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Meet Cindy Cloud, An Employer Branding Expert for All Seasons

Posted on March 22, 2011
Filed Under Employment Branding, Interviews | Comments Off on Meet Cindy Cloud, An Employer Branding Expert for All Seasons


• Cindy Cloud, Informatica Talent Branding Consultant
LinkedIn
Blog:Certainly Cindy
• Community Volunteering: Silicon Valley ASPCA
• Personal Causes: Animal Rights through World Wildlife Fund
• Number: 408-813-7726
• Email: cacloud@gmail.com

Cindy’s background is in marketing communications with a specialty in employment branding and talent attraction programs. Cindy does it all, from collateral and web design and development, through production for video, multi-media and presentations. She has a special flair for producing creative, integrated strategies and promotional campaigns that get results.

I met Cindy at Informatica through her consultation efforts with their talent acquisition organization. She is the linchpin in rolling out the marketing aspects of the talent strategy recommendations I developed in coordination with the HR leadership team. She has implemented a global, targeted, social network presence and developed on-going marketing campaigns with analysis to maximize the company’s ROI. Above all, she has spear headed the redesign of Informatica’s Careers web site in alignment with the launch of their Talent Community strategy implemented on the Jobs2Web platform.

Implementing an integrated employer brand did not start at Informatica – it transcended following her contributions at Cisco where she managed marketing and communications activities for Cisco’s Global Talent Acquisition team and Cisco’s Partner Talent programs.

Cindy developed a globally integrated approach to branding across both Professional and University hires; producing the videos, designing the collateral and developing the integrated messaging.

    Cisco Careers Video
    Cisco University Program Video
    Cisco Belgium Careers Videos
    Cisco India Careers Video
    Cisco Finance Careers Video

Cindy Cloud

While it’s not traditional for Six Degrees from Dave to interview the employer branding aspect; it’s an imperative contribution to the talent strategy equation. The bells and whistles of social media do not chime effectively on their own … they need a conductor to entice a candidates into following. Cindy Cloud represents the best of the new breed that ensures the symphony is in pitch and makes the work of talent sourcing strategists, such as myself all the easier. Having a rare resource in place within corporate talent acquisition organizations enables me to maximize my effectiveness.

Q& A with Cindy Cloud, Employer Branding Consultant

Six Degrees: Tell us of your home world.

Cindy: I’m living the good life with my two, four-legged kids in Los Gatos, California – Ernie San, a six year old pure bred Siamese cat and Dharma, a three year old pure bred Tibetan spaniel. They are the current loves of my life; they warm my heart and keep a smile on my face. Life in Los Gatos is fabulous. It has a small town feel with a cosmopolitan atmosphere – great restaurants and night life too. That must be why my friends and family come to visit so often. Well, that and the fact that Big Sur, Monterey and Carmel are in my backyard. It’s only 20 minutes from the beach and 10 minutes to redwood forests, it’s perfect for me – I love the ocean and the mountains.

When I’m not out and about exploring and photographing my local environment, I enjoy cooking for my friends, and doing volunteer work for the Silicon Valley ASPCA. I’m grateful that I can give my time to just play with the animals, giving them the much needed attention while they wait their turn for adoption. Animal rights are important to me. Animals of all kinds, domestic and wild need advocates around the world to ensure they are not abused – for fun or profit. Last year, through a networking advocacy group, I and 10 others were able to shut down two puppy mills in North Carolina.

Six Degrees: You’re an outdoors enthusiast – how does this translate into your work life?

Cindy: I like to test my limits, physically and mentally – especially when someone says that girls can’t do that! When you combine those attributes with passion and vision you have the recipe for my outlook on life. I’ve always had a vision when it comes to my work life. I know what I want, what I am good at, what challenges and inspires me, and I go after it. Passion and vision are very powerful keys to success in any job role, especially when opportunity meets determination.

I have a pioneering spirit that attracts me to adventurous activities in work and at play. I am passionate about international travel and when it is combined with adventure, even better. I recently got back from a trip to Costa Rica where I had my first discovery scuba dive and met up with an eight foot manta ray. The high lite of all thrills so far has been zip lining over the Costa Rican rain forest tree tops – eight lines in total with the highest one at 536 feet, the longest line at 2, 940’ and the fastest speed of 50 mph. Now, that got my blood pumping.

Six Degrees: How did you get started in Employer Branding?

Cindy: I spent the first 20 years of my career in sales and marketing roles in the consumer electronics industry, working with companies such as Pentax, Kodak and Phillips Consumer Electronics. I have always been interested in electronic ‘gadgets’ that are fun and can enhance one’s life. Combine that with a love and talent for educating and it was a natural career path to move into hi-tech. When I came to the Silicon Valley, the internet was in its infancy and I immediately knew it was the next big ‘consumer gadget’, so I set my sites on working for Cisco, and moving from marketing consumer products to pitching routers and switches!

