Why HR deserves a seat at the branding table!

When the HR team has a seat at the branding table, they can highlight any organizational deficiencies that may exist in terms of employee engagement, customer service or any other related element which may tank their branding colleagues’ campaigns.

Understandably, this dependency is likely to induce some anxiety in the average branding professional. Conventional branding professionals, after all, focus mostly on engaging external audiences – particularly customers, with the aim of getting these customers to purchase their organization’s products and services. But, in general, they have little, if any, interactions with employees – the very people that need to love the brand before they can launch branding campaigns designed to get customers to love the brand.

To address this dependency, a new approach to brand-building is needed. This approach, which I refer to as “Bhranding” (Branding + HR = “Branding”) tears down the silos between branding and HR professionals and encourages these two groups to partner with each other and work more closely together to achieve positive branding results in their organization.

Commenting on the realities of modern brand-building, author, speaker and strategist, Michelle Smith notes that:

“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 other words, it is the job of branding to get customers to stop and notice the brand, but it is the responsibility of employees to build on that customer attention, shower them with remarkable service, and close the deal. No matter how creative and innovative your marketing team or ad shop may be, they simply can’t build a strong brand on their own. They need employees throughout the organization to be effective brand ambassadors who enthusiastically tend to the customers’ needs once branding has done the work to get them through the door.

But this can only be done if HR is involved! In order for people from all around the organization to be able to do the “meticulous work of successfully bringing the brand promise to life”, the organization’s HR team (the individuals most likely to be responsible for company culture, internal communications, employee engagement and the overall employee experience), must be involved, to some degree, in conversations related to the branding campaigns which the organization may be contemplating. 

When the HR team has a seat at the branding table, they can highlight any organizational deficiencies that may exist in terms of employee engagement, customer service or any other related element which may tank their branding colleagues’ campaigns. HR can also recommend specific customer service and sales training that employees may need to undergo to ensure that the customer-facing component of the organization’s branding campaigns goes smoothly.

And HR can play a much-needed role in terms of internal communications. When HR is at the branding table hearing directly from the source about an upcoming campaign, its features and the talking points that customer-facing employees need to be aware of to fully sell the benefits of the campaign, HR can be in a much better position to partner with branding to relay this information to employees and provide campaign-specific training as required.

While the decades-long debate around whether HR deserves to have a seat at the strategy table seems to have been settled with a resounding “yes”, the conversation around whether HR should have a seat at the branding table is still in its early days. Having seen first-hand the amazingly positive things that can happen to brand campaigns when employees are engaged and the ease with which branding campaigns can be completely derailed when employees are disengaged, I am a fierce advocate of branding professionals embracing HR professionals as co-defenders of their organizations’ brands. 

Early indications suggest that many business leaders understand the need for their branding and HR teams to work more closely together. If you look closely, you’ll find examples of companies all over the globe who are encouraging their branding and HR teams to work more closely together – either in fully-integrated units or on a case-by-case-basis. You’ll also find examples of branding professionals who have transferred to roles in HR, bringing valuable marketing chops with them, and examples of HR departments who have hired marketing professionals to work in their departments. 

The branding ecosystem is evolving – rapidly. In nature, the organisms that thrive are not necessarily the biggest or strongest of their species. The ones that survive are the ones who adapt most quickly to the changes in their environments. Similarly, in business, the organizations that thrive aren’t necessarily the biggest, the most well-funded, or the ones with the highest share value. The organizations that survive will be the ones that adapt most quickly to the changes in their environments.

If you are having challenges with your brand-building efforts, it may be time for you to adapt your approach and take a more holistic approach to branding – one that places HR smack dab in the middle of your branding initiatives. 

By Ron Johnson

Author | Speaker | Storyteller (Co-founder, Blueprint Creative)
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