Tisha-Leslie

How Tisha Leslie helped T-Mobile build their in-house creative team and employer brand content strategy from the ground up

Two years ago, Tisha Leslie joined T-Mobile as the Director of HR Social Media — without a team or a budget.

Selling a place to work is inherently very different than selling products and services. Tisha Leslie
Luckily for Tisha, T-Mobile has an informal internal program supporting “stretch assignments,” which allows department leaders to lend their employees to different teams so the employee can get a new experience, and the receiving team gets the benefit of a new perspective.

“Initially, I really built my team on borrowed talent,” says Tisha.

To build the best team possible, Tisha looked for specific qualities in her “borrowed” employees.

Tisha not only made sure that the employees were talented photographers and videographers, but that they were also able to read and convey emotions well — so they could experience an event and give it meaning.

“I believe everyone has the ability to learn what they need to learn. But selling a place to work is inherently very different than selling products and services,” Tisha explains.

She chose the types of people who notice every detail about what makes T-Mobile’s culture different.

It's the magenta shoes and gear, and people in t-shirts, and magenta hair -- you see it and you can't help but double click because you love it. Tisha Leslie
“These are the people who wander our halls and look for the little symbols that have to do with our culture, how we get things done, what makes it different here — why people wear branded clothing and T-Mobile shirts every day. They’re the people who get curious about that kind of thing naturally,” says Tisha. “And then they’re able to translate it into videos, photos, graphics, gifts, and social posts.”

She says, “Two team members recently converted to full time and then a third person was moved over from another team. So now we have graphic design, video, photography, and production to a certain extent.” Ideally, with this current team, Tisha aims to create more campaigns and incorporate video.

As her team came together with both stretch assignments and a new hire from the Corp Comm team, Tisha started focusing on building out the content strategy.

First, the team determined the T-Mobile Careers pages should have a mentor-like relationship with their social audiences, and they built out a detailed persona as a base for that.

“From there we looked at what makes T-Mobile a compelling place to work,” Tisha explains.

She dug deep into their EVP through spotlighting diversity inclusion and something her team calls “culture bait” that continues to create high engagement. She says, “It’s the magenta shoes and gear, and people in t-shirts, and magenta hair — you see it and you can’t help but double click because you love it.”

Tisha’s team holds a two-hour editorial meeting every week to plan out the details of upcoming content and campaigns.

We found that our audience wants to be informed on Twitter. They want to be inspired on Instagram, and they want to be entertained on Facebook. Tisha Leslie
From these weekly meetings, the team is able to craft editorial calendars, but they also rely heavily on internal partners to let them know when big events are happening on campus. The resulting content is a mix of posts that have been planned for weeks, or even months ahead of time, and posts that are essentially crafted on the spot.

Earlier this year, Tisha’s role evolved to Director of Employer Brand and the team is now ten people strong. Their domain includes all of the career and social media channels, the company LinkedIn page, full-funnel recruitment marketing media and tactics, and the careers website. Because they have so much space to cover, Tisha is careful about appealing to the different audiences each communications channel offers.

On social, “We found that our audience wants to be informed on Twitter. They want to be inspired on Instagram, and they want to be entertained on Facebook,” she says. Her team often takes the same topic and portrays it differently using those three lenses.

While her in-house team has taken over a bulk of the work, they continue to partner with other internal teams and external agencies to cover more ground.

We think of every employee as a candidate, too. In fact, our 55,000 employees are our most important candidates. Tisha Leslie
Her core team partners with their internal communication and diversity and inclusion teams, as well as two external agencies — one for paid social and one for traditional media buying. “I think about it as an entire ecosystem,” Tisha says.

“What the agencies provide that you don’t get in-house is the perspective of a variety of different clients and knowing what’s working at scale. They might not be able to get the nuances of your brand quite as well as someone who sits there every day, but they know what’s working across a variety of different clients,” she explains. “They should be presenting ideas and tactics that are uncomfortable for me. If that’s not happening, I don’t have the right agency.”

A former agency executive herself, Tisha says, “I find it to be really helpful to have somebody [an agency] an arm’s length away that within 24 hours can get things done for you. That to me is worth the price of a retainer alone.”

The external help leaves room for Tisha’s team to focus solely on their employer brand and creative strategies, as well as the actual content creation.

The team’s next steps are based around taking what they’ve learned and using it to become more effective marketers.

“We recently did a nationwide employer brand perception survey for the very first time and learned that we have lower employer brand awareness than we thought. That was shocking to all of us because we love working here so much, but it was also really important lesson for us: We need to make it more obvious,” Tisha says.

Since the survey, Tisha’s team has honed in their strategy to focus on the entire candidate journey and determining the best ways to meet those candidates. “And we think of every employee as a candidate, too. In fact, our 55,000 employees are our most important candidates,” she says.

“It’s about how we understand the decision-making process that they go through when choosing a new career, and how we also recognize the decision-making process every employee goes through when they recommit to the company every day.”

As for advice she would give to someone building out their own in-house creative team and content strategy, Tisha says the best content comes from a blend of art and science.

“You have to be informed about the audience you’re trying to reach,” says Tisha. “You have to be informed about what’s working and what’s not working.”

When Tisha joined the team two years ago, she didn’t look at the most successful posts. She looked at what was performing poorly and moved forward from there. She recommends taking the time to get to know your audience in any way you can -– take a new hire to coffee, hold a formal or informal focus group, dig into your data. At the very least, find the worst content you’ve produced and figure out how to make it better, more relevant.

“From there, you build an editorial calendar. I think one mistake that people make really early on is thinking they need to be on all the social media platforms. That’s misguided. Pick one because it matters most to your audience. Do it really well, and then figure out what to do next.”

Tisha Leslie has been a member of the Talent Marketing Board since 2017. You can follow her on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram.