Multifamily Leadership Series Interview with Catherine Swaback, Employer Branding from the Inside Out
In this interview, Patrick Antrim, Founder of Multifamily Leadership, spoke with Catherine Swaback, Director of Marketing Strategy at Alliance Residential Company, one of the largest private U.S. multifamily companies with offices throughout the West, Southwest, South-Central, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
Patrick: As one of the nation’s largest developers and apartment operators, how important is the acquisition of new talent to the lease-up and operations of your multifamily portfolios?
Catherine: Recruiting top talent and retaining our best associates is not only important, our foundation is centered on this. As extensions of our brand and our front lines, we continually invest in our on-site talent and put a heavy focus on associate significance and performance. It’s because of our people that we continue to be best-in-class, lead the industry through innovation and deliver unparalleled customer service at every touch point.
Patrick: What strategies do you employ to keep your teams focused on the vision of the company in an ever-growing and evolving industry?
Catherine: As the No. 1 national multifamily developer for three years running, it is imperative that we concentrate on maintaining a strong corporate structure in conjunction with our on-site teams to best support our communities and our associates. Marketing is a large part of this. Garnering the best marketing talent in the industry is a vital component of our philosophy – a successful lease-up strategy and scalable model are key to our continued success with an ever-growing construction pipeline. Our marketing team encompasses multifamily marketing experts and strong ad agency talent that marry essential industry insight with a fresh approach to advertising and strategy. New ideas and data-driven tactics allow us to stay ahead of the competition and in front of our renters. As we continue to grow, our work is constantly evolving and we are empowering our team to think progressively.
Patrick: That’s really interesting and your strategy seems to be working. With more than 2,400 associates nationwide, have employer branding strategies played a part in your business success?
Catherine: Alliance has an expansive history and we stay true to this with our marketing. Our logo is the same logo the company started with, but we continue to evolve within our corporate and property brands, marketing campaigns and talent. We are a culture-focused company that values an entrepreneurial spirit and our associates truly take ownership in their work which, collectively, significantly impacts our success.
Patrick: With the long history and the consistency of the company culture, do you include every employee in the brand development process?
Catherine: This is more important than ever within our marketing efforts – our on-site teams are brought into the property brand development process and are a critical extension of our marketing team. We empower our teams to think strategically and execute marketing efforts that speak to the established brand and strategy to ensure consistency is maintained from the website to the leasing office – and from prospect to resident. If you’ve done any social listening on our property pages, you know that we retain our residents because of our associates and the personalized service they deliver. You are much more likely to see a Business Manager’s name in a raving review than a new, must-have amenity.
Patrick: That really speaks to the effort you have put forth maintaining consistency with every aspect of the company, which is quite impressive with the size of Alliance Residential. With the demand for talent heating up in the multifamily industry, how has the marketing team worked together with the recruiting team to attract top talent?
Catherine: As a company we know that our people are our biggest differentiators, so our marketing efforts for new talent mirror just that. Our talent team develops innovative campaigns that promote ‘real-life’ success stories within our industry that are relatable and appealing to more than just industry talent. We let our associates tell their stories and why they chose to break into Multifamily and work for Alliance – even highlighting their inspiring workspaces that make our company so unique. Our marketing team is then strategic in reaching our target talent through messaging and innovative advertising channels.
Patrick: I often say that if you want to know if a certain organization is a great place to work, you need to ask the employees who currently work there. I’m a big believer in the power of personality and culture fit, what steps are you taking to tell stories about your brand and company culture?
Catherine: Our culture is evident in everything that we do. Social media and video content are the fundamental drivers of our on-site engagement efforts. As a result, we’ve been extremely successful at creating a socially engaged company and vast following. Culture-centric hashtags are common, such as #IHeartAlliance, and genuinely demonstrate the passion our associates have for their work.
Patrick: Your social media pages, Instagram for example, have a great variety of posts highlighting everything from specific property amenities and motivational quotes to videos of your teams doing the Running Man Challenge. The amount of work you have put into these social media pages is impressive.
Catherine: Yes, and our work shows – Alliance experienced a 302% increase in Facebook likes year-over-year and a 935% gain in Instagram followers. A recent awareness campaign achieved more than 18,000 Facebook views and earned three video awards at the 2016 Apartment Internet Marketing Conference.
Patrick: How wonderful! Those are some great accomplishments and I’m sure they play a big part in the attraction and retention of top talent.
Catherine: This culture is adopted early on by associates that become brand ambassadors and help us tell our story. They play a large part in recruiting and retaining top talent because it’s organic; it isn’t something that is taught or forced. We tell one, cohesive story – we create opportunities, empower leaders, invest in associates and own multifamily.
Patrick: Catherine, it is clear that Alliance Residential has discovered some key strategies regarding marketing, brand management, and how to attract and retain industry leaders. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me and we can’t wait to see what Alliance comes up with next.