Why HR, communications and marketing should all just hold hands

Recently, the M&P team walked into a client’s office to hear the surprising, not to mention out-of-place, strains of people singing. Many people. We followed the sound; curious, confused, but mesmerised.

Our search led us to a meeting room, in which the various directors and team members of the HR, marketing and communications teams were all sitting on the floor in a circle, holding hands, smiling, swaying happily and singing ‘Kumbaya’.


There were combined strategies adorning the walls: one for attracting and retaining top talent and being an employer of choice; another for successfully connecting employees with the company’s refreshed purpose and values and the employee value proposition. We all stared at each other in wonder. What was that sound? Was that trickling water and…birdsong?


It was nirvana, the ultimate state for those of us passionate about successful organisations. We saw how it unlocked incredible opportunities for businesses to truly connect with their employees. Harnessing the collective power of HR, communications and marketing, working together, without the silos. It was incredible.


Incredible, because, of course, it did not really happen. But that’s not to say it can’t; well, perhaps we could do without the collective swaying and singing, but we could definitely ‘hold hands more’ (lose the silos) and sing from the same hymn sheet.


It’s now widely acknowledged that siloed ways of working are counterproductive to collaborative work practices and high performing businesses. In his book Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, Patrick Lencioni, New York Times best-selling author and acclaimed management expert, addresses this costly and maddening issue of organisational silos. He wrote: “Silos – and the turf wars they enable – devastate organisations. They waste resources, kill productivity, push good people out the door, and jeopardise the achievement of goals.”


At M&P Partners, we’ve done away with the silos between HR, communications and marketing. That’s how our business came to be: out of Megan and Penny’s combined frustration with the way organisations approach employee engagement, one of the most critical elements to achieving success in business.


We believe bringing together these disciplines of communications, human resources and marketing is the future for best practice organisations.


It is surprising to consider, really, that these functions do not collaborate more. All three are in the business of working to influence people and their behaviours. Surely this should mean they are not strange bedfellows. So why do they have such different fundamental approaches to how they do things?


In HR, sometimes much of the focus is on systems and processes, and in communications sometimes the focus is too much on ‘telling’ people rather than sharing the strategic story. What is often missing is the ‘why’.


So, with this in mind: What do we really think HR and communications professionals can learn from their marketing colleagues?


How can our marketing colleagues help us bridge this gap? We believe it all comes down to one thing: CONNECTION.


Organisations are made up of people, and as people we’re wired for connection. Marketers have been connecting with their audiences for eons to influence their behaviour. As HR and communications professionals, there is much we can learn from this.


1. Know your audience
Marketers dive deep into researching their target audiences. They understand the demographics, what their audience wants and – most importantly – what motivates them. Do you know what motivates your people?


2. Tell a story: engage rather than inform
Marketers are consummate storytellers. They don’t just tell facts. Stories capture people’s imaginations, their heads – and most importantly – their hearts. They take people on a journey with them.


Given that 90% of human behaviour and decision-making is driven by emotions (Christine Comaford, neuroscience expert and author of Smart Tribes: How Teams Become Brilliant Together), and good stories help people empathise and identify, you can never underestimate the power of a good story. Ask yourself, “Can I use the power of storytelling to make this message more compelling?”.


Is the language you’re using really speaking to people? Gone are the days of the “you must” and “we expect you will” communication. Use positive language that excites and empowers. Capture their attention! Ask yourself, “Would I want to read this? Would I want to change my behaviour because of it?”.


3. A picture paints a thousand words
Sometimes (insert audible intake of breath from communicators here), you just don’t need words. Visual communications are formidable. Love it or hate it, there is a reason why social media is such a powerful medium. And it’s all about the visual. Ask yourself, “Is there a way we can represent this visually?”.


4. Say what you mean
Start with truth. All good communication starts from a place of truth. Don’t use jargon or meaningless slogans either. And do it with brevity. You don’t need a lot of words, but do the words you use inspire, motivate and have impact?


These four areas cover exhaustive areas of learning, which, in the coming weeks, the M&P team will start sharing more insights about right here on our blog.


In the interim, what do you think? What learnings do you think HR and communications can take from their marketing colleagues?


Do you share our vision of employee engagement utopia in which HR, communications and marketing work seamlessly together? It may not be the case across the board right now, but – to quote a little bit of marketing brilliance from Cadbury – “Wouldn’t it be nice?”.


The link below will take you to a short survey.  We’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic.
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