‘Authentic’ is a word used extensively today. Market demands and competition mean you have to beat the competition with a brand that lives up to its promise – engaging consumers and engendering loyalty by being authentic – inside and out. You have made a promise and must deliver.
If your advertising boasts great customer service, you must deliver it. The same applies to advertising claiming you’re the cheapest, fastest or brainiest outfit in town. Firms can live up to their external messaging or expect an immediate reputational pasting from the consumer beast of social media.
It’s not only about marketing but HR as well. HR is the team that ensures that employees actually do (and ideally believe in) what’s said on the tin, serving to communicate the desired business outcome alongside managers and ensuring that there is excellence in the coordination of human assets and business outcomes.
Marketing Needs HR
“The delivery of the marketing proposition is increasingly reliant on the HR agenda,” says Jill Hughes, a managing director at marketing consultancy Brand Learning. “The delivery of a branded customer experience relies on consistency across all business touchpoints.”
Marketers need the support of HR professionals if they are to deliver what Hughes describes as the ‘customer agenda’. This includes helping to ensure that employees are engaged with the business, its goals and values. It means recruiting people who buy into the culture and behave accordingly. If marketers really want their organisations to ‘live and breathe the brand’, then they must be aligned with HR.
Employees are too often the forgotten side of effective customer engagement. This is particularly damaging considering that in a social media age, the line between employee and consumer has become blurred. Engage your workforce well and employees can be invaluable brand ambassadors. Equally, it takes but a moment for a disgruntled employee to go online and seriously damage social capital.
HR teams have a unique perspective. Their ‘product’ is their people. Without them, there is no organisation, brand, product or service. Marketing should be working with HR to understand their insights into employee attitudes and behaviour – and how that makes the organisation tick. The alternative is to risk creating superficial marketing plans that neither gel with consumers or employees.
More specifically, HR-driven marketing can present organisations with a huge opportunity to create combined campaigns to achieve both internal and external engagement. This powerful combination can reap dividends for a company, in terms of employer branding, marketing and financial outcomes.
When, in late 2014, Virgin boss Richard Branson agreed to give 170 of his personal employees in the UK and US as much holiday as they wanted, he no doubt hoped it would improve staff engagement and productivity. But it also aligned with the company’s brand proposition for progressive thinking and innovation – or as Branson’s daughter put it, ‘it would be a very Virgin thing to do to not track people’s holidays’.
This initiative won the Virgin brand considerable positive coverage across UK media, while pleasing employees too. It’s a good example of what you can do when you bring HR into the marketing mix.
Leadership in Collaboration
According to Hughes, “To be successful in the competitive market for talent, the principles of marketing add real value to the strategic HR agenda. The key challenges at the heart of marketing are central to the needs of today’s HR professionals.”
While the messaging might be different, both HR and marketing conduct similar activities – employee and candidate segmentation are not that separate from what marketing does with customers, in terms of developing a list of prospects and their attributes. Both teams increasingly use social media tools – whether to engage customers or potential candidates.
But the problem is that while HR could undoubtedly learn much from marketing, it also has to beware the threat of becoming subsumed by it. Hughes states “Enabling marketing to genuinely determine the type of experience that employees give to customers in functional areas outside of their line is organisationally difficult.”
This requires a cultural and organisational shift, where the customer is genuinely prioritised in the business agenda. It sounds adequately reasonable enough, except that it is for HR to determine and share with other functions the specific of the employee experience. While the customer may well be at the heart of marketing’s business agenda, it is the employees that reside at the centre of HR. And for the good reason stated before: they are the human assets of the organisation.
These differing interests can result in in conflict. Resolving it may require businesses to make tough choices about where their priorities lie. And customers are not the obvious answer.
Challenges of Collaboration
It might seem obvious that marketing and HR should work more closely together. But achieving this kind of symbiotic relationship is difficult, especially where the two functions may have worked very differently and largely in isolation, functioning as separate silos.
But there is some powerful advice for breaking down marketing and HR silos to better align the internal and external brand proposition:
In this business world, there is an increasing obsession with the customer experience. It’s not that this is wrong,but rather the danger is that before long everything else becomes enslaved to this demand. A risk in this is that HR becomes an output of marketing – existing to ensure employees toe the line and live a brand designed by marketing.
But surely marketing that starts with HR makes for a far more compelling proposition? For the best, most credible brands must stem from the people and the corporate culture of an organisation. It is the employees at all levels whose behaviours help create a credible narrative for some of the best and most enduring marketing campaigns. Who else but HR can drive this?
HR needs to respect marketing’s unique organisational perspective and accept that marketing uses some of the same tools to great effect.But marketing that fails to embrace HR and all of its employee expertise risks flogging a lie. And in this world of authentic messaging, there is perhaps no greater brand crime, nor impact on employer branding.
See: Leveraging your strengths to build a powerful employer brand
The original article is from HRVille