If you watched the first week of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, you probably saw this ad from GE. It features Owen, a newly hired GE developer whose friends are confused about what he does:

Owen’s troubles personify GE’s struggle to compete for top technical graduates. Freshly minted developers have gravitated to Google, Facebook, and other younger tech companies because they’ve perceived GE as nothing but a manufacturing company. Yet GE is an incredibly diverse business involved in many innovations including mapping the brain, building jet engines, advancing materials science, and modernizing power generation. It’s a giant that’s sometimes misunderstood, and Katrina Craigwell, GE’s Director of Global Content and Programming, is doing something about it.

Explaining GE to a New Generation

Under the theme “What’s Next,” Craigwell’s team established six content pillars designed to showcase theGE of today and tomorrow.They wanted to show how the company of Thomas Edison was about a lot more than light bulbs and appliances:

  1. Extreme machines.GE designs machines capable of powering through Earth’s most severe conditions. GE’s undersea machines, for example, help energy companies discover untapped sources of energy.
  2. Super Materials. Engineers at GE develop innovations in materials to power the machines of the future. Their ceramic matrix composites, a ceramic-carbon fiber combo, withstands the heat of jet engines without the weight of traditional materials, helping jet engines run lighter and cleaner than ever before.
  3. Industrial Internet.GE invests heavily not only in the Internet of Things but also in harnessing the power of big data. It’s using analytics to tackle big problems, such as managing Europe’s electrical grid.
  4. Mapped Minds. By combining a new polarizer with a procedure for freezing chemicals to absolute zero, GE has created MRI scanners 10,000 times more sensitive than ever before.
  5. Brilliant Factories.The factories of the past made one or a few things. Factories from the new Industrial Revolution, thanks to GE’s 3D printing and machine learning technology, can build anything their workers can imagine.
  6. Energy Everywhere. In addition to exploring for fossil fuels with Extreme Machines, GE’s alternative energy innovations bring power to underserved areas. Wind and tide power, along with new power generation technology, helps GE make energy cheaper and more accessible than ever before.

Getting the Message Out

Once they’d settled on messaging, Craigwell’s team thought about channels for selling top technical graduates on working for GE. They paired innovative social media campaigns with influencer outreach to market GE’s talent brand.

The team developed a campaign called #GEInstaWalk to highlight Brilliant Factories and open GE’s doors to new eyes. Six GE super fans and six Instagram influencers toured a factory in Peebles, Ohio, taking photos of jet engines in progress. The campaign earned 3.5 million impressions and over 200,000 engagements in less than 48 hours, and GE used the images for subsequent print campaigns.

To highlight Super Materials, GE built a Tumblr pageand tested 40 different household items in their advanced materials lab. Engineers froze, smashed, blasted, and destroyed rubber duckies, tennis balls, toy cars, and more. The campaign, #SpringBreakIt, featured 78 pieces of content in two days and debuted on April 23, 2014. It earned 2,200 hashtag mentions, 1.4 million video views, 120 million earned media impressions, and 300+ videos generated by fans.

GE is building its talent brand on social media, but it’s also taking advantage of traditional channels. The company’s Clio-award winning Fallonventions campaign, created by ad agency OMD, sponsors seven to eight-minute segments on “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” highlighting kids and their inventions. GE is also targeting students—aka, future employees—with its #6secondscience fairs, in which people post Vines of science-related content.

Ingenious Talent Branding for Technical Recruiting

GE has instant appeal for engineering students, but developers don’t always think of GE as their dream place to work. Enter Owen the developer, whose parents and friends don’t understand why a programmer would work at GE.

In addition to explaining how he’ll be writing a new programming language for connected machines, GE’s social networks are following Owen’s progress as a new hire. Developers not only know what GE has to offer; they can imagine a day in the life as a GE employee:

GE might be an old company, but it’s not afraid of tackling the 21st century’s biggest challenges. For young developers who want to shape the future, GE is what’s next.

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