Because Mike is in a managerial position (senior director) he possesses some degree of
power which adds authority to his person. As mentioned above, the visuals also support this
strategy by showing his office and its location on one of the top floors of the building. The fact that
he is a figure of authority will improve the likelihood of the audience listening to the message. The
Eichmann Experiment mentioned in chapter 5.3.11 was a great example of how the right location
and circumstanced can motivate people to listen more carefully and comply with the given
request. Although Mike does not explicitly tell the audience to come and work for Qualcomm, he
still suggests that such an employment will fulfil the need for being part of the wireless
community. Given his managerial position as senior director, the audience is likely to infer that
acting like Mike (being employed by Qualcomm) will lead to a high position. Consequently, they
may try to copy Mike’s behaviour in order to achieve professional success.
The shots where Mike is interviewed are filmed at an eye-level angle which indicates characterviewer equality and invites the viewer to identify with the character. This technique fits well with
the purpose of employer branding where the sender is attempting to communicate that the
audience should consider themselves as potential candidates for the company in question. By
insinuating that Mike, the senior director, is an equal to the audience and perhaps just like them,
the company becomes more approachable and it can increase the likelihood of obtaining more
applications. As an additional feature of the interview shots, Mike does not look directly at the
camera but rather it seems like he is talking to someone standing slightly next to the camera, offscreen. This lack of a direct eye contact serves to convince the audience members that this
narrative is objective facts. The audience members will be more inclined to accept the
communicated message as true when they are presented with an authentic reconstruction of
reality.
In the fourth shot, the visuals constitute the application of yet another persuasion strategy,
namely Similarity. The Similarity strategy is constructed as the camera moves over an office
environment and a research centre where employees of various ethnicities are seen working,
unaware of the presence of the camera. In the shots are employees of African American, Asian,
Arab and Caucasian descent. By showing multiple ethnicities, the sender of the message is
communicating that they value diversity and at the same time, they hope that individuals in the
audience will recognize themselves in the employees. If a persuadee sees something familiar or
believes the sender to be similar to him/herself, then he/she becomes more inclined to listening
and accepting the communicated message as true. This strategy is used by the sender to reach as
wide an audience as possible and thereby increase the number of applications thus fulfilling the
purpose of employer branding. However, a mere increase in applicants does not equal a successful
employer branding strategy. The applicants attracted also need to be qualified and possess the
skills sought by the company. This is achieved by interviewing a leader and by communicating that
people who work at Qualcomm are smart and innovative. These tactics indicate to the audience
what kind of employees the company is looking for.
In shot five of the video, the character uses tonal emphasis on the word “everyday” in order to
reinforce his endorsement of the product. Additionally, in that shot, the persuasion strategy of
Conformity is employed. The strategy is constructed as Mike explains how there is an opportunity
to work with “smart people” at Qualcomm. At this point, the character points out that people who
work at Qualcomm are intelligent. So, the sender insinuates that if the persuadee considers
him/herself as an intelligent human being then he/she ought to work at Qualcomm. Consequently,
audience members who want to be considered as intelligent persons may feel inclined to apply for
a job. Additionally, there is a need to belong that is satisfied by being a co-worker and categorized
as one of the smart people. The fact that it is a very favourable group to be associated with only
adds to the persuasiveness of this strategy.
In shot eight, the character expresses another personal desire; to have the time to play basketball.
Once again, the product (Qualcomm) is the solution to his problem and Mike expresses his
personal preference of Qualcomm. The sender of the communication uses a reference to a value
system as an explanation as to why the product (Qualcomm) fulfils the personal desire. By
communicating that the company is understanding when it comes to the personal lives of the
employees, the sender focuses on a topic not directly related to the social understanding of the
employer/employee relationship. But as was mentioned in chapter 3 on employer branding,
today, it is no longer sufficient for a job to put food on the table for the employees. It has become
increasingly important for the workforce to understand and to be proud of its employer and at the
same time to feel appreciated. The focus on values unrelated to the professional life will make the
sender appear more human, caring and consequently more attractive to potential candidates.
Playing basketball is a social practice which is normally not associated with advertising but here it
is recontextualized as a way of avoiding direct propaganda and instead relating to the viewers by
showing them something they recognize. Using the social practice of basketball as a narrative is
effective in persuasion because it is constructed as a faithful representation of reality (Feng &
Wignell, 2011: 14).
The ninth shot of video 1A is characterized by the continuation of the character justifying his
preference stated in the third shot. In connection with the justification, Mike employs the
persuasion strategy of Conformity again. This strategy is constructed in a similar fashion to its
previous employment; Mike states that “really talented and smart people” work at Qualcomm. So
once again, the audience members are encouraged to infer that if smart people work at
Qualcomm and if I consider myself as a smart person, then I ought to work at Qualcomm.
