Employer Branding Rally Awards

What Makes the Cisco Employer Brand Team So Successful?

Rally Awards winner Carmen Collins from Cisco
Profile photo of Lori Sylvia
Written by Lori Sylvia

Looking for inspiration to make your employer brand stand out from the competition? We interviewed Rally Award winner Carmen Collins from Cisco who gave us tons of tips and smart ideas to boost your employer brand strategy.

What Makes the Cisco Employer Brand Team So Successful?
5 (100%) 4 votes

The Employer Brand team at Cisco is doing something very right when it comes to their Recruitment Marketing strategy! At the 2020 Rally® Awards, the Cisco team took home no fewer than 4 first-place awards in the following categories:

  • Rally Awards 2020 First Place WinnerBest Careers Blog
  • Best Employer Brand Video
  • Best Use of Organic Social Media
  • Best Recruitment Marketing Campaign

To learn Cisco’s secret sauce to employer branding and Recruitment Marketing success, the Rally team interviewed Carmen Collins, Employer Brand & Social Media Lead at Cisco. We think you’ll find this interview chock-full of tips and smart ideas that you can consider incorporating into your own approach!

But first, before getting into the Q&A, here’s a bit of information about Carmen and her team’s award-winning work:

Rally note: If you’d like to learn more about the Rally Awards and view the list of 2020 award winners, visit the Rally Awards website.

About Carmen Collins

Carmen Collins is the Employer Brand & Social Media Lead for Cisco’s Talent Brand team and the WeAreCisco social channels. Her job at Cisco is to create personal connections between candidates and employees, showcase the cool projects Cisco employees work on and entice prospective talent to choose Cisco as their employer.

As a professional social media enthusiast, Carmen has been doing this work since before “social media” was even a term in the lexicon. Over her social media career, she has helped many big brands like Verizon, Career Builder, Mozilla, Citrix and others to engage with their audiences through great content.

Carmen and team’s award-winning work

Some of the notable achievements and results in 2019 that led to the Cisco team receiving so many awards includes:

  • The creation of captivating and organically sourced employee stories for the Life at Cisco careers blog — which now features 170 blog posts and received 106,866 views in 2019.
  • The early adoption of LinkedIn Live with 6 livestreams created in 2019, each garnering an average of 89,000 views per video and 3,900 engagements — and 60% of these views came from people with job titles that Cisco recruits for regularly!
  • A series of new employer brand videos featuring 120(!!!) employees and which resulted in 518,077 combined impressions, 6,007 engagements and 1,000 visits to the Cisco careers site.
  • A national Intern Day Recruitment Marketing campaign that showcased Cisco interns using employee-generated content across multiple social platforms, leadership communications, internal engagement tools and campus partnerships. The campaign resulted in great metrics including over 100,000 views on the LinkedIn live content and over 4,200 reactions.

Lead with employer brand webinar from RallyFwd

Q&A with Carmen Collins:

Rally: Hi Carmen, first off, congratulations on the multiple awards that you and the Cisco team won at the 2020 Rally Awards! We’d love to learn more about some of the reasons you won these awards and how your team is able to produce such exceptional work! To start out, can you tell us about the Employer Brand team at Cisco?

Carmen: The Employer Brand team at Cisco is composed of 11 people. We call ourselves team #SquadGoals because we all have different strengths, but we are always there for each other. We have subject matter experts in social media, a content editor, a graphic designer, several of what I’d call “account managers” or brand managers and some early career talent growing into different areas.

We think of ourselves as an “agency” within our People & Communities organization (what most orgs would call HR) and our goal is to attract talent to Cisco. We do that with employee-generated content as the foundation of our strategy.

Best Careers Blog

Rally: One of the Rally Awards categories you won for was Best Careers Blog. Can you tell us more about the Life at Cisco careers blog? When did you start it and how often do you post content?

Carmen: Back when the team was about 3 people (almost 6 years ago!) I started the Life at Cisco blog because while we had a Twitter account, I thought that some of our employee stories needed longer form content. Plus, I was a journalist when I started my career, so that format just made sense for me.

We started with 1 post each week, all employee-bylined (their words, our help) and then moved to 2 posts a week and now we’re up to sometimes 3 a week! When I became the team lead as we grew, the masterful blog strategy fell to Casie Shimansky, writer of pixie dust and managing editor of the blog that you see today.

Rally: What does your content creation process look like?

Carmen: Everything starts with employees sharing their true, authentic (not-scripted, but sometimes prompted) stories of working at Cisco in their own social media channels. We’ve run several internal activations to get them used to knowing: 1) it’s okay to share and 2) to use the #WeAreCisco hashtag.

My team listens to that hashtag and likes and comments on posts. We’re all really good at seeing when there’s “more to the story” and we’ll ask them to send us the original photo they posted and more information about it.

We then decide what channel makes the most sense to tell that story. If we feel it’s a blog, that’s where Casie comes in. She shares guidelines with the author, sends them Cisco’s social media policy and off they go to write. Casie gets their blog credentials and bios all set up and then edits and provides feedback for the blog — always with the business goals in mind. Then the blog gets published and we share it out on social.

