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Brand Storytelling should start with the HR department

Marketing is changing with the changing face of the way we consume content and media and it’s important that marketers, and especially online marketers step up and take more proactive leadership roles within businesses.

One of the most important areas within a business is the HR department. Since I’ve started to work with an HR software company I’ve had a chance to think more and more about the potential for the combined role of marketing and the human resources function. Let’s be honest, if you’ve had a career that’s anything like my own, you’ll know bad businesses can be in communicating with their employees. If a business can barely communicate with its own team, extending the brand storytelling to the employees is going to be a tough one.

One of the main aspirations of any business should be to own particular content niches. This sounds like a very SEO type thing to say, but I’m not really talking about keywords here. Sure in the online world you need to be thinking about how to own certain target keywords and doing that informs the nature of the brand’s story (in fact the brand’s story should always inform keywords selection) however there’s an offline element to this as well. If you’re going to own a particular story sphere then you need to be asking how you can make it your own both online and offline and if someone else is telling that same story you need to move on and find your own.

We often talk about employees being brand ambassadors. Which of course they should be. What we often overlook is that the employees also keep the promises made in a company’s marketing activities.

As marketers we should constantly challenge ourselves to think about what the HR department does, if we can start to see it as being a way to best achieve what we’re looking to achieve it’s likely we’ll start helping out more.

So the first thing a business has to do is hire the right people. This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot recently. I’ve experienced having the right skillset for a job but it being the wrong time for the business to employ someone with those skills, likewise it’s possible to have the right skillset but for your face, mentality, and expectations etc to fit with the ethos of the business. In short, it’s not your time to work.

So if you’ve got the right kind of employees applying for your jobs you’ve got to ensure those applicants fully understand the company’s culture and ethics, this begins a long time before the induction process and should be part of the marketing strategy. If you’re thinking about the keywords you’re targeting through seo, then the ones you pick, and therefore the ones people find you on inform how they perceive you – but it runs deeper than that, the narrative on the pages they land inform every aspect of their interpretation of the brand. So we need to understand what when we’re creating a brand campaign, we’re also talking to our prospective employees.

After all, all those stories that really matter to customers will definitely be the ones that matter to the superstars who are going to make the company go from strength to strength in the future. So don’t just think about the message, or the successes, but include things in there that really tell the story. How the business has overcome adversity. Creating all this content about a company is great marketing fodder, both from an inbound / seo perspective but also from a brand equity perspective.

So before you go out there and create a load of content the first thing a marketer should do is speak to the HR department to get a better understanding for the type of people you want for different types of roles within the business. These are your personas. Once you’ve worked out who you are targeting with the content you’re creating you’re going to need to figure out a journey to take these potential employees on. One which will nurture them and eventually convert them.

But the marketing team should be constantly communicating with new employees because just like a marriage the relationship doesn’t end as soon as you’ve signed on the dotted line. It’s got to be worked on and encouraged to develop.

Each and every person within a business should be able to articulate what makes the business different and this theme should run through every piece of content you produce. I firmly believe search engines such as Google recognise when businesses are talking about their USPs and favours them because of it. For example as a freelance seo consultant I often tell the story of how I started out as a marketer in an era before the internet had really taken off. I then honed my skills as a marketer through this period into the online marketing period, whilst most of the seo consultants you are likely to speak to come at this from a technology perspective – which is something I’ve had to develop over the years and which is not the main thrust of the type of search engine marketing I carry out.

I’ve seen the power of brand evangelists on a number of occasions I only have to look at previous employers such as UKFast or Skiddle and now at BrightHR to understand how this can pan out when employees really get the business and take the genuine brand with them everywhere they go. This has an impact on every element of your marketing activity, especially online where it provides food for your social media machine and signals to help rank your website in search engines.

Trust me, I know how hard it is to create alignment of your team and the brand, and all the content that’s being created. Sometimes it all comes together beautifully and all you have to do is conduct the orchestra, there are other times that you will find yourself in the belly of the percussion section playing the drums.

The way in which we engage employees and potential employees has to come from the marketing department and if you’re in a marketing team you need to work out how you can work more closely with the HR department and if you’re a business owner perhaps you should look at making sure there is alignment between what the marketing department is doing and what the HR team are saying.


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