Guest Column - March/April 2016

How HR & Marketing Can Build a Better Brand Together

By Michelle M. Smith, CPIM, CRP

Enduring brands are built by people—not ads, clicks or views.

Marketing has traditionally taken the lead in communicating the corporate brand promise, but when it comes to delivering on those promises, it's people from all around the organization who have to do the meticulous work of successfully bringing the brand promise to life. In fact, employees need to do many things (often behind the scenes) that are "on brand" across dozens of customer touch points. Ultimately, it's the organizational culture—"the way things are done around here"—that becomes the true brand differentiator.

That's precisely why HR has a significant role to play in the process. It's time to recognize and leverage the critical role employees play in enhancing and delivering the brand promise.

The Challenge

The digital age has brought forth exceptional corporate transparency. In order to productively drive cohesion and a seamless customer experience, organizations have to communicate internally with employees as aggressively and consistently as they do externally with customers. Branding is no longer just visual identity and an external promise to customers, but has become a means of executing business strategy via internal brand-led behavior and culture change to create a compelling customer experience delivered by the entire organization.

Rather than viewing brand as an outcome or intangible asset, the concept of employee-based brand equity affords us the opportunity to use brand as a lever to value and capture returns across the organization, and this is achieved with HR practices at the core.

What HR Gains

Recruiting top-tier talent is crucial for any organization wanting to achieve and sustain success, and hiring the right people is essential to building a workforce that's truly engaged in what your company does. However, attracting that talent has become an increasingly challenging proposition, as candidates have become more discerning, and have far greater resources for evaluating their fit with your organization. Discovering brand inconsistencies between what's promised externally and the internal reality employees experience could be enough of a deal-breaker to turn off those coveted candidates.

To prevent that from occurring, we have to consistently tell our brand story through a variety of channels, not just to reach customers but to reach prospective employees as well. Many companies fall short on communicating with current employees, much less extending the brand story to those they hope to recruit.

Marketing has the talent to help HR target an employee audience—just like it does a customer audience—and bring the brand alive by creating passionate, emotional connections with potential candidates. The qualities that matter to customers also matter to the high-potentials we want to recruit—especially on the topics of culture, leadership, challenge and growth.

Marketers know how to drive and measure audience engagement, how to create engaging experiences, how to nurture audiences, and how to tell a story that keeps people interested and engaged over a long period of time.

Invite marketing to help you map the employee journey, understand what matters to potential employees, how to find them and capture their attention, how to woo them into an employment relationship, and how to nurture, grow and retain them as valuable leaders at all levels of the company. Likewise, invoke marketing's assistance to craft congruent messages so what new employees are presented with is consistent with the brand promise.