Furthermore, an additional strategy is used in shot nine; Altruism. As Mike states that “the
company needs people with that innovative, entrepreneurial spirit”, he basically says that they
need the audience members to comply for the sake of the company. As explained in chapter
5.3.16, communicators may try to increase the likelihood of compliance by making the target feel
unselfish, helpful or generous. In this case, the audience members know that this message is
directed at them and therefore they may deduct that it is them who are here being described as
innovative and entrepreneurial workers. Thus, they are implicitly complimented and it almost
borders on Ingratiation. Nevertheless, it is possible that the hidden compliment will make the
audience more inclined to comply. The visuals of the ninth shot support the statements of the
character well. When Mike talks about entering a golden era of wireless, the visuals show him
sitting at his desk working on his cell phone. Additionally, the last shot of Mike, looking straight at
the camera, smiling, is an implicit construction of his endorsement of the product advertised;
Qualcomm.
Finally, in the last shot, there is an example of a Direct Request as the sender states; “Hear from
other employees at Qualcomm.com/careers”. The sender of the message provides no explanation
as to why the audience members should visit the company website and hear additional employee
statements. Rather, it is up to the individual to figure out that they should do so if the company
has caught their interest and if they want to know more. This is really the only request delivered in
this video and depending on whether or not the audience members agree with the justification of
preference presented in the message, they may comply and proceed to find out more about how
to get hired by Qualcomm.
In this video, the character’s endorsement of the product (Qualcomm) is constructed with
resources of language, intonation and facial expressions. Furthermore, the endorsement is
reinforced with the support of the visuals and several persuasion strategies are employed in the
process of attracting more qualified candidates.
7.2 Analysis of video 1B: Qualcomm (Facebook)
“Meet Justin – Qualcomm Software Engineer, Multimedia” (1.45)
Shot
1
Speech
Pictures
[Swaying music that slowly builds in speed and Qualcomm logo appears on a twinkling
includes a drum beat]
background of purple and golden
colours.
2
Justin (Asian male in his 20s): “It’s exhilarating Justin is in a testing facility.
being on the front end of technology rather A computer arm holds an unfinished
than dragging behind.
cell phone to the ear of a dummy.
3
My name is Justin and I’m an engineer at
Qualcomm. I’m from the University of Illinois
where I studied computer science, and I’m on
the APT multimedia team. Our team does stuff
like camera testing, cam-corder testing, display
testing, 3D graphics and it’s really cool.
Expertise
Momentarily change in camera style:
old fashion and flimmering. Vague
colours.
Close up of Justin with his name and
position written on the screen.
Justin has eye contact with the camera,
standing in the testing facility, smiling.
Justin works on a computer with a coworker, talking and smiling.
Images flash by, matching the beat of
the music.
Justin is sitting in the testing facility,
talking to a person next to the camera.
Pictures of computer screens and
Justin wearing head phones.
More shots of Justin smiling at the
camera.
4
From day one I was expected to pick up a new
language. It was something that I had sort of
seen before in school but it wasn’t something
that we had heavily focused on. It’s a matter of
taking all of the principles that you’ve learned
from previous coding projects and other
languages that you’ve worked with and apply
them to a new language and anew project.
5
UTQ is great. It stands for “University to Justin speaking to the person next to
Qualcomm” first of all. So there’s a group the camera.
specifically for that transition between
university and Qualcomm.
Reward: Prof
6
Reward: Pers
There’s a Q-life and, you know, they put on Q- Justin is sitting on the grass with coSOL which is “Qualcomm Summer On the Line”, workers outside the facility. Blue sky,
the sun is shining. Hundred employees
are walking around outside, eating and
Reward: Pers
7
Ref. value
Esteem
8
Direct
talking in camping chairs.
and they get all these vendors from all across Tents are put up outside. Booths with
San Diego and Qualcomm bands. So these are retail goods and a band is playing.
bands made up of employees and they kind of
get to showcase them on this three or four
times-a-year event.
People talk about the people here, you know,
and it’s all about the culture here and it really
is. No one was giving me a hard time ‘cause
I’m the new guy. All of them were helpful in
figuring out how to transform my skills into
something that is actually tangible and that
will help them.
When you see the next 4GLTE phone or
whatever is next, you know, I worked on that
and that’s really cool”.
Justin is working in the testing facility
with the dummy. A co-worker stands
next to him in front of a computer
monitor.
More shots of Justin smiling to the
camera.
[Music becomes louder]
[written: Hear from other employees at
Qualcomm.com/careers]
Qualcomm logo appears on a twinkling
background of purple and golden
colours.
Justin is talking to the person next to
the camera.
