Brand of Brothers – uniting HR and marketing

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A new job brings new perspectives. During my time as head of global brand at an HR consultancy firm, my team and I tended to regard HR as a function with little more relevance to our strategic objectives than the IT, Risk or FM teams. HR, of course, had to bow to our ultimate sign-off if they wanted to dabble in the dark arts of corporate branding and we’d collaborate if we needed their input on one of our initiatives. But we paid scant attention to their objectives or vision.

And the same was true when I think back to my experience as a client partner at corporate branding agencies. In short, although we might develop brand values and the internal comms to support the brand value roll out, this never involved consultation with the HR team.

But it has now become more and more obvious to me that this lack of awareness and collaboration is absurd. As I look at the issues that our HR clients are addressing - succession planning, talent pooling, behavioural and cultural change, leadership development and recruitment, etc - the links between HR's objectives and those of a corporate brand team seems obvious.

And then the double whammy: both HR and Marketing are facing budget cuts, pressure to add value and an increasing need to show how they connect back to the corporate strategy. So why aren't more clients joining the dots and pooling funds to succeed?

When it's done right, and some of our clients are definitely doing that, a recruitment and development strategy can strongly support the all-important driver of a corporate brand team, that of 'raising brand awareness'. I can't think of a single brand-led initiative that I have worked on in nearly 20 years that didn't have that objective at the top of the page, nor a single CEO who didn't see that as the primary function of their brand.

Now that we're in an age of intranets and social media, there's an obvious advantage in encouraging internal communication and brand teams to form closer working relationships, either via a formal merger or virtually. Why? Because, essentially, they share the same objectives. An intranet must reflect the website, the tone of voice must come through the internal channels and the brand values need to be pushed, reinforced and then pushed again to ensure their take up.

And yet brand teams seem oblivious to the fact that leadership development will cascade the values far more effectively than an email or a poster in the lift. Moreover, if a company wants to highlight its distinct 'personality', and thus its suitability as an employer, then the promotion of the employer brand will surely be more effective if it is aligned closely to its marketing messages and corporate brand strategy.

So here is my call out to all HR and brand teams that are not already doing it: walk down the corridor, have a coffee, pick up the phone and see how you could align your needs, pool your funds and achieve a lower cost per hire and an uplift in brand reputation. Both parties will reap the benefits: brand teams will have another measurable channel through which to raise awareness, plus increased internal support and funds to work with, and HR teams will be able to capitalise on the power and funds of the corporate brand to secure a stronger voice internally and externally.

Hayley Brooksbank (pictured) is managing director at Work Communications

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