This process is all managed by our team, but we of course are always in communication with marketing and other social teams to make sure we’re aligned overall and that we’re also presenting our content as shareable from other channels.

Here are some examples of recent content we’ve put together for the Life at Cisco blog:

Rally: How does your careers blog help with your talent acquisition strategy and hiring results?

Carmen: The whole strategy of employee-generated content is, “if I can see it, I can be it.” Plus, who do you trust more to tell you the truth about what a company is like to work for: the corporate brand voice or the employee themselves?

If candidates can see employees talking about experiences they can relate to and saying they love working at Cisco, then that both attracts candidates AND retains employees!

Sometimes this works really directly. Recently, one hiring manager wrote a blog and landed a high-value candidate because of it. The applicant said the hiring manager’s blog was what made them respond to a recruiter’s outreach!

In many cases though it’s all about influencing a candidate’s perceptions about Cisco over time. And we’re always looking for ways to expand the reach of our blog so we can do this at scale. For instance, in 2019 we implemented a new tagging structure within the Life at Cisco blog to help readers find more content of interest, and to help our recruiters find stories to share with candidates. These tags are then able to be added to the recruiters RSS feed in Outlook, which sends them an email any time a new post goes live in that tag.

Based on this change, as well as our commitment to continuously sourcing and co-creating content that connects emotionally with prospective talent, we saw some great results. Our year over year growth from 2018 to 2019 included a 27.5% increase in blog visitors and 106,866 views of our blog content!

Best Employer Brand Video

Rally: Amazing! Okay, moving on to the next area you won a Rally Award for: Best Employer Brand Video. Can you tell us about your winning video? What was the strategy and what kind of results did you see?

Carmen: Our employer brand “tagline” (and we don’t even like saying the word “tagline” because it implies that we are marketing something. It’s just a simple way of stating sentiment directly from our employees) is: Be you, with us. #WeAreCisco. Our new primary employer brand video needed to convey that clearly, while also showing off our personality as an employer of choice.

From concept to finished video, the project took about four months. Every person featured in the video (over 120!) was a real employee. No actors or stock footage here! We promoted two different versions of this video across social. One was shorter (for platforms like Twitter) and another was about a minute (for say, LinkedIn.) It lives on our careers site now and we also use it for hiring events.

Rally note: You can get started making your own videos with these 19 easy DIY video tools to boost your recruiting content strategy.

In terms of results, to date we’ve observed 518,077 combined impressions, 6,007 engagements and 1,000 visits to the Cisco careers site from this video along with a few related vignettes (shorter videos cut from the main video footage and directed to a specific talent audience, like engineers).

Best Organic Social Media Content

Rally: What an outstanding video! Next up, can you tell us how your team approaches social media? Your team also won the Rally Award for Best Organic Social Media Content because of your usage of LinkedIn Live specifically — can you share more about that?

Carmen: It all goes back to employee-generated content. Our mission is to make personal connections with talent. The best way to do that is by showcasing employee voices. Every channel we use — Twitter, Instagram, IG Stories, IG Live, IGTV, Linkedin, LinkedIn Live, Snapchat (now retired) — features all employee voices, all the time. It’s a strategy that has served us well from a metrics standpoint.

Our team knew that LinkedIn Live was in the works for over a year. We bugged the bejeebers out of our LinkedIn reps about being included in the Beta. I’m not sure if they included us just to shut us up, but we made it in and were able to participate in the Beta program! Jennifer Burns on our team was instrumental in making this happen and has done great work with our LinkedIn Live content.

Our content approach started with a host from our team interviewing employees, until we figured out that even on a more “formal” platform, we could have our same employee-generated content strategy in place. We then turned each Live over to an employee host (just like we did with Facebook Live and Instagram Live) and haven’t looked back. Here are three examples:

Grace Hopper Conference live video

Halloween costume contest live video

Spotlight on our employee resource organizations

Rally note: Need more ideas to help bolster your employer brand? Get inspired by these social media strategies that work.

Rally: This is amazing work, Carmen, thanks for sharing! Rather than ask any information about your Award for Best Recruitment Marketing Campaign – since we’re going to create a whole separate blog honing in on your intern campaign strategy shortly – I think I’d rather end this Q&A with asking if you have any overall tips for our community. What would you recommend for talent teams looking to improve their employer brand strategy?

Carmen: You have to understand that you can’t PR your way into a culture or a talent brand. Your first step should be making sure that the culture your employees feel is the culture you want to achieve. If your culture is great, then you can trust your employees will want to talk about it — and their networks are full of new talent.

Rally: Thanks so much for sharing your time and expertise with us Carmen. And congratulations again on your multiple Rally Awards!

Lead with employer brand webinar from RallyFwd

What Makes the Cisco Employer Brand Team So Successful?
5 (100%) 4 votes

About the Author

Profile photo of Lori Sylvia

Lori Sylvia

Recruitment Marketing evangelist and community builder. Founder of Rally.

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