The main character of video 1B is Justin who works at Qualcomm. The structure of this video
closely resembles the structure of video 1A, but that was to be expected as they are from the
same sender; Qualcomm. Like in the previous video, the first shot is used to present the sender of
the message by displaying the emblem (the company name). Looking at all of the videos in the
empirical data, this introduction appears to be the favourable choice within employer branding
communication. Rarely do the senders jump right to the employee interview.
In the second shot, the character Justin presents his personal desire which is to be at the front end
of technology. Then in the third shot, Justin states his personal preference as the solution to his
desire. This creates a cause relation between shot two and three where the desire in shot two
causes him to choose what is in shot three. Shots four to seven is characterized as being the
justification of Justin’s preference. In other words, they explain why the product (Qualcomm) is
the best solution to his desire (being at the front end of technology). The last shot functions as an
ending presenting the sender, again by showing the emblem (the company name).
The visuals of this video are used to support and empower the justification of the personal
preference. For instance, there are several clips in this video of Justin looking straight at the
camera, smiling. His smile is a way of expressing his endorsement of the product. He thereby
shows that he fully believes in the arguments that he presents. Furthermore, more than once in
video 1B, the images visualize what Justin is talking about. For instance, in shot three, Justin
explains what it is that his team does at Qualcomm and the visuals represent that by showing
images from the testing facility. Additionally, in shot six, the images are synchronized to show
exactly what Justin is talking about the moment he says it. So when he says “vendors from all
across San Diego” the audience sees the line of booths. And when Justin says “Qualcomm bands”,
this is what the visuals show.
The shots where Justin is interviewed, he talks to a person standing next to the camera off-screen,
meaning that he does not have eye contact with the viewer at this point. The lack of eye contact is
a technique used to make these sequences seem like narratives. As mentioned in the previous
analysis, a narrative can be used to make the statements appear as objective facts to the audience
and thus avoiding the appearance of advertising. Believing that they get a glimpse of reality at
Qualcomm makes it easier for the audience members to accept the message as true. These
interview shots are also made from an eye level angle which creates a character-viewer relation of
equality, as mentioned in the previous example. This is done so in order to encourage the
audience members to identify with Justin and let them know that they could achieve the same
professional experience as him. However, this video also includes shots of Justin where he is
standing, looking right at the camera and smiles. These shots are taken from an angle slightly
below eye level and according to Feng and Wignell (2011: 11) this camera angle is used to create
character power and provoke the audience members to evaluate the status of the character. This
is a way to engage the audience and may result in slight adoration of the character. In the case of
Justin, he is not in a position of particular power at the company. Justin will not be the one to
decide who will get hired by the company, meaning that he does not have any particular power
over the audience members either. Rather, it is reasonable to assume that the lower camera angle
is used in this video to make the audience admire the professional success of Justin who is still
quite young. If the audience members admire Justin they may want to be like him and are thus
motivated to copy his behaviour (being employed by Qualcomm) in order to achieve their goal.
The only voice in this video is Justin, but the identification of him as the source of voice is not
apparent until the third shot. The audience members hear his voice before they are able to
identify the person behind it as the second shot (the first time we hear Justin) includes two people
and it is not obvious who is speaking. Only in the third shot it is made apparent who is the source
of voice as we see a close up of Justin while the voice states; “My name is Justin”.
Justin identifies himself as an engineer at Qualcomm and this identity is visually constructed in the
caption on-screen which states his name and job position. Furthermore, he explains what it is that
he does at Qualcomm and the technically detailed description in shot three is supportive in
verifying his identity as an engineer. Additionally, the visuals show Justin working in a testing
facility filled with computers and the attributes of the location also adds credibility and
authenticity to Justin’s identity. His action of entering data into a computer is yet another way of
constructing his identity and achieving that reconstruction of reality that the audience members
are going to believe in. his actions in the testing facility also supports his statement about what it
is that he does and thus adds authenticity and credibility. The identification of Justin as an
engineer at Qualcomm, also constitutes the first persuasion strategy employed in this video;
Credibility - Expertise. As was also mentioned in the first exemplary analysis, the audience
members are more inclined to believe the statements of the character if they believe that he/she
knows what they are talking about. By being an employee at the company, the character indicates
that he has firsthand experience and is therefore a reliable source. This is of course what the
company wants to portrait. But considering company loyalty and the fact that this is a staged
production of marketing communication, the statements are most likely not completely without
influence from the company.
In the fifth shot, which is part of Justin’s justification of his preference, he mentions UTQ
(University to Qualcomm) which he praises and categorizes as a benefit or reward to grad students
who want to work at Qualcomm. This is a case of the persuasion strategy Reward which is used to
attract potential candidates. Often, it is used as a way to emphasize aspects of the company that
might set it apart from other employers. As one of the most important rules of marketing it is vital
to stand out and offer something unique. If all employers offered the exact same, then the
workers would randomly choose their employer and the companies would have no way of
ensuring that they got the most qualified employees.
