Employer Branding Budgets

Post by
Brian Mooney
August 22, 2019

If you’re asking yourself "How much should I budget for employer brand efforts”? (And for the record, you should be budgeting for your employer brand efforts.) "What does a good employer branding strategy budget look like"? Or “How will my leadership even approve an employer branding budget"? Then you’ve come to the right place. Of course, the specifics will vary company to company but there are some key things to keep in mind as you build your employer brand strategy and budget.


Whether you are a data-driven organization or not, you’re going to want to start by reviewing your hiring goals. If you don’t have a 'North Star' metric then you’re going to burn time and money, real quick. Focusing on your hiring goal(s) will allow you to incorporate employer branding strategy into the daily work that needs to get done. If your most important metric is time-to-fill then you’ll need to build a strategy that will aid in decreasing this number. Similarly, if you’re focused on quality of hire or employee lifetime value (ELV) then you’ll need to show how your brand is going to attract the right people who will add value to the company. The takeaway here is to tie your branding efforts to the metrics that define the success of your department.


You need to develop an employer branding strategy before you can attach dollars to it. The most effective employer brands will attract the candidates you want to hire like a magnet and repeal the ones you don’t. It’s important to have a good understanding of who you want to hire, what information is important to them, and where they may interact with your brand. There will be things that you do that are not completely measurable, but you should have an idea of the type of content you want to create and where you’re going to put it before submitting a budget.


Here is how I would allocate my employer branding budget by percentage:

  • Content: 30%
  • Content should be at the core of your strategy. After all, these are going to be things that you create that tell your story and speak directly to your candidate leads. There’s a chance you’ll need to rely on outsourcing the development of your content. For example, if you want to do the “day-in-the-life” video series, you’re going to need to either buy all the equipment, learn how to use it and then produce them. Or you call a company like Job Portraits to do what they do best. Don't get me wrong, some of your content should be more raw and can be shot on your camera phone, but not everything. See more on creating your own video content here.
  • Technology & Tools: 20%
  • Technology and tools, like NextWave Hire, are going to allow you to punch above your weight class when it comes to managing your content and building your brand. It’s almost 2020, some things should be automated. Look at your strategy and figure out where the biggest time suck will then find an easy to use, cost-effective piece of software that will help you automate it.
  • Social Media Advertising: 15%
  • You could blow your budget pretty quickly on social media advertising and the pay-per-click models of Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn can be confusing. The advice received and now give is find one or two social media channels that will get you in front of your ideal candidates. Advertising on these platforms can be effective if executed properly but don’t let this be your main strategy. Create content that your employees will want to share and building natural advocates or extensions of your brand will get you halfway there. Seek advice from your marketing team on this topic when possible.
  • Referral Programs: 10%
  • Build out every referral program you can think of. It’s a great big world out there and the more people talking about your company (in a good way of course) the better. Word of mouth is still a very strong source of business deals because there’s an element of trust attached to the delivery. It’s the same for recruiting. Pro tip: think beyond offering cash to your employees. Create a referral program for your customers, build-out challenges that will have unique prizes, and check out this video on boomerang candidates - it’s probably the lowest hanging fruit out there.
  • Events: 10%
  • Relationship or conversational recruiting is often done best face-to-face. You should host events and invite candidates to meet your teams. But this doesn’t all need to fall under Talent Acquisition. Ask your departments or specific people within roles what they would do if you gave them $500 to plan an event?
  • Undetermined/Experimenting: 10%
  • HR & TA don’t spend enough time experimenting. Marketing teams are constantly testing and experimenting. Different colors, buttons, or even changing one word to see if that increases conversion. If you host one event that flops you can’t say you’ll never do events again. You need to try different things to learn what is going to make an impact. It’s likely that you’re going to learn from your mistakes and come up with new ideas. Make sure you save part of your funds for experimenting. Also, check out this video my CTO made about A/B testing aspects of your recruitment process.
  • Education/Training: 5%
  • There aren’t a lot of people who are experts in this space right now, which means you’re probably going to hire (or promote) someone that is going to need to learn. While I think there are companies, people and places on the internet that will provide a lot of education, it might be helpful for them to get some formal training, especially on the marketing side. Just don’t spend 20% of your budget on sending them to conferences.

A note on staffing: I purposely left out staffing because while I think having an employer brand manager that can own this function and rally internal resources like marketing, hiring managers, employees etc. is ideal, it’s not likely you will be able to hire an employer brand manager right out of the gate. If you are fighting for a budget and introducing leadership to this foreign concept for the first time, then you’re probably going to need to prove the concept before getting an FTE.


All that work comes down to a few short minutes where you deliver your proposal. Of course, we all know that people remember stories and generally make decisions using emotion, not logic. So, you’ll want to build a story that shows how the landscape is changing (or has changed) and where you will be if you don’t start investing in your brand (i.e. shelling out in Recruiter fees, high turnover, and spending more per hire because having a bad brand does cost you money!). Here’s the playbook:

  • Competitors:
  • Research your competitors to see what they are doing. Look at where your departing employees go and see what they are doing to attract candidates.
  • Trends:
  • There’s a lot of data out there now about how employer branding can reduce cost-per-hire and even keep you from overpaying for positions. There are some serious cost-savings here. Take for example time-to-fill. If you spend $100/day on recruiting one position and reduce the time-to-fill by 10 days you just saved the company $1,000 x each position.
  • Marketing:
  • This is a big one that I see this all the time. Marketing is generally focused on the product and their KPIs. That leaves little time for projects like designing a careers site or monitoring a social media campaign. If you’re able to find a technology partner that will put the power of these tools in your hands you’ll actually save the company money because Marketing will be able to designate more time for the product. Again, you can do the math to show this story. If you needed someone from Marketing who makes $50/hour to help you 5 hours per week that’s 13K you can play with!
  • Buying Committee:
  • I put this one last because it’s the most important. I first heard about this concept awhile back, but it keeps coming up again and again. It’s much easier to get the green light if you have a committee of people that believe in your vision and are committed to doing the work. If you get your team, hiring managers, and employees to commit to being a part of your employer brand strategy then leadership will have a hard time saying no to at least giving you a shot.

To recap: Build a strategy around your metrics, spend most of your budget on creating content and automating time-consuming processes, and build a strong case that will be delivered by a committee to ensure you get the budget and support you will need to succeed.

Did I miss something? I'd love to hear from you. Shoot me an email at Brian@nextwavehire.com