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“Branding” HR: Why and How to Market Your Image


If you want HR to be perceived as more strategic, more valuable, more credible, more whatever, you need to start thinking like a business with a product and market your overall brand image, says Shari Caudron in this week’s Workforce Online.

Take a moment and think about human resources in your company as if it were a brand. What does your HR organization stand for? What have your customers come to expect from HR? When HR is mentioned, do managers picture savvy strategists, backward bureaucrats or pleasant people-pleasers? Granted, it may sound like a bit of a stretch to think of HR as a brand to be developed. But the fact is, in many companies the HR brand is suffering from a poor image and reputation.

"Rarely has human resources made a stand as to what their brand image is," explains David Roberts, vice president of Kuczmarksi and Associates, a branding and marketing strategies company based in Chicago. "Instead of taking the time to define who they are, what they stand for and how they accomplish their mission, the HR department often does things a certain way simply because it s their job."

Because of this attitude, the internal reputation of many HR departments is tarnished, particularly in comparison to other departments. Where marketing might be seen as a high-value Mercedes, or finance as a reliable Honda, HR is too often seen as a state-manufactured Yugo; it does what the customer wants — most of the time — but it isn t always reliable or fun to drive.

If you want your organization to be perceived as more strategic, more valuable, more reliable, more whatever, you need to start thinking about what customers want from you, how well you deliver it, and how to improve your overall brand image. This isn't just about fancy packaging, catchy slogans and name changes, either. Managers and employees will see right through surface-level improvements. This is about thinking like a business with a product to be developed, marketed and reliably delivered to customers who want your services.

As companies continue to streamline and outsource non-value-added activities, HR is facing competition on many fronts from outside vendors. If corporate HR people don’t work to shore up the profession's overall image and reputation, they’ll increasingly lose business to companies that understand what customer service and accountability are all about.

For corporate HR professionals to retain their competitive edge, they must start thinking of themselves as brands to be marketed.

To help you get started, Workforce talked to some heavy hitters in the field of brand development. Because brands involve image and public perception, we also talked to public-relations specialists, and media and speech consultants. On the basis of their input, we've been able to develop the following "HR Brand Development Process." This process roughly follows the same steps that all brand name companies go through in building and enhancing their own image and reputation.

1. Identify your customer’s needs and perceptions.
2. Craft an identity – the one you’d like, but based on customer needs.
3. Develop a mission statement (not a piece of jargon) to guide you through the change.
4. Clean house: shed people or practices that don’t fit your new image.
5. Update your ‘packaging’; everything should support the message.
6. Spread the word: use every available medium.
7. Enhance your visibility – make yourself and your department known outside the company, in the wider HR world.
8. Keep on keeping on: review your branding to keep up with the changing world.


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