Internal communication, employer brand, human resources, and marketing

I’m violating my self-imposed blogging rule – Keohane’s Second Law – which is “Comments must exceed posts for your blog to be respectable.”  In the past, I’ve never violated the Law.  Hopefully, this will be the one and only time.

Employer Brand.  Marketing Directors see the word “Brand.”  HR and internal communication Directors see the word “Employer“.  That’s where the trouble begins, and that’s where the real opportunities lie.

One of the employer brand projects I’m working on is really interesting.  The internal research has created a pretty compelling picture.  The competitor research demonstrates where the marketplace is and who has staked out what territory (which could cause some issues for my client, depending on which direction they want to move in order to attract and retain people – they may try to claim space that is already occupied, which generally means higher cost for the same results).  The consumer research is showing some interesting trends.  The basic options are boiling down to play it safe and go for a shorter term fix, or have some courage to create a new space to occupy that is still a true and compelling representation of where the organisation is and where it is going.

The most interesting facet of the whole thing has nothing to do with all that.

Deloitte’s Tom Crawford and I presented on how to develop and deploy an effective employer brand back in September, and one of his slides was three dogs fighting over a piece of cloth.  The message: employer brand is owned by HR, Internal Comms and Marketing jointly, or it fails.  It fails when any one function believes it alone owns the solution at all, let alone the “right” solution, and attempts to leverage organisational politics rather than organisational outcomes to drive results.

  • Employer Brand is two words:  
    • Employer is broadly about the HR bit – expressing the employer value proposition in communications about recruiting and in performance management, career development etc.
    • Brand is broadly about the Marketing bit – making sure the employer value proposition is clear and compelling and is working in harmony with the consumer/corporate brand.
    • The internal communications bit is about working with HR and Marketing to help engage people internally in the most effective manner – mostly in terms of “air traffic control” and message alignment so that employees can make sense of all the things coming at them.

When internal communications, marketing and HR don’t play well together, the business suffers commercially and its employees suffer the results.  Employees suffer at the experiential end at the outset, since functional turf wars reduce organisational effectiveness and generally damage the culture.  They suffer at the other end as well — since if the employer brand isn’t working across the three functions, the business suffers, and ultimately has fewer resources to use to enhance what it does for its employees.

The moral of this story is that if you really do care about your employees, and genuinely want an effective employer brand, you need to work together to achieve results.  Not rocket science, is it?

So why is it so hard, then? Oh yeah.  Politics.