In the sixth shot of the video, there are two additional uses of the Reward strategy. The first one is
the mentioning of Q-life, which is the social events hosted by the company in order to create a
stronger culture among the employees and thereby strengthen employer loyalty. The second
Reward strategy in shot six is the mentioning of Qualcomm bands which are also something
unique to this company and will help differentiate it from other employers. If any of the audience
members are amateur musicians, this reward may seem extraordinarily appealing. Similar to both
of these rewards is that they are both visualized by the images of the video. When Justin talks
about the many vendors, this is what is shown in the pictures. And similarly, when he mentions
the bands, a band on stage is shown. This visual representation of the rewards helps authenticate
the statements by Justin and prove the truth in them. It is easy for a company to state that they
have a great culture or provides a great free lunch, but without proof it becomes less persuasive.
The visual representation of the Qualcomm rewards makes it a much more powerful statement
and it increases persuasiveness.
In the seventh shot of video 1B, Justin says that it is “all about the culture here” and this is an
example of the strategy Explanation – Reference to a value system. When the communicator
chooses to refer to a value system in order to explain why the target should comply, it is an
attempt to reach and match the deep set opinions of audience members. As was mentioned in
chapter four on persuasion, our personal value system and deep set attitudes are extremely
difficult to change. Thus, by addressing the value system, the communicator argues that because
this is part of the target’s set of values, it will be in his best interest to comply. It has already been
mentioned several times in this thesis, but in relation to employer branding, it has become
increasingly important for employers to meet some of the personal values of the employees in
order to engage the workers. Therefore, it is likely that the reference to a great culture in the work
place will have a certain degree of persuasive power. As a support for the claim of a great culture,
the visuals show Justin working in the testing facility, side by side with a colleague with whom he is
talking and smiling at. Justin also smiles at the camera in this shot, further endorsing the product
and maintaining that he believes in what he says.
In the last line of shot seven, Justin finishes off his justification of preference by stating that he
works on the newest technology and thinks that it is very cool. Hence, Justin gains a lot of
confidence from his work and feels good about himself because of his job. This is an example of
the persuasion strategy of Esteem. By explaining how his job makes him feel good, Justin also
insinuates that if the audience members worked at Qualcomm, then they would feel good about
themselves too. The logic behind this strategy is quite simple. People like to be happy and feel
good about themselves so when they are told that a particular action will result in happiness, then
they are easily persuaded into complying. From the visuals, where Justin is eagerly telling about
his work and smiles, the audience members can see that he is happy and enjoys his work. Most
people will want to feel that way too and are thus encouraged to copy Justin’s behaviour in order
to achieve this feeling.
Finally, the last strategy used, is found in the eighth and last shot of the video. Similar to the other
Qualcomm video (1A) it has the exact same ending where the emblem is displayed and the
audience members are told to hear from other employees at the company website. The Direct
Request encourages the audience members to infer themselves the rationale behind the request.
This way, the communicators are putting a minimum of influence on the targets as it is up to them
alone to figure out if they ought to comply or not. It is possible however, that targets less
confident may read this request as a command as it is written in an imperative form.
Consequently, they may not give it much thought and simply comply because this is what they are
told to do. However, people are not mind numbed creatures who just do whatever they are told,
so should the audience members comply to this request it will most likely be because they find
some interest in the company and saw that they agreed with the arguments posed in the video.
These were the two exemplary analyses. The remaining 17 videos are to be found in the
appendices (Appendix 4) where the identification of persuasion strategies are marked with
underlining and the individual strategies noted in the margin. The next chapter will present the
results of all the videos analyzed.
8. Results
This chapter presents the results of the analyzed video clips. All of the videos that constitute the
empirical data of this thesis can be found in the appendices. The transcriptions also contain the
analyses and clarify where the individual strategies are registered.
Table 8.1 below presents the results of the analysis. Each strategy has been registered a number of
times in the empirical data, and in the table below, they are counted according to the medium in
which they were found. All of the identified persuasion strategies are separated by medium
because they serve to answer the research question; Which persuasion strategies are applied in
employer branding communication on corporate websites and social media sites, respectively? By
answering the research question and comparing the two media, it is the goal to either confirm or
disconfirm the hypothesis of this thesis. The hypothesis posed in the introduction sounded as
follows; Employer branding communication is more dominated by the persuasion strategy of
“Conformity” on social media sites than it is on corporate websites.