Over time, I realized the mystique of new technology was not inspiring any longer. I realized that using my advertising and branding knowledge to market jobs to people in the high-tech industry would bring more satisfaction. It is also an area that suits my pioneering spirit as not many HR organizations have deep knowledge on marketing or branding in general. In this niche, I often get to pioneer and create new ways to attract talent.

Six Degrees: Tell us about your consulting efforts on behalf of Informatica.

Cindy: My current assignment as a Social Media and Employer Branding consultant, is working with Informatica’s Global Talent Acquisition team to revive their employer of choice branding and marketing strategy. There is a lot to do, as they need a complete over haul – from web design to messaging, and a social media presence. The heavy lifting will come as I build out their social media presence across LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. I love these ‘soup to nuts’ projects as they give me the chance to pull together an integrated approach to branding, which is the most effective way to measure the impact it has on the candidate experience and on Informatica’s corporate brand as well.

I have been at it since November 2010, and the first project out the gate in March is a new SEO optimized web platform for their careers web site. This will be the ‘center of the universe’ for all of Informatica’s sourcing activities and ties back nicely to the core messaging on their social sites. With all the buzz around social media now, it is quite the exciting time to be in the recruiting arena, and a boon for employment branding. I’m really looking forward to leveraging this medium to better understand the behaviors and expectation of job seekers. I believe that success in marketing anything, a job, product or service, comes from how effective was the messaging – did it influence the recipient in a positive manner and move them to take the desired action.

Over the coming months we will be doing the same activities for Informatica’s University recruiting efforts. This audience is fun to target as the branding can be a bit lighter and more aspirational. As a techie myself, I like marketing to this audience as they use all the latest communication vehicles – and now that is the mobile platform. Working with new platforms and media keeps me engaged and tests my creative thinking abilities. I love the challenge of how to say more with less space.

Six Degrees: Tell us of an event that had an impact on how you view the importance of Employer Branding?

Cindy:I can recall clearly how Cisco’s TV ad campaign ‘Are You Ready’ affected me. When I saw these powerful ads it was at the time I was trying to get hired at Cisco and was continually turned away due to my ‘low-tech’ background. To say the least, my experience with their recruiting left me with an unfavorable impression. I was about to give up on pursuing employment with them, feeling that it was a stuffy corporate environment when I saw the TV ad. They spoke of the company I wanted to work for, unlike what I was shown in my interviews. I was so emotionally moved by these well produced ads – they spoke to the ‘urgency’ and ‘opportunity’ behind the impending change the Internet will have on our global economy. In the closing the ads posed the question everyone needs to ask is: ‘Are you ready?'”. I was ready to be apart of that change and committed myself to over come the barriers on my employment pursuits. This series of events made it clear to me how important it is to have employer branding aligned to corporate branding. By having a consistent and ’emotional’ story that aligns recruiting messaging with the corporate vision and mission, it enhances the candidate experience and decreases the time to fill positions because job seekers are ‘pre-sold’ on the aspirational aspects of the career opportunity.

Scuba in Costa Rica

Six Degrees:What other companies’ Employer Branding do you admire or have heard are best-practice examples; in what aspects are they superior?

Cindy: Adobe is one of my favorites. It is apparent, just from a visual point of view, that they live their brand – creative, innovative, passionate. In Adobes’ words, they say this about their culture “From day one, the company has cultivated a culture of creativity and innovation and has always sought out passionate people to join its mission to revolutionize how the world engages with ideas and information.” You can see that what they state about their work culture is true by the quality of products they produce and the quality they put into their user experience. Not to mention their high-caliber marketing communications collateral – from print to web they are always at the cutting edge.

At the core of all branding is emotion. A strong employer brand is an emotional response that employees have to their work, their colleagues and the company culture. It is a reflection that employees truly believe in and promote a company’s mission and vision. When employees join Adobe, they know that they have the opportunity to do innovative work in an environment that encourages them to excel. Employees join Adobe and stay because they feel there is a connection between their deepest aspirations and what the organization offers. Delivering the brand promise at Adobe starts with creating ownership in their people; and they did this right from the time the employer brand was developed. They hire and train employees for values and behaviors, not just skills. By doing this consistently, they maintain a strong employer brand – the entire enterprise ‘walks their talk’, employees, marketing, and products are in unison.

Six Degrees: What industry trend do you feel will have an impact on your work in the future? Why?

