The Washington Post is one of the world’s most recognizable news brands, attracting an average of 100 million readers a month. In recent years, The Post has transformed itself into a media and technology company, placing rapid experimentation, innovation and the user experience at the forefront of its strategy.
To support these changes, the company has overhauled its employer branding strategy. We spoke to Austin Graff, a Talent Marketing and Brand Specialist for The Post, about how it redefined its employer brand to attract technical candidates. Here’s what he had to say.
Graff says that two realities prompted his team to rethink its employer branding strategy. From an industry standpoint, all news outlets were searching for ways to survive in the digital age. Additionally, because The Washington Post is a legacy brand, developers often had preconceived notions about what it was like to work for them.
“Most people know us for our news coverage, but we also built a suite of digital publishing tools to meet the needs of our newsroom. This has grown into a business called Arc Publishing, which we’re now selling to other media companies,” Graff continues. “Because of that, we’re very much a technology company. The problem was that most technical candidates didn’t know that was the case.”
Graff tells us that before The Post implemented any changes to its employer branding, the team dove into their hiring data from the previous year. “It was important for us to understand how many critical technical hires we made in the previous year,” Graff told us. “This enabled us to map those numbers back to the company’s overall strategy, forecast the most important roles that we needed to fill, and research how to recruit those candidates.”
Even though The Washington Post is a well-known company, Graff and his team realized that they weren’t the only organization making the transition into a company with tech at its core. “There’s a lot of competition for the top programmers in the market, so to get their attention, you have to speak to them in an authentic voice,” he says.
But how do you define an “authentic” voice, especially when it comes to tech recruiting? The Post relied on candidate persona research to redefine its employer brand. “In the past, we used one tagline for all of our recruitment branding materials,” Graff adds. “But after studying our ideal candidate profiles, it became obvious that our messaging was not as personal or relatable as it needed to be.”
The result was a developer-first approach that emphasizes The Post’s commitment to technology. “Most candidates probably don’t realize that we were recently named one of Fast Company’s most innovative companies. That’s something we’re really proud of and want developers to know,” Graff says. “We’re also transparent about how we’re a legacy company that’s also a growing digital media organization. Over the past year and a half, we’ve found that this messaging really resonates with our target audience—and most importantly, it has helped us increase the number of qualified applications that we receive.”