Jessie Paul on Services Marketing For a FlatWorld

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Is Marketing the new HR?

I was inspired to write this after a recent Gautam Ghosh post which refers to the possibility of HR being the new marketing. HR folks want to rule the world, of course, but I will concede that there was a bit of logic in the idea. Social media puts employees up front, and as I say in my book No Money Marketing, anything an employee says is way more credible than what the company says. What social media has done is given employees a free, global, soapbox. If the employee is a good communicator, their reach can rival even traditional media - Padmasree Warrior, the CTO of Cisco, has 1,093,430 followers today. Employees and employers should be geared for this “employee-as-newscaster” scenario.

Here are some of the broad trends which I think bring this into high focus:

Old Economy New Economy

Lifetime employment

Lifetime employability

Managed careers

Enabling careers

Faceless corporates

Corporates on Facebook

Feature sales

Experience sales

Top-down marketing

Social media immersion

From an employee perspective, if there is no implicit contract of lifetime employment , then it is in their interest to keep themselves employable by building up their professional image. If you are expected to manage your own career (as opposed to having a paternalistic boss do that for you) then you have to engage in marketing, just like any other product manager.

Ok, that’s for the employee. What’s in it for the corporates? Well, social media, in its current format, is about people interacting with people. It amplifies the good things that employees do, and puts the bad things into extreme magnification too. ( A good post to read is Tom Fishburne’s Corporate Twitter.) The initial reaction

of marketers was to try and enforce a gag order - “thou shalt not tweet”. That was supported by the CTOs’ “thou shalt not access social media within the firewall”. But I think we’re now all pretty convinced that this authoritarian model (a) is not enforceable (b) isn’t benefiting the company.

If a company is able to coach and enable its employees to represent it accurately in the social space, it can reap huge benefits - imagine 100,000 people engaging with potential customers in an unfettered environment! (Direct mailers seems soooo 20th century!) This has to be voluntary - one cannot have people interacting from a script. That may be the starting point but the person has to be equipped to improvise. All good companies say that their strength is their people - and for the good ones, it’s true. What social media does is what the open kitchen does to restaurants - it shows customers how their stuff is really made. Are you ready for it?

Here’s what I think employees can do to spruce up their brands and at the same time help their companies:

  1. Study the company’s published blogging/online policies. If you disagree with them or your company doesn’t yet have a clear policy, work with marketing and legal to get the policy changed. But don’t just ignore these guidelines - that could get you into big trouble.
  2. Find out your organization’s key focus areas. Offering to blog on these might allow you to piggy-back on your company’s established infrastructure, and extend the reach for your content. The company benefits by getting free content.
  3. Set up your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter accounts. Try to get your vanity url to be consistent across all your online properties. In your profile, clearly state where you work - this will help your online followers understand your perspective on certain issues. Even in your personal capacity, avoid publicly opposing your company’s stand on business issues, unless you are taking it up as a cause/or expose, and are willing to defend it. This is because for your readers the logical question would be “If you’re so opposed to your companies stated vision/values/goals, why do you work there?” Many companies have an established online presence - link to them in your individual capacity, and when possible, help it by forwarding or endorsing content.

What can employers do?

  1. Publish a clear blogging policy
  2. Allow access to social media sites that are deemed appropriate
  3. Create an internal social media channel so that employees can experiment within the safety of the organization before venturing out
  4. Provide mechanisms in the official channel for employees to participate eg provide links to appropriate blogs, retweet good content from employees
  5. Conduct a social media workshop for key employees

And coming back to the title of this blog, no, HR is NOT the new marketing. But marketing might be the new HR!




manik1383 said...

nice one! very well thought by Gautam Ghosh and equally well written by Jessie.

However, i think with the advent of social marketing there should be a new team/term "Social Energizers" or whatever formed. The team should effectively handle all thats mentioned in the blog covering both marketing and HR - hence taking away all the above from marketing and HR!

I like the old economy vs new economy thing and especially "enabling careers".

Sorav Jain said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sorav Jain said...

"Conduct a social media workshop for key employees"

Perfect! It is necessary to train employees, share company guidelines and put froth any restrictions.

Blogging policy is essential depending upon the company's brand value...

For example: if a employee endorse Small enterprises in his blog the company have chances to obtain credibility + a back link (from SEO perspective).

For a large company, this credibility might not be of that important than disclosing the insights of the firm. So, a Large enterprise may restrict to write on insights of the project or infrastructure but can allow them to share their experiences working with the company..

ssy said...

Agreeing to be an employee is like agreeing to be a brand ambassador. The rules then dont change. You will never do or say anything to ruin it. In any situation when one has to represent or speak for the organization it will be their best. HR and Marketing in my opinion both play different roles to enable this. One to facilitate what the other has visualized or planned.

Gautam Ghosh said...

I'd love to conduct a social media workshop - to start with :D

Jessie Paul said...

ssy - nice idea. you sign up as a brand ambassador, not just as an employee.
Gautam - we're doing a social media workshop for top management shortly. lot of interest in that area now

Ved said...

Nicely written. I agree, it is time recruitment functions started seeing themselves as sales functions and not as processing functions. It is also time that HR started looking at the world and not only within, for if you don' out, your employee has another place to express thoughts & feelings. Imagine..the power of a large organization even if 10% of its staff start blogging, sharing experiences ! Would you even need paid advertising then?

Saad Shaikh said...

I agree to this idea of connecting to people via social media sites..

but when you say that an employee can double up and work in on social media sites also.. that's something I'm probably confused about.. don't you think that this may prove as a forceful intervention in the personal life/space of the employee?? and this may, at some point of time, back-fire as well?

abt the topic, it was very insightful.. indeed.. :)

and what you've written can be prominently seen on Facebook and Twitter.. its already the 'in' thing for corporates.. ;)

kaaya's said...

Thank you Jessie. Interesting post.

But I am not convinced if it completely displaces a maketing function's role in otherwise working on the brand that they represent.Nor on whether they completely displace the responsibilities of a HR professional.

The broader points on the policy for an employee and an employer are well thought out. But if every employee were to make a post on his employer the credibility of the information may get jeopardised.

Lets look at youtube as an example. If you were to type a search on an organisation there are personal videos that pop up with some or any reference to the organisation mentioned alongwith the usual recruitment video, press releases etc. There's simply an information overload.

Now lets consider the specific example of a tweet or a Facebook update. Their original purpose is for people to socialise and keep in touch. It's a personal need, and if an employee concentrates on posting excessively about his employer - I would just hide his posts because their immediate relevance to me as a user of FB or twitter may not be of any importance.

The policy on utilising social media will become like the different referral policies. Much hyped about, but not effective in terms of return.

You may also want to consider what happens to an individual tweets and FB updates after he moves from an employer to the next. Again credibility is jeopardised.

Organisations and HR functions have to look at how much information is relevant and effective before considering employer branding as a replacement to every other important functional responsibility of a HR professional.

Really appreciate the core idea and message of the post. Thanks for sharing.

Jessie Paul said...

kaaya's and saad shaikh

You are right in that if all employees started praising their employers all the time there wouldn't be much credibility. so it should stay voluntary. just like a consumer posts feedback online if they really liked the service, employees could post feedback if the company wows them

Unknown said...

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