With all the buzz about the latest hot topics related to employee engagement – namely how to leverage social media tools with internal audiences – one fundamental requirement for effective employee communications is often forgotten: the need for alignment across all “touch points” that reach employees. My friend David Kippen, who specializes in employment brand strategy at TMP Worldwide, discussed this point at a recent Conference Board workshop…talking about how various iterations of the company’s positioning as an employer was too often inconsistent, and even contradictory.

Thinking about my own career, I can think of several instances where the external employment (or recruitment) brand was totally different from my interviewing experience, and even more so from the initial orientation and on-boarding. So either the corporate brand was misrepresented, or it was not effectively conveyed to prospects and/or hew hires. And that doesn’t even touch on the messages and positioning that are shared with established employees – which are too often aspirational cheer-leading rather than a reflection of reality or cogent strategy. Furthermore, the actual work experience (an ocean of cubicles?) and HR programs (such as benefits or performance evaluations) sometimes don’t jibe with the company’s stated identity or culture. Add in typically woeful efforts to reach out to alumni, who are potential recruits and brand ambassadors, and you have a very disjointed employee experience. And we wonder why most employee campaigns are met with skepticism and are dead on arrival. Needless to say, it’s difficult if not impossible to have a clear, compelling external image as an employer if the situation is as sclerotic as described above.

Enlightened companies should put much more effort into defining and promoting a consistent brand positioning with prospects, new hires, employees and alumni. This will by necessity need to involve folks from various teams and agencies, and it may take some hard work to define the employment brand – both real and desired. But it’s work well worth doing. Otherwise, employees and prospects will continue to view corporate positioning efforts with cynicism and scorn.