Strategy
Reward
Esteem
Allurement
Conformity
Contrast
Liking – Similarity
Ingratiation
Threat
Guilt
Authority
Direct request
Credibility - Expertise
Credibility - Goodwill
Explanation – reference to values
Explanation – empirical evidence
Altruism
Total
Websites
24
26
9
7
4
8
0
0
0
18
1
31
6
13
11
1
159
Facebook
39
21
4
9
7
5
0
0
1
7
2
14
7
20
8
0
144
Total
63
47
13
16
11
13
0
0
1
25
3
45
13
33
19
1
303
Table 8.1 Results of registered persuasion strategies
From table 8.1 it is evident that there is a difference in the number of strategies applied in each
medium. On the corporate websites, 159 strategies were applied whereas only 144 strategies
were registered in the videos from Facebook. Despite the fact that the two media were concluded
to be comparable in chapter two on the methodology, they still need some work in order for the
numbers to be adequately comparable.
Therefore, for the sake of coming up with a valid result, the numbers from table 8.1 are converted
into percentages in table 8.2. Because more strategies were identified on the corporate websites
than on Facebook, it would give an incorrect result when comparing the two sets of numbers. For
instance, if a strategy was identified the same number of times in each medium it would not mean
that they were equally applied. In fact, the strategy would then be more common on Facebook,
because the number of applications came out of a smaller whole. Consequently, by comparing
percentages, this is avoided. The formula in figure 8.1 was used to convert the data from table 8.1
into the percentage points presented in table 8.2.
Figure 8.1 Converting to percentages
The converted and hence more comparable results are presented below.
Strategy
Reward
Esteem
Allurement
Conformity
Contrast
Liking – Similarity
Ingratiation
Threat
Guilt
Authority
Direct request
Credibility - Expertise
Credibility - Goodwill
Explanation – reference to values
Explanation – empirical evidence
Altruism
Total
Websites
15 %
16,4 %
5,7 %
4,5 %
2,6 %
5%
0%
0%
0%
11,3 %
0,6 %
19,5 %
3,7 %
8,2 %
6,9 %
0,6 %
100 %
Facebook
27 %
14,6 %
2,8 %
6,3 %
4,9 %
3,5 %
0%
0%
0,7 %
4,9 %
1,4 %
9,6 %
4,9 %
13,8 %
5,6 %
0%
100 %
Table 8.2 Results of registered persuasion strategies (in percentage points)
From the tables it is evident that both media agree that the strategies of Reward and Esteem are
rather popular and frequently used. However, the two media are still different from each other
when it comes to Authority, Expertise and References to a Value System. Where the corporate
websites have used Authority and Esteem more than Facebook, the social media site has focused
more on References to a Value System than is the case with the company sites.
Besides the already mentioned differences and the fact that Reward is used almost twice as
frequently on Facebook as it is on corporate websites, there are no additional major differences in
the use of the remaining strategies. There is less than two percent of a difference between the
two media when looking at the remaining strategies.
Regarding Conformity, which was the focus point of this thesis, the data show that Conformity is in
fact applied more frequently on Facebook than it is on the corporate websites. However, the
difference is so slight that it would be difficult to definitively confirm the hypothesis of this thesis.
Considering the limited size of the empirical data analyzed at this point, it would be possible that
the results on Conformity would change in favour of the corporate websites if a larger group of
analysis examples were included. However, it is also possible that the current result would
become more profound and thus a confirmation of the hypothesis would be more appropriate.
However, at this point, it will merely be possible to call the hypothesis plausible.
Returning the attention to the Reward strategy, it would be interesting to take a closer look at the
nature of the rewards mentioned in the empirical data. In the chapter on employer branding it
was stated that there were a couple of reasons why the importance of employer branding has
increased. Among other things, it was stated that qualified employees have become more
necessary in the process of building good relations with the stakeholders of the company.
Consequently, the employer must offer more than just a reasonable salary in order to engage the
best employees. Instead, both functional and emotional benefits are wanted as the workforce of
today seeks personal as well as professional development. Therefore, an investigation of the kind
of rewards presented in the video material was conducted. This was done so for the purpose of
finding out if there is a difference in the nature of rewards mentioned in the two media,
respectively. Table 8.3 below presents the results. The professional rewards are the same as
functional rewards. These are benefits related to professional development and bonuses in salary
or pension. Contrary, the personal rewards are related to emotions. These are benefits that are
associated with special offers that not all companies provide such as day care or a fitness centre at
the company.
Websites
Professional rewards
Personal rewards
14
10
Total: 24
Facebook
Professional rewards
Personal rewards
12
27
Total: 39
Table 8.3 The nature of rewards
From the data in table 8.3 it is indicated that each medium has a preference regarding the nature
of rewards that are presented. On the corporate websites, it appears that the communicators
have found that the presentation of professional and functional rewards would be the most
effective choice. Contrary, on Facebook, the personal and more emotional rewards are clearly
favoured. The potential reasons for these results will be discussed in chapter 9 below.