Cindy: I think it will be mobile devices for sure, smart phones. Because everything is telling us that the WAP-enabled (Wireless Application Protocol) cell phone will soon be bigger than the World Wide Web we know today. We are entering the world of M-branding. The impact on branding in general will be a challenge. The question to ponder is “how do you build a brand on a canvas smaller than a matchbox? Branding on mobile now has limits to the number of colors that can be used and little scope for graphics, in addition, the user is paying for every second it takes for them to receive a commercial message.

However, the upside is this boon in mobile devices will bring an increase of mobile innovation including faster download speeds, new display options, and cheaper services. I do not think this will bring brand limitations, but instead I believe it will provide brands the capability to keep their website offerings consistent with their mobile offerings. Instead of mobile taking over, I think it will be a combination of mobile and web. No matter what kind of device you are using, I believe the focus will be consistency throughout.

Waterfall Repelling

Six Degrees: What companies do you like today that have a branded mobile employment presence and why?

Cindy: PepsiCo has a very sexy look and is a content rich application that offers up their latest videos, tweets, employee blog entries, job search tools and job alerts. Although PepsiCo is a consumer brand, I really see this approach having an impact on University recruiting where the audience uses mobile devices constantly and for recruiting in geographical locations like India and China, where there are more cell phones in use than computers. India is the world’s fastest growing wireless market, with 771M mobile phone subscribers as of February 2011. It is also the second largest telecommunication network in the world in terms of number of wireless connections after China.

The outstanding feature of the PepsiCo application is the social networking abilities that connect people in their Talent Community with their recruiters and with others in the Talent Community. I see this new generation of mobile apps opening new opportunities to corporate recruitment organizations to engage with their target audience. Until now, mobile apps were ‘just’ an extension of the career site and social media activities. This is a great way to serve your audience with relevant information, including job openings anytime and anywhere but it was mainly one-way communication.

Six Degrees: What do you see as the biggest opportunity / growth area for employer branding in the technology marketplace?

Cindy: It would be in University and College recruiting in general. This is the time to take advantage of using technology instead of geographical presence to brand oneself at more universities. By developing an employer branding strategy for University hires across many schools it will make the employers corporate identity stronger as well. In addition, the strong need to build a pipeline of talent that is educated in niche skills and advanced technologies makes this approach extremely valuable to employers such as Informatica who do not have a mature employer brand and few resources to implement activities on campus. By using technology to reach this audience, it sends the clear message that Informatica is indeed in the technology sector – one of the challenges they have is establishing awareness around what industry they are in as their products and services touch any organization or enterprise that uses computers from transactions or interactions – that’s everyone.

The approach to University recruiting has been to focus on the top talent from the top schools. That strategy still works for well know companies that have resources and money to spend. However, the advantage is really to the companies that understand the future of hiring in general and to graduates in particular in today’s world- the fact that this talent group’s priorities have shifted from salary and benefits to putting greater value on corporate values and culture when choosing employers. In other words, the level of academic skill is less important than the person’s ability to apply those skills within the specific company culture. Employers who realize that personality and culture are fundamental words for successful employer branding will know why it is more important now to college recruiting than ever before.

Six Degrees: What would you like to expand on in your repertoire of banding skills?

Cindy: I’ve always been interested in ‘branding’ work place environments. You may ask, ‘what is that? Well branding environments extends the experience of an organization or company’s brand, or distinguishing characteristics as expressed in names, symbols and designs, to the design of interior settings. It is the practice of leveraging the workplace to help deliver the identity attributes, personality and key messages of the company. This can be done through the use architecture, images, choice of colors, finishes – any way that expresses the core elements of the company’s brand name.

I see many benefits of a branded environment that directly and indirectly influence employer branding. Internally, it can translate into higher employee satisfaction and retention, increased productivity, and better understanding of an organization’s mission, vision and values. In addition, it certainly can help in the interview process when candidates visit corporate locations, as they can see the brand promise is alive and not just some words on a paper or phony hype from a recruiter. External benefits that indirectly influence the employer brand include improved brand position and communication, better customer recognition, differentiation from competitors and higher perceived value from investors.

RECOMMENDATIONS

“Having hired Cindy into my group previously, I knew her wealth of knowledge around marketing and communications would be a great fit for this HR role. Cindy’s energetic and enthusiastic approach can take a simple concept and turn it into a great product. The Staffing organization still uses many of her marketing ideas, concepts, and output today. I hired Cindy to help drive a change communication strategy to 3500 global sales professionals. She was able to leverage her extensive marketing, communications, and advertising background to develop an awesome communications program. Cindy has the ability to “pull the rabbit out of the hat” on every project. Just when I thought she had out done herself, she would take the next deliverable to new heights. Cindy has been one of the most creative people I have worked with. I highly recommend Cindy, and would, and did hire her again.” October 1, 2009. Top qualities: Great Results, High Integrity, Creative
Brad Cook, Vice President, Talent Acquisition Management, at Informatica

