March 23, 2020

In times of crisis, how your company chooses to show up for its employees, customers and partners speaks volumes about your culture — more than that dusty set of values next to the photocopier ever will.

If you’re experiencing a slow down in job reqs, or a budget freeze on agency spending, now is the time to get creative and build a library of employee-generated stories. We’re going to share some tips from industry expert Miki Johnson to get you started:

Why you need to be sharing more stories than ever

So, what are you doing to share your company stories with your community? The brands (employer, agency, consumer) that will come out of this global health crisis with positive associations are the ones who are openly sharing their struggles, advice and their response to the pandemic with their communities.

Sure, we’re all going to have to get creative about how we gather and tell those stories. Mass work from home practices (for those lucky enough to be able to work from home) present more than a few challenges.

But in this brave new world, your smartphone is your friend. Whether you’re snapping photos, recording audio interviews or collating video contributions from colleagues near and far— there’s not much that can’t be achieved with this extraordinary little piece of technology we all carry close to our hearts.

If you’re unsure how to start, try following this advice, adapted from this post from Miki Johnson, cofounder of Job Portraits, an employer brand content studio in San Francisco.

Topic pillars to build your stories around

Knowing what’s unique about your company or team will certainly help, their response to and ability to adapt to the events of recent weeks should present you with some great content ideas. Try focusing your journalistic efforts around these topics to help you find your stories.


Candidates want to know who they’ll work with, who will inspire and support them, and whose vision and leadership will shape the company’s future.

When introducing candidates to your people — from potential desk-mates to the executive team — be sure to go beyond name and position to highlight individuals’ interests, accomplishments, and ambitions. How have your people led in recent weeks, who has demonstrated great empathy, agility or positivity? Trawl through LinkedIn, company emails and team message apps and find those moments worth sharing.

Wow factor

Imagine one of your employees is at a high school reunion. “Wow factor” is the first thing they say about your company to make their old friends jealous.

You could be manufacturing or delivering essential consumer goods. Perhaps your company has committed to paying all workers throughout the crisis, despite store closures. Or maybe you are offering free consultations and advice to those in need of redeployment.

As Work It Daily founder J.T. O’Donnell explains, “Your wow factor needs to be amplified through your employer brand. Candidates want to identify and work with a company that really impresses them.”

Learning and development

Good candidates got that way by always looking to improve and expand their skills. They seek opportunities for personal growth in the same way your leadership seeks company growth. Learning at your company might be well-defined, as with frequent internal training, or more ad hoc, supported by a culture of question-asking and risk-taking. Maybe you offer a mentorship program or stipends for continuing education. Any of these opportunities are potential differentiators to highlight in your employer stories.

Work routines & practices

The details of how work gets done at your company — especially now as many business adapt to all-remote working — may seem too granular or quotidian to factor into your employer story, but those details have a huge effect on how work feels day-to-day.
Plus, the rules of a system largely define who will succeed in that system.

For instance, if you require several layers of approvals for decisions, someone who’s good at communicating with stakeholders and managing expectations is more likely to excel. If your organization expects individuals to make decisions autonomously and justify them later in a group meeting, you’ll attract employees who are flexible self-managers.


As Jeff Lawson, founder of Twilio, suggests, “Values are written words, and your culture is how you actually live those written words.” Does your team value efficiency? Candor? Diversity?

Well-articulated and understood values create a framework that helps employees make decisions and set priorities. This is never more evident than in times of upheaval and uncertainty.

If you can illustrate your values in action, you can help candidates self-select based on whether they do — or can — align with your values.

Social vibe

A 2012 Penn State study found that, among collegiate job seekers, “workplace fun was a stronger predictor of applicant attraction than compensation and opportunities for advancement.” So, is your company a fun place to work? Or, more to the point, what does “fun” mean at your company?

It’s undoubtedly a testing time for workplace fun at the moment. Listen closely to your colleagues in team meetings and group chats, you may uncover some gold— virtual lunch dates, FaceWine and park meet-ups with 1.5 meters of ‘social distance’ applied. Innovation abounds in unusual circumstances, you just need to snuffle out the stories!

A webinar to give you the confidence to get started

We are delighted that Job Portraits cofounder Miki Johnson agreed to share her advice for developing storytelling skills in recruiting.

Miki delivered a live webinar in April 2020 where she shared information and guidance, including different story types, asking the right questions, finding stories in everyday work and strategies for making your content work harder.

If you’re keen to learn more about uncovering the stories that job seekers want to hear, and how to tell those stories well, follow the link below to watch the recording.

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Article Topics:
Talent Attraction Candidate Experience Employer Brand