COVID-19: How Coronavirus has influenced employer branding on LinkedIn

LinkedIn Employer branding

At a time when people are coming together, LinkedIn data highlights the trends in the employer branding messages during COVID-19 days. Here’s a closer look at the employer branding communications resonating the most with audiences.

In these times, it’s been heartening to see people coming together — from checking in on neighbors to applauding healthcare workers. 

That’s the spirit many companies are starting to channel as they try to answer a difficult question: how should employers be communicating about the Coronavirus? 

Companies have had to scrap their old employer branding plans and focus on meeting the moment at hand. 

Looking at LinkedIn data, you can see how quickly things have changed. The share of posts addressing COVID-19 and working from home have rapidly increased — as has engagement with those posts. The tone has also changed, with themes of support, community, and care on the rise. 

Here’s a closer look at how employer branding messages have changed, which messages are resonating the most, and where to go from here.

About 1 in 4 company posts mention coronavirus

Graph showing “Percentage of company posts on LinkedIn about COVID-19”  Week starting 1/27/20: 1% Week starting 2/24: 2% Week starting 3/2: 4% Week starting 3/9: 10% Week starting 3/16: 24% Week starting 3/23: 26% Week starting 3/30: 24% Week starting 4/6: 22% Week starting 4/13: 22%  *Based on global LinkedIn data

In late February and early March, Coronavirus was making international news, but it wasn’t affecting employer branding yet. It was one of many stories circulating, and employers were occasionally starting to talk about it. 

By mid-March, it was the main story and employer branding postings started to reflect that.

In the week of March 2, COVID-19-related posts were 4% of all company posts on LinkedIn. Just two weeks later, they were 24% of all posts.

That’s the key period when the reality of the situation really set in on a global scale, beyond China and East Asia. On March 9, Italy went on nationwide lock down; on March 11, the NBA suspended their season; on March 17, France and the San Francisco Bay Area implemented shelter-in-place, with the entire states of California and New York following suit over the next few days. 

Graph showing “Industries posting the most about COVID-19”  Starting week of 12/30/19, no mentions from any industry. Mentions increase starting week of 1/13/20 through week of 3/2/20 but stay below 10%, then spike in weeks from 3/9 to 3/23 to between 30 and 50%. Legal industry mentions the most, followed by Public Administration, Healthcare, Nonprofit, and Public Safety.  *Based on global LinkedIn data, including multilingual keywords.

The change was even more pronounced in certain industries. Coronavirus-related posts made up nearly 50% of posts by companies in the legal industry, with public administration close behind. Other industries posting COVID-19 content were healthcare, nonprofits, and public safety.

Around the same time, employees who were able to work from home had to make adjustments — and that was reflected in companies’ messaging. Many employer branding teams grappled with the new normal by posting content about remote work, with almost 15% of company posts touching on it in mid-to-late March. 

Graph showing “Percentage of company posts on LinkedIn about working from home”  From 1/1/20 to 3/2/20 percentage of posts is below or at 1%, climbs to 3% on 3/9, 13% on 3/16, 14% on 3/23, then starts declining (11% on 3/30, 9% on 4/6).  *Based on global LinkedIn data, including multilingual keywords.

Coronavirus-related posts are getting more engagement than other posts — especially those focusing on how companies are helping

Perhaps because people are looking for resources and ways to cope with the pandemic, engagement with Coronavirus posts from companies is significantly higher than the engagement for an average company post.

That level of engagement has also increased over time as people are paying more and more attention to what companies are saying and doing about the ongoing pandemic.

Graph showing “Engagement of COVID-19 posts by region”  Jan 2020: Asia Pacific: 17% below average Europe & Middle East: 40% below average Latin America: 1% below average North America: 24% below average  Feb 2020: Asia Pacific: 16% above average Europe & Middle East: 16% below average Latin America: 9% below average North America: 27% below average  March 2020 Asia Pacific: 12% below average Europe & Middle East: 5% above average Latin America: 1% above average North America: 13% above average  April 2020 Asia Pacific: 28% above average Europe & Middle East: 14% above average Latin America: 25% above average North America: 30% above average  *Based on global LinkedIn data.

While Coronavirus-related content received below-average numbers in January, they steadily picked up as the months went on — first in Asia, then in Europe and North America. By April, posts from companies received above-average engagement across all regions; in North America and Asia Pacific, those posts got 30% more engagement than the average post. 

Though it can be difficult to know what to say without coming off as tone-deaf, the posts that resonated most can provide some direction. As it turns out, the Coronavirus posts that got the most engagement were about how those companies were stepping up to help relief efforts, in ways big and small.

Also read: Testing: Linkedin works on Polls and Hashtag Presentation mode

Some took on major efforts, like mass-producing hand sanitizer or setting up a center for COVID patients. Others got similar levels of engagement from smaller human stories, like an engineer driving through a snowstorm to work on ventilators or an illustrator getting stuck in Wuhan and creating comics to teach kids in lockdown not to be afraid

Posts about working from home (WFH) have seen an even more dramatic increase in engagement:

Graph showing “Engagement of posts about working from home by region”  Jan 2020: Asia Pacific — 18% below average engagement Europe & Middle East — 56% below average engagement Latin America — 40% below average engagement North America — 17% below average engagement  Feb 2020 Asia Pacific — 5% below average engagement Europe & Middle East — 29% below average engagement Latin America — 20% below average engagement North America — 2% above average engagement  March 2020 Asia Pacific — 60% above average engagement Europe & Middle East — 2% above average engagement Latin America — 32% below average engagement North America — 45% above average engagement  April 2020 Asia Pacific — 165% above average engagement Europe & Middle East — 15% above average engagement Latin America — 18% below average engagement North America — 76% above average engagement  *Based on global LinkedIn data

In March, WFH posts in Asia-Pacific and North America saw roughly 50% more engagement than the average post. So far in April, engagement has skyrocketed in Asia-Pacific — with WFH posts getting 165% more engagements than usual. 

Some of the most successful posts showed how companies were equipping employees to work remotely; other posts offered looks at employees’ improvised home offices

Empathetic employer branding is resonating

We also looked closely at what words appeared more often in the posts that resonated most. Compared to other coronavirus-related posts, the ones with the highest engagement tended to use words about health, helping, and support. 

The coronavirus posts from companies on LinkedIn that got the most engagement used these words more often:  — Health — Help — People — Employees — Support — Social distancing — Health authorities — Public health — Take care — Healthcare workers

Messages promoting public health also resonated — references to health authorities, social distancing, and healthcare workers were correlated with stronger engagement. 

In short, it looks like messages that put people first perform best. Whether it’s honoring healthcare workers, supporting local communities, or caring for employees, posts that convey empathy and togetherness are getting the most attention — and rightly so. 

This is an incredibly difficult time, and every person and organization will be affected differently. While no one can say exactly how long our current situation will last, demonstrating solidarity, compassion, and care can help all of us get through it together. 

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