9. Discussion
In this chapter, the most frequently used strategies as well as the strategies that set the two
communication channels apart, will be discussed individually. Explanations for the results will be
drawn from employer branding theory and the theoretical background of persuasion.
In order to confirm or disconfirm the hypothesis of this thesis, two research questions were posed
and consequently answered. The first research question revolved around a general investigation
of what persuasion strategies were employed in employer branding communication in the two
media, respectively. The table of data above (table 8.1) answers this question as the application of
each individual strategy is registered.
The second research question (RQ) was more specific regarding two strategies; Conformity and
Goodwill. By answering RQ 2 regarding the frequency of Conformity in the two media,
respectively, it should be possible to either confirm or disconfirm the main hypothesis. The
frequency of the strategy of Goodwill is unrelated to the hypothesis but is nevertheless included
because the theory of employer branding with a special focus on social media suggests that
Goodwill should be applied in order to get the message through to the wanted audience.
Looking at the results regarding Conformity (table 8.1), the strategy that relies on the power of
group persuasion and a psychological need to belong is used seven times on corporate websites
and nine times on Facebook. A slight difference indicating that there might be something to the
proposed hypothesis. When these data were converted into percentages, the difference became a
little more pronounced due to the slight overweight in the total number of applied strategies on
corporate websites (table 8.2). However, a mere difference of less than two percent is hardly
enough to call a definitive confirmation of the hypothesis. As mentioned earlier, it might be
possible to get a more clear answer if the amount of empirical data was increased. However, since
the results are so unclear at the moment, it would be reasonable to assume that the result of a
new and more thorough research could turn out either way. The current result may be enforced
and made even more profound which would lead to a confirmation. But, it may also reverse the
current result and suggest that the hypothesis should really be disconfirmed. A third option would
be that the difference would remain unaltered meaning that there is hardly any difference. In that
case, the strategy of Conformity would not be the place where the two media are set apart. At the
moment, it is unsure to say how the hypothesis should be called which means that, at most, the
hypothesis of this thesis is plausible.
A possible explanation for the lack of application of Conformity might be that practitioners are less
inclined to believe in the effectiveness of group persuasion. It is possible that although social
media revolve around joining communities and finding ways to fit in and yet still remain an
individual, that it is not the way to attract potential candidates. Employer branding focuses on
matching values and presenting benefits rather than explicitly saying, that people should apply
because it would mean that they would belong to a community. Conclusively, it is clear that
despite the fact that social media characteristics would indicate a use of Conformity, employer
branding theory trumps it and turns focus on other strategies.
Regarding Goodwill, it was expected that this strategy would be more frequently applied on
Facebook than on corporate websites because employer branding theory with a special focus on
social media suggested so. The theory states that it is necessary for the communicator to express
empathy in order to get the audience to pay attention to the message. If the company does not
show any interest in the candidates, then the candidates will not spend their time listening to
what a potential employer has to say. Similar to the results on Conformity, there is only a slight
difference in favour of the social media platform. But when comparing the overall use of this
strategy with the other 15 strategies, it is clear that it is actually not applied that frequently in
either of the two channels. A possible explanation for this could be that practitioners of employer
branding has not yet realized the importance of this strategy. It is still fairly new to the
communication business to employ social media in employer branding and any other kind of
branding for that matter. Therefore, it is likely that the theoretically based expectations of this
thesis was not met due to the fact that the importance of empathy as a way of attracting and
retaining attention has not been given much thought yet. Researchers are still investigating the
behaviour of social media users and are trying to figure out how best to communicate with them.
This means that the current result regarding the Goodwill strategy might be up for change in the
future when the use of social media in branding becomes more mainstream and better
researched. Remember that it took years to find out how to tackle consumers and as these are
ever changing, research is bound to continue within this subject too. An alternative explanation
for the lack of difference between the two media could be that practitioners of employer branding
using social media sites have found another way to express Goodwill. It is possible that there are
other text segments, leading or linking to the video material, which contains elements of empathy
or where the communicator may express an understanding of the situation of the audience
members. For instance, the sender may attach a comment to a posted video which will make the
audience members feel a kind of kinship with the company or regard the organization as
interested in them.
However, there are other differences which set the two communication channels apart. Though
the two media agree that Reward and Esteem are two of the most frequently used strategies, the
social media channel still favours the Reward strategy a bit more than the corporate websites do.
