John-Graham-Jr

Amgen’s John Graham Jr. shared his strategy for successful personal and employer branding on LinkedIn

From an employer brand and talent attraction perspective, I've seen no better results than on LinkedIn. John Graham Jr.
Prior to joining Amgen as the Senior Manager of Global Employer Brand and Recruitment Marketing, John Graham Jr. developed and deployed a strategy to boost employer brand engagement through employee advocacy on LinkedIn. Now, with one successful launch under his belt, he intends to implement the same strategy at Amgen.

Within the scope of an organization’s employee advocacy program, John said LinkedIn is the most important platform for activating employees.

“From an employer brand and talent attraction perspective, I’ve seen no better results than on LinkedIn,” he explained.

According to John, this is because recruiters use it to source talent, and it has evolved into a platform for more than just professional credentials — it’s also used to network, position yourself as a thought leader, share trends, and connect with new people.

“And from a metrics perspective, the entire process is documented from end to end — when content is shared all the way to the point a candidate gets hired,” John said. “That’s unprecedented on social.”

He explained that creating a compelling presentation of each employee reflects positively on the employer brand as a whole.

“When you’re looking at turning your internal culture external, you want to ensure that your employees have a strong profile,” he said.

When you're looking at turning your internal culture external, you want to ensure that your employees have a strong profile. John Graham Jr.
John explained that once users get to an employees’ profile and it doesn’t have a profile picture, cover photo, or headline and title, it reduces the chance for your employer brand to shine.

“Consider how important your appearance is when you show up to an interview,” he said. “Your profile is just as important when people land on it.”

When choosing which employees to include in the initiative, John said to focus on the hand-raisers.

“We like to start with people who already have an inclination to be social, rather than trying to pull people who don’t have a profile or just aren’t active,” he said.

According to John, choosing social media-savvy employees made it easier to create a framework for them to progressively increase their social activity. He said it’s also important to include leadership as well — whether they’re active on social or not.

From there, John gravitated toward employees who had a certain level of activity and number of connections on the platform.

“We looked for people who have long-term potential of social visibility and activity — in an authentic framework,” he explained.

Consider how important your appearance is when you show up to an interview. Your profile is just as important when people land on it. John Graham Jr.
In the past, John started by inviting HR employees, then rolled out the strategy to other divisions as they saw opportunity and buyability — instead of inviting employees across the organization from the get-go.

“From a training perspective, that would mean getting a large group of people at the same time to do webinars and walk them through the platform,” he said.

John’s key goal has always been to add value for employees’ networks on the platform.

He explained the strategy of pumping out company content through employees’ networks on LinkedIn can be largely ineffective.

“Make sure when you share, you have a purpose for sharing it and engaging,” he said. “Don’t just do social. Be social.”

Instead, his strategy focuses on adding value. He explained that if you’re delivering value to a prospective candidate, you can increase word of mouth opportunities — as well as the likelihood that they’ll consider you as an employer.

John’s strategy involves tailoring content to varying career levels.

He started with HR and candidate-specific content — like resume, interview, and negotiation tips — to add value for prospective candidates at the top of the funnel stage.

Make sure when you share, you have a purpose for sharing it and engaging. Don't just do social. Be social. John Graham Jr.
“Then we also get them to share and engage with career development and leadership development content,” he said.

When employees share content relevant to their career level, John explained, they become a source of informative and actionable information for their networks and peers. “You’re creating more of a pull than a push interaction,” he said.

The content is then funneled into a pool within LinkedIn Elevate.

John explained LinkedIn Elevate allows you to set up content categories geared toward different groups, as well as a category for general content that can be used across departments.

And because he started with HR employees and content, it created a solid foundation of content in that pool. “That type of content is typically safe and relevant for everybody,” he said. “When you get into more sales, manufacturing, research and development, or data science-specific content, then you have to create categories geared towards those specific divisions.”

LinkedIn Elevate also provides metrics that John uses to see whether a candidate visited the company page or applied for a job based on content shared by an employee.

“Then, down to the individual level, you can see who’s participating, how many people they reached, and how many impressions are driving clicks, likes, comments, and shares,” he explained.

John shared how scaling a strategy like this can pose challenges.

According to John, curating enough content can be difficult — especially in regulated industries. “You really have to be thoughtful of the content that you’re going to pump through this platform and deem as safe and compliant content to be shared,” John said.

While curation may be simple for a small employee pool, it can become more difficult to sustain as the pool grows.

“So you have to be very clear and thoughtful on the who, what, and why,” he said. “The how is the easy part.”

In the past, he’s seen this program help funnel in higher quality candidates through LinkedIn.

There's a certain level of readiness that's required to bring in an advocacy program because you can buy the tool and start inviting people, but the company culture also has to be ready for it. John Graham Jr.
“They’re coming with a very clear understanding of the value proposition based not only on how your employees are representing the organization, but also how engaged those employees are,” he said.

John explained that the program is beneficial internally as well. As employees get involved, they become more recognizable to their peers and colleagues.

“There’s a culture shift of becoming more aware of what’s going on with the employee base on an external channel,” he said.

For other brands looking to implement similar initiatives, John suggested evaluating different tools and getting feedback from peers.

“Make sure that the platform is capable of doing what you want,” he said. To do that, he recommended seeking perspectives from peers and colleagues.

“There’s always that ‘aha’ moment after you’ve paid a significant amount of money, and then realize it can’t do what you want,” John explained. “But, having a solid network of practitioners who’ve engaged with the tool before can help you evaluate whether it’s a good fit for your initiative.”

He emphasized it’s important to determine the right time to launch an employee advocacy program. “There’s a certain level of readiness that’s required to bring in an advocacy program because you can buy the tool and start inviting people, but the company culture also has to be ready for it,” he said.

Now, to start implementing his employee advocacy program, John and his team are focused on rebuilding Amgen’s entire EVP and employer brand from scratch.

“Our focus is mainly getting the EVP together and the employer brand refreshed and redeployed,” he said. Then, once they have their voice messaging, internal stakeholders, and target audiences lined up, he’ll begin to launch his employee advocacy initiative.

“Having the support and advocacy of leadership, and a new progressive line of thinking is like wind in our sails to launch these initiatives and really approach employer brand in an authentic and meaningful way,” John said. “I’m excited for things to come.”

John Graham Jr. has been a member of the Talent Marketing Board since 2019. You can follow him on Twitter and connect with him on LinkedIn.