exaqueo's "How to" Series: How to Build an Impactful Marketing Partnership

It’s learning and development month here at exaqueo. All month long, our team of employer brand experts has shared some of their favorite “how to” tips to help you hone your craft. Be sure to follow us on Facebook or Twitter for updates, or check out our other posts.  

A few weeks ago, a client asked how to get more buy-in on their employer brand across the organization. My response was simple: “get marketing on your side.”  

Employer brand has historically been about execution. In its infancy, it was help wanted ads in the newspaper, radio spots and job board postings. In more modern times, it adds social media, digital apps and online media buys--all spaces and strategies typically led by Marketing. But most organizations still lack a true employer brand strategy due to lack of experience, resources and spend.

We have so much to learn from our marketing colleagues. Yet, our relationships are traditionally distant and/or strained.

For so long, HR and marketing have been like teenagers and parents. They cross paths briefly, ask for permission, and either celebrate or sulk off to their rooms. There are a million reasons why, but historically there hasn’t been a perceived need for the functions to intersect. But there is now more than ever.

It is important to recognize your Marketing colleagues, while experienced in brand management and knowledgeable about the company from a products and services standpoint, they may have very little exposure to employer brand and details of your company culture. In most cases, an HR focused communications campaign won’t be on their radar. Building bridges with marketing is advantageous to both sides of the discussion. There are some simple and powerful ways to start building.

Respect their craft

As a discipline, marketing is rigorous. Seemingly simple campaigns are built on deliberate strategies and purposeful design. Timing is precise and often interconnected with a range of moving variables. Innovative uses of audience targeting and research drive billions in spend for every single B2C and B2B organization.

Set a meeting time or invite your marketing colleagues to lunch—ask them to walk through how they build a brand or target a new audience. Talk about social media strategies in place and brainstorm ideas to expand the space for new campaigns. Share your challenges and ask how they’d use marketing strategies and tactics to address them. One simple conversation can reshape how you and they think about employer brand.

Learn the basics

As a functional area of expertise, marketing is more complex than many professionals imagine. From understanding the difference between branding and advertising to the complexity of marketing metrics, a core understanding of how marketing works, and their rhythm,can set you up for success when building a partnership with their team.

Come prepared with a basic understanding of the fundamentals from either a textbook, a marketing psychology book and/or a primer. You can often audit university classes for free too. Why not sit in on one or two? It’ll change the way you think about employer brand.

When I went to business school, I wasn’t planning on spending hours in marketing classes. But I am sure glad I did. I never imagined an MBA would be so crucial to how I positioned employer brand during my time post-MBA at The Ritz-Carlton and Marriott International. The intersection of my graduate level marketing and HR work was a seminal moment in me rethinking the impact employer brand can have on the bottom line.  

Stepping back from editing job descriptions and posting to social media for a deeper understanding of the core of marketing could change your approach, and your career.

Show your expertise

Another client recently asked if it would be wise to have marketing come to the table once a month to review and approve their employer brand work. While a great way to start conversation, it actually can set you up for an approver’s relationship instead of a partnership.  While marketing may (and often should) play the role of the approver, you don’t want that to be their only role. You want them to learn to respect the knowledge you have of your workforce audience and come to appreciate you for your expertise too.

It’s important to have marketing weigh in, but do so after you’ve had a chance to share your strategy and rationale. Listen to the branding guardrails, company brand strategies and timing considerations they may present. Teach them about legal challenges they may not have considered, or audience characteristics they’re not used to understanding. You know your employees and candidates best.

I once had a client bring their consumer marketing agency to the employer brand table. That agency suggested they launch a Snapchat scavenger hunt for employees and candidates in a workforce largely made of hourly talent. I helped the HR team use it as a teachable moment in educating their marketing colleagues about things like: the legalities of paying hourly workers for work, potential union ramifications and audience demographics as compared to the typical Snapchat user.

You’re not only seeking marketing’s approval, but also their guidance in areas where you can leverage their strengths: aligning the employer brand with the consumer or company brand, measuring key brand metrics, how to work effectively with a photographer, what questions to ask to ensure the most value from a media buy. Work together to determine the best fit-areas to combine efforts or when it is optimal to remain separate.(<-- Click to tweet!)

Partner together

Establishing relationship rules with marketing can be really effective. Make sure when you approach them you do so with the idea of a partnership. One of the best ways to do that is to be clear about what you want from the relationship, and what you can offer.

Too often, we don’t provide context. We invite marketing to review creative concepts, or ask them to weigh in without direction or clear understanding. At the start of building your employer brand strategy, or when you’re at a critical junction (about to launch a new campaign, trying to solve a key talent problem), approach them with the state of the union, and your short and long term goals.

When you’re involved in the work, be clear about expectations from them related to support, resources and feedback. Be open to where they can—and should—step in, but make sure all players are clear on who the decision-makers are, or you’ll find yourself spinning wheels instead of making progress. (<-- Click to tweet!)

Put egos aside    

It’s hard to be vulnerable sometimes in an organization and ask for help. Too often we’re too proud to share our work, or open ourselves up for input and criticism. And that goes for marketing too. Whatever strategy you choose to build your relationship with marketing, make sure it starts with clear intentions and mutual respect. When you work together, it makes the wins all that more celebratory.

At the end of every day, you’re all working for the same organization, on the same team. By focusing on the partnership and learning from each other, there’s real success and impact to be found.

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