The general theory on employer branding states that, companies should remember to focus on
both functional as well as emotional benefits in their communication. Considering that social
media employer branding is also encouraged to pay special attention to goodwill and personal
insight and remembering that a message should be short and simple, then it would have seemed
likely that corporate website employer branding would have been the one with the best
opportunity to focus on benefits. However, this appears not to be the case (table 8.1). But if we
look at the nature of the benefits presented in the two media, respectively, then it becomes clear
that the difference visible in table 8.3 is in line with the theoretical background. The social media
platform which will attempt to appear more human (Solis, 2011: 8) is clearly favouring the
emotional rewards whereas the corporate websites have an overweight of functional rewards in
communication. The functional benefits are often more tangible and are related to the career.
They are less personal and more pragmatic.
Regarding Esteem, the two communication channels are fairly similar. The strategy is close to
equally frequent on social media and corporate websites. The reason for this result is based in
employer branding theory which explains how the wants of needs of employees are ever changing
entities. Earlier, it was enough that a job put food on the table and paid the rent. Though this is
most likely still true for a large part of the workforce, there are many people who now have the
luxury to choose between several jobs and demand more than just a good salary from their
employer. The modern employee seeks to feel a connection with his/her employer. There need to
be a great person-organization fit which comes from matching values and a situation where the
employee will stand behind the mission and actions of the employer. If these conditions are met,
then the worker becomes engaged in his/her work and consequently becomes more productive.
Because the modern employee wants to be proud of what he does and wants his job to be
meaningful is also why we see several cases of Allurement in both media. Allurement basically
means that the actions of the target will be beneficial to others and that the target will gain the
respect and admiration of those people.
It is in our human nature that we want to be happy and feel good about ourselves and often we
will behave in a way that we know will trigger a positive self-feeling. This is why we tend to agree
with the opinion of the majority and why we act according to social protocol. Fitting in, makes us
happy (See Conformity). Essentially, we want to be happy, so when we hear someone (in an
employee interview) telling about how happy they are, then it is often a logical conclusion to copy
the behaviour of that person in order to achieve the same happiness. Thus, this is how the
strategy of Esteem is used the majority of the time in the empirical data; employees expressing
happiness as a consequence of their job.
Another aspect where the corporate websites are different from social media is in regard to the
Expertise strategy which is used to add credibility to the message. There are twice as many counts
of Expertise on corporate websites than there is on social media. The use of Expertise in relation to
employer branding is connected to the NAS advice (2010: 2) regarding the incorporation of
employee testimonials. Employees are used as experts on the subject of their employer and by
posting their job position within the company more credibility is added to their statements. The
sender of the communication will be as detailed as possible about the character speaking in order
for the message to seem more believable. Therefore, both the name and occupation is given as
information. However the use of Expertise on corporate websites may also indicate that this
medium is addressing a more well-educated audience who does not believe everything they hear.
These audience members need reassurance that the speaker is in fact an expert (an employee)
which means that they will listen for specialized language or statements about how long the
speaker has worked for the company.
Authority is also used more on corporate websites than it is on social media. The strategy of
Authority is often closely linked with Expertise. This is at least the case in relation to employer
branding where Authority is often triggered by managerial employees or a suit and tie attire. The
suit and tie invokes a more professional appearance and insinuates that this employer may
provide better positions and the highest salaries. As mentioned above it is possible that the reason
why Expertise and Authority are more frequently used on corporate websites is because this
medium is still perceived as a slightly more serious channel for employer branding. It is likely that
practitioners do not believe that highly educated candidates are looking up their potential
employer on Facebook. In this relation, it is possible that the candidates will first look up the
company online and potentially be guided to the corporate website. From the webpage’s career
site it is possible that candidates will be led to the social media page of the organization. Assuming
that this is the intention of the practitioners, then the social media communication should be
regarded as supplementary to that of the corporate website.
An alternative explanation as to why Authority and Expertise are more frequent on corporate
websites could be a tainted data sample. Video 9A from Google is a themed communication which
focuses on women in managerial positions. This means that all the interviewees in this video are
CEOs or vice presidents of some Google department. Consequently, a lot of the Authority and
Expertise strategies registered on corporate websites are from this video which may have created
an unnatural overweight in the two strategies.
The last strategy where the two media differentiate from each other is Reference to a Value
System. The value references are more frequently used on social media than they are on
corporate websites. From table 8.3 in the results it was evident that there was a clear distinction in
the favoured nature of benefits presented in the empirical data. Putting the focus on value
references together with the personal and emotional nature of the rewards presented on
Facebook, this could indicate that the social media platform is a softer and more personal medium
where attention is put on the audience members and not the organization. This matches the
literature which states that social media can be used to humanize the company in order to create
a closer bond with audience members. Furthermore, employer branding theory states (Qualman,
2009: 36) that because of the changing needs of employees, practitioners should focus particularly
on communicating their values and provide as much information as possible in order for potential
candidates to figure out if it is the right person-organization fit. This also explains the frequency of
the Reference to a Value System strategy in the first place.
