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Employer Branding: HR vs. Marketing Tug-o-war – Who Is Winning?

It’s a hotly argued issue. Where should employer branding and the decisions that relate to rolling out an employer branding strategy be driven from? The HR department or Marketing?

It’s a chicken and egg argument as many on the HR side will contest that they are the employer brand specialists and if there is little HR input how will marketing develop the right message, and on the Marketing side, HR can’t execute an effective employer branding strategy because they are rarely experts in marketing communications.

It reminds me of in the ITC industry. Fifteen years ago the dilemma in finding good sales people that understood the technical functioning of IT hardware and software was becoming a needed requirement. Vice versa, bringing in the developers or technicians from behind the closed doors to the sales presentation was challenging as they typically lacked the gloss of strong presentation and interpersonal skills. The ability to deliver ‘tech-speak’ into what pressed the buyers hot buttons was limited. Thus ‘Pre-Sales Technicians’ that had these bi-modal abilities became an elusive and much sought after animal commanding top dollars. They still are.

Similar to the Pre-Sales Technicians, HR Communications and Branding roles are now slowly starting to gain a little momentum. Savvy employers are realising the value that a hybrid of HR knowledge and expertise, combined with marketing comms skills and strategy, can bring to the table.

Until a level of maturity in this area of role development within the HR market is achieved, HR and Marketing need to collaborate and understand each others area of expertise. HR needs to know their ‘product’ intimately, which is the employment experience and value.  Marketing as experts at crafting a message and the mechanics of getting the message out there, can act as a “branding” consultant to HR. This where tension can arise as HR professionals don’t fully understand what branding is, and the Marketing pro’s are not focused on candidate attraction or employee engagement. Marketers can be skeptical that there is a need for a brand beyond the company and products brand as a whole. The key is to involve collaborative team members who are open to helping each other without an undercurrent of ownership.

What’s The Alternative?

Could HR outsource to HR/Marketing Comms specialists instead? It is an alternative if HR feel hijacked or ignored by internal Marketing. The need is becoming as such that smaller specialist agencies and consultancies with expertise in both HR and Marketing that are coming to the rescue to organisations serious about their Employer Brand message. Social recruiting and talent branding are driving the impetus here to really be competitive for the best talent and keeping them. Outsourcing can be a win-win as the agency is totally focused on your employer brand, rather than competing for mind-shire with your corporate brand and products.  They also ‘get’ HR so it can speed the process and you can get a more fine tuned and focused results.

by Anne-Marie Orrock