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What can HR learn from marketing?

11 Feb 2020 By Stuart Derrick

Find out what happened when People Management and Campaign, in partnership with Indeed, brought together experts from the people and marketing professions at a Big Questions Live event to discuss how the two can work better together

Marketing and HR are both in the business of engaging people, building loyalty and standing out, but they have different focuses, and different ways of achieving this. 

However, the line between the two is blurring all the time. While brands are seeking ways of presenting themselves as authentic and purposeful to consumers, people managers want to bring the sleek and inspiring communication skills of the marketing department to bear on internal audiences.

Speaking at Big Questions Live, a live and online event co-hosted by People Management and Campaign, in partnership with job site Indeed, David d’Souza, membership director of the CIPD, said marketing pizazz could bring real power to HR. Where HR could couch its language, marketing could speak with passion.

“Compare a marketing presentation to your average HR one which can be very apologetic. Marketing professionals provide a vision that HR lacks. This is necessary to attract the best people into organisations, get them to understand what it stands for, and get them to evangelise.”

As a man with the descriptor in his own job title, Danny Stacy, senior recruitment evangelist at Indeed, said that whereas it was once unusual to have in-depth marketing input in HR, there was a growing realisation that the two areas should combine to forge a standout employment brand. 

“Gen Z and millennials don’t talk about job titles,” he said. “People want to work with businesses that have a vision closely aligned to their own, whether that’s reducing their carbon footprint or improving diversity and inclusivity.”

According to d'Souza, HR could also follow marketing’s lead on being more evidence-based when it comes to driving change: “We still don’t use enough research evidence in the way that we go about our work.”

Data is more important throughout all organisations, and here marketing can provide learnings, in producing insight, and also turning those nuggets into great stories that engage and inspire. 

HP produced a powerful example of HR and marketing coming together for a piece of content called Dads and Daughters. Ostensibly promoting roles for women within HP, the film drives home an emotional message about the company’s own values in relation to inclusion.

Sharon Ellerker, global head of HR for marketing, finance and communications at HP, said: “It was a fantastic example of collaboration where we were trying to appeal to a collective audience and recognising that actually they’re often one and the same.”

Following the campaign, the CMO then took the idea to HP’s agencies to demand that they introduced similar standards for diversity and inclusion.

Just Eat marketing director Matt Bushby said there are increasingly blurred lines between the consumer brand and the employer brand: “Younger consumers’ impression of us in the business is driven as much by our employer brand as it is by our by our consumer brands.” 

As such, it makes sense to get cross-disciplinary teams to work together, and the earlier it’s done, the better, according to Gemma Greaves, outgoing CEO of The Marketing Society: “If you start from the outset, then you have that sense of empowerment and ownership, that you’re going to achieve this thing together. If you come in later, you don’t have that same level of strategic understanding.”

While both marketing and HR are both functions that are obsessed with, and focused on, people, internal audiences can still be the poor relations.

“We should challenge ourselves as marketing teams to consider our colleagues as our customers a bit more,” said Helen Shaw, principal consultant for strategy at Engine Transformation.

Ellerker agreed, and said that while employee communications should remain the domain of HR, as a recognition, it needed marketing communications professionals embedded within the team. 

“I don't know whether in HR we’ve always addressed employee comms in that way. It is a profession, and a specialism in its own right,” she said.

Stacy added that marketing media literacy was another area to lean on when it comes to communication distribution. “There’s no point having a great employee value proposition if no one knows about it. Content is king, but visibility is queen.”

As a final call to action, d'Souza implored HR professionals to book time with their marketing colleagues and sit down with a list of issues that they might be able to help with. 

“If you want to forge effective relationships in your organisation, the best way of doing that is solving problems together,” he said.

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