The differences between the two media, which are evident from the results, may be caused by a
marketing strategy that entails a short and simple message. Because the message need to be
simple it is difficult to get all the desired aspects included. Usually, organizations have more than
just one message that they wish to communicate. Considering that social media communication
should be seen as complimentary to the traditional branding material, it is possible that some of
the things that were left out of the message from the corporate websites are then included in the
social media message. Assuming that the corporate website message is the main message, it is
possible that the social media communication contains some of the aspects that the sender did
not find room for in the main message. If this is the case, then the persuasion strategies employed
on corporate websites are most likely regarded as the most effective in the business. But this is all
based on the assumption that the corporate websites are considered the main channel and social
media as a complimentary channel of communication. Another explanation for the differences in
persuasion strategies may be that compared with corporate websites, social media tend to focus
more on the audience members than on the organization itself. This is because social media sites
like Facebook are less formal media which allow a humanization of companies. Thereby,
organizations are able to create a more personal bond with its stakeholders and relate to them in
a new way.
10.
Conclusion
A theoretical introduction to the field of employer branding with a special focus on its application
in social media and a theoretical background of the subject of persuasion with special attention
put on persuasion strategies, provided the basis for answering the two main questions of this
thesis; How do the two media differentiate from each other in their use of persuasion strategies?
And are the strategies of Conformity and Goodwill in fact applied more frequently in social media
than on corporate websites as expected? The latter question is related directly to the hypothesis;
Employer branding communication is more dominated by the persuasion strategy of “Conformity”
on social media sites than it is on corporate websites.
The differences evident from the analyses and the consequent results were not as expected. It
turned out that the strategies of Reward, Expertise, Authority and Reference to a Value System
were the points of differentiation. The reasons why these strategies were applied differently in the
two media are mostly found in employer branding theory. For instance, because of a change in the
needs of employees, practitioners of employer branding are encouraged to focus on both
functional (professional) and emotional (personal) benefits. The personal benefits along with a
special focus on value systems have a much higher presence in social media than they do on
corporate websites because media like Facebook are more focused on the audience members
than the corporate websites are. Social media are used to humanize the organization to create a
more personal bond to stakeholders and therefore, the emotional persuasion strategies are more
frequent on Facebook. The changing needs of employees also explain why both media has paid
special attention to the strategy of Esteem which basically means that practitioners will
communicate that current employees are happy to work at the company in question and thus
insinuating that audience members could be that too if they apply for a job.
As social media communication have a tendency to pay more attention to audience members than
corporate websites have done, this may also be the reason for the difference in the nature of the
benefits presented in the two media. The majority of the Reward strategies in social media are
constructed based on personal benefits that have emotional value to the candidates. Contrary, the
functional benefits presented on the corporate websites are mainly related to professional
rewards and career advancement.
Additionally, the two media differentiated from each other in regard to Expertise and Authority
which were more frequently applied on corporate websites. This difference is possibly due to the
fact that corporate websites are considered a more serious and professional source of information
in regard to applying for a job. Maybe, practitioners expect audience members of corporate
websites to be more focused on professional advancement and a good retirement policy rather
than caring about social activities after hours. This would also mean that the lack of the Authority
strategy in social media indicates an audience who pay more attention to cultural and emotional
benefits. This idea is supported by the other results extracted from the analyses.
Finally, as an answer to the second research question, the results indicate only a slight difference
in the application of Conformity and Goodwill. In regard to Conformity and the hypothesis of this
thesis, the small difference between the two media is not enough to make a clear call. Further
research and a larger amount of empirical data may come up with a clearer result, but for now,
the hypothesis is at most plausible. From the current result it appears that the characteristics of
social media which indicate the potential for the use of Conformity are overruled by employer
branding theory which focuses on other strategies.
Similar to Conformity, there is also only a slight difference in the application of Goodwill.
Employer branding theory does state that Goodwill should be used in social media to attract and
retain the attention of audience members but it is possible that this particular strategy has not
been given much attention from practitioners because it is believed to be of lesser importance.
This might change in the future as more research in the behaviour of social media users is
published. However, another explanation might be that other text segments in social media are
used to express empathy as it will leave more room in the employer branding message for other
strategies which are more related to promoting the organization in question.
Despite the fact that initial expectations were not met, there is a communicative difference
between the two media. That much is evident from the results of the analyses. A possible
explanation for the relatively small difference in the use of strategies between the two media
could be that social media communication was never intended to stand alone or replace
traditional branding and marketing. Social media should merely be seen as complimentary to
traditional communication. This means that the reason why the social media message is different
from the corporate website message could be that it simply contains the aspects and points that
the sender did not find room for in the original corporate website message.
11.
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