· Features

The HRD's pocket guide to marketing

Our new series explains areas outside day-to-day HR that business-savvy HRDs need to have a handle on

Why do I need to know about it?

Marketing is one of the business areas with which HR is most aligned. According to experts it should be seen as a vital facet of any HR professional’s knowledge and skillset.

But it appears many aren’t stepping up to the plate. A study from the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) shows that 81% of marketing professionals feel their HR teams have limited knowledge of HR’s role in making sure customers have the right impression of the brand, while 67% believe their senior leadership teams don’t fully invest in brand values throughout the organisation.

What do I need to know?

The basic foundation of any marketing strategy is to consider the five Ps as part of the planning process: place, people, product, price, promotion.

“Think about those things against everything you do as an HR expert and you will find that you consider things much more carefully,” advises Kath Austin, head of HR and marketing for Pizza Hut.

And while the creative side of marketing campaigns might spring to mind first when one thinks of the function, this is a discipline absolutely grounded in commerciality.

As Austin puts it: “With my marketing hat on I spend 70% to 80% of my time looking at the P&L, planning my next campaign, and understanding how the business ticks and how we’re going to make it better. HR could spend more time doing that; looking at all the products and services you offer and which things will really match the future growth of the business.”

Also crucial is really understanding your audience, says Tracy Wray, deputy HRD and interim director of communications at the University of Sheffield.

“We have to think about the right communication stream, be that traditional channels or social media,” says Wray. “I suspect a lot of people in HR will struggle to understand or describe what marketing really is. But we have to think about it in a broader context of impactful communication both internally and externally, which is what HR is about.”

Where can HR add value?

When speaking to the experts ‘brand’ comes up as the single most important connection between HR and marketing. It isn’t just logos, graphics and packaging, it’s the core values of your organisation It is vital to understand what that is and to bring it to life within HR.

“HR should be living the brand so that from a customer’s perspective the external image, the brand and values, are experienced with every touchpoint in the organisation,” says CIM associate director of business development Oliver Greening.

He adds: “HR is critical to helping the marketing message permeate throughout the business and for those values and behaviours to be put into practice.”

The Dorchester Collection’s vice president of people and organisational development Eugenio Pirri adds that HR has a key responsibility to understand that its customers are the staff.

He says: “The brand messaging for consumers and employees has to be aligned, and if you don’t have marketing knowledge that alignment gets skewed.”

Anything else?

Director at management training consultancy KCSS Simon Page believes internal communication from HR should be dealt with as a standalone marketing activity to counteract the negative image of HR. “HR must learn how to market itself better,” he says. “Ask what you are doing to understand what employees need to make them more engaged and more productive, just as marketers research what their audiences want.”