“Cindy’s knowledge and skill at managing a wide range of marketing communications activities are only surpassed by her energy and enthusiasm for Cisco. Cindy takes a balanced approach to every problem: from brand strategy to budgets, time lines and tactics, she has a firm grasp on the entire assignment.” October 20, 2008 Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, Creative
Mike Sanchez, Senior Brand Strategy Manager, Cisco

“Cindy was very instrumental in helping me implement communication strategies, which greatly improved relationships with my business partners as well as with my team. She has the ability to quickly assess issues, learn the business and assist a client to create, and implement appropriate marketing and communication strategies.” December 10, 2008 Top qualities: Integrity, Expert, Creative
Sylvia Flores, Global Staffing Manager, Cisco

“Cindy has an excellent command of what digital media and business communication requires, from strategy, to content, to execution. She works closely with the business to understand the messages they want to convey and understands what it takes to get the job done whether it is written, visual or video based and has fun doing it!” October 30, 2008 Top qualities: Fun, Expert, Creative
Denni Oravec, Global HR Programs Manager, Cisco

“Cindy is a very detail-oriented individual with a keen eye for not only creating amazingly high quality marketing collateral but also managing projects through to completion. I worked on several projects with Cindy that required her technical expertise and she came through every time with flying colors. I would be more than happy to work with Cindy on future projects should the opportunity present itself.” December 10, 2008 Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, Creative
Brett Klinker, Global Human Resources Manager, Cisco

“Cindy provided key support to our Partner Talent Programs. She was responsible for the Talent Marketing and Branding programs on a worldwide basis. She excelled in her work and was fully committed to deadlines and the team.” November 21, 2008 Top qualities: Great Results, Personable, Creative
Celia Harper-Guierro, WW Partner Talent Programs Director, Cisco

“Cindy is a very knowledgeable marketing professional. She stays on top of the industry and is very creative. She brings a wealth of knowledge in multiple areas such as: communications, presentation skills, collateral development, video development and scripting, web design/development and much more… She is results driven and thinks out of the box.” July 8, 2009 Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, Creative
Mimish L’Esperance, WW Partner Talent Programs Manager, Cisco

“Cindy has that rare combination of strategic thinking combined with very talented execution skills. From developing your Communications strategy, to Power Points that sizzle, informative program newsletters WIKIs and more. Additionally, Cindy does a great job interacting on all levels as a team player and I recommend her highly.” September 3, 2010 Top qualities: Integrity, Expert, Creative
Theresa O’brien, Marketing Programs Consultant, Cisco

“I have worked with Cindy for over two years and she has skillfully managed multiple projects for Cisco at one time, involving resources spread over a number of locations and number of different stakeholders. She is very talented and a great person to work with, who has won praise from all Cisco Groups she is been part of.” April 23, 2009 Top qualities: Great Results, Expert, Creative
Rajesh Ramachandran, Controller, Quovera, Inc.

“Cindy brings insight and wit to the projects we worked on for her at Cisco Systems. She excels at understanding the big picture while remaining detail oriented. She is a pleasure to work for.” April 17, 2008 Top qualities: Personable, Expert, Creative
Liz Gorman, Owner, Project Film & TV

“Cindy is a joy to work with. She has the talent to make the most difficult project to appear easy through her positive “can do” attitude. Cindy is both a strategic thinker and executes in detail the projects she works on. Great influencer, she builds bridges and leads to action to meet deadlines. Very creative and fun, her presence in a group is a source of inspiration.” April 22, 2009 Top qualities: Great Results, Integrity, Creative
Dr. Monica Cocojnaneu, Sr. Channel Manager, Cisco Systems

“I have known and worked with Cindy for longer than I care to admit! She is one of the most sought after consultants in the High Tech Connect Network. I always enjoy speaking with her and anticipate the rare times when she has room on her plate for more work. There’s a reason Cindy keeps busy — she’s awesome at what she does! From marketing communications project management to PowerPoint creation to technical writing, Cindy’s output is always top-notch. Never turn down an offer to meeting with Cindy or have coffee with her. You’ll come away with a smile!” April 24, 2008. Top qualities: Great Results, Personable, Creative
Michelle Stewart, Client Manager, Hi-Tech Connect

“While I was managing our product management group, Cindy worked in corporate sales and marketing and supported my team’s efforts. Cindy did a great job in creating marketing programs and materials for our first efforts going into law enforcement, real estate and entertainment verticals. I found Cindy to be smart, energetic, and a pleasure to work with. She played an key role in getting our business going and her impact lasted well past her tenure at IPIX.” October 23, 2008 Top qualities: Great Results, Personable, Creative
Joseph Ortiz, Senior Director, Product Management, IPIX

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