Why HR and Marketing Need to Talk
By Eric Layer
4 Reasons HR and Marketing Should Work Together
Over the Christmas holiday, I joined a few million other Americans by watching the second season of Netflix’s The Crown. We in the USA have an odd fascination with the British monarchy, reliably gobbling up anything related to the UK’s Royal Family.
The differences between our two governments can be simplified as form and function. The UK has a Prime Minister to govern (function) and a sovereign to serve as a living symbol of the country (form). The American Presidency rolls these two jobs into one.
But Americans, ironically, divide the two components when it comes to business. Hiring is one of a company’s most impactful decisions for its brand, but is made by one of its most insulated and quantitative departments. Like every election, every hiring decision impacts the corporate brand. So, it’s high time marketing and HR got together. After all, Americans talk a lot about qualifications and experience, but we tend to vote for the candidate we’d rather have a beer with. Below are a few arguments for “the special relationship” between Marketing and HR, inspired by both sides of the Atlantic.
Your audience sees your employees as brand ambassadors, even if you don’t. Americans are less comfortable with pomp and spectacle than our British cousins. That’s why we can’t quite get our heads around the monarchy. We can understand hiring for experience, but hiring for image seems downright undemocratic.
But image—even spectacle—are sometimes exactly what a brand needs. From Branson to Bezos, some of the world’s most successful executives are masters of show business. At every level, your brand will be judged by the people you send into the room to represent it, both internally and externally. Even if you keep him away from clients, that hire with savant-like expertise but abysmal interpersonal skills will take his toll on your company’s culture and morale. On the other hand, the individual with an innate ability to inspire might just be able to learn the technical details.
It isn’t lonely at the top. Like the monarch, CEOs and celebrity spokespeople are the faces most carefully selected and cultivated for their ability to inspire. But commoners change history too. Executives and paid actors don’t have the only—or even the greatest—impact on a brand’s value. I can’t name the CEO of Home Depot, but I can tell you all about the terrible customer service I received last week.
Ritz Carlton understands this. Their “ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen” mantra has helped the brand become synonymous with the very best in hospitality and dining. Compare that to the night shift at Holiday Inn: instilling form versus function at every level makes all the difference.
People failures are brand failures. The Crown’s sophomore season dove into the scandals that have plagued the royal family, providing another important lesson for marketers and HR pros: The best spokesperson arrangement in history can’t protect you from the spokesperson. Tiger Woods went from brand gold to brand anathema literally overnight. The Most Interesting Man in the World, one of the most successful campaigns in advertising history, was ultimately toppled simply because an actor wanted to retire.
It’s never wise to put all your eggs in one basket. If every hire is an investment in your company’s brand (and it is), then it’s wise to diversify that investment. A brand embodied by lots of faces means less disaster when one of them screws up or calls it quits.
Good form can enable good function. Repeatedly in The Crown, the precocious queen broke with tradition to influence world events, armed with nothing but her signature grace and eloquence. While her classically-trained advisors wanted to stick to traditional diplomatic channels, they were always left in admiration when she achieved what they were unable to.
Don’t underestimate the hard results of soft skills. Does that sales role really require industry expertise, or do you actually need a masterful relationship-builder? Which would you rather have at your front desk: the consummate hostess or an MBA?
When you’re desperate to hire someone who can do the job, remember that “the job” almost always includes representing your company—whether externally or internally. That goes beyond a résumé, a degree, or a certification. Too many front desks and front doors are manned by the most disengaged, disinterested person in the company. It can be helpful to think of those positions in terms of how much charisma they require, not how little technical ability.
You likely won’t have the luxury of hiring purely for ceremony, but putting Marketing in HR’s seat for a moment might yield some fruitful discussions—and might help you build a brand worthy of kings.
Partner and author, Eric specializes in building things faster and better than mere mortals. Call Eric when you have an impossible mountain to climb. He’ll get you to the top.
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