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March 25, 2015

HR is Marketing: Questions for a New Cultural Blend

March 25, 2015

brand ambassadors

At SmallBox, we believe that HR and marketing are connected. Great marketing starts with investing in your employee experience. When you hire people who are passionate about your company purpose and values, and you arm them with shared language and stories, you unleash a powerful group of ambassadors. That's why we have the chief culture officer role – to embrace the HR-marketing connection, and to bridge culture building and storytelling.

While you don't have to have a CCO, or need to restructure your company to blend HR and marketing, there are some elements that will enable this cross-department collaboration:

  • Comfort with organizational transparency
  • Trust between employees
  • Willingness from employees to be brand ambassadors, to talk in real life and online about the organization

If your organization is secretive or guarded, your departments are siloed or fearful of someone stepping on their turf, or if your employees aren't comfortable speaking on your behalf, then it's best to address those things first. But if you have signs of a healthy culture (trust and openness), then simply asking questions is a great way to start the conversation about crossover between HR and marketing. Here are a few questions and tips to get started:


For some employees, writing might not come as easily as it does for your colleagues on the marketing team. Advance deadlines will help people give time to develop their ideas and create space in their schedule to write. Designating an editor to hear their ideas and be the go-to for refining their writing can also help people gain confidence in creating content. It also helps to have leadership buy-in. If the CEO makes time to create content, then so can everyone else.

Another tip is to tag your team in photos and other social posts. They may have a lot on their plate, and engaging online might not be top of mind. Tagging people can give them that extra nudge to jump into the conversation.

Something else to think about – not everyone has the same assets. Someone may be better at contributing photos, while others might be a better fit to write, to conduct interviews, to provide technical details. Find a way to make room on the table for a variety of skills.

One other important role that used to be left to the HR department: attracting talent. At SmallBox, our most viewed content is almost always job postings and new hire announcements. Because we have very limited openings we see it as a key marketing goal to attract the best talent, so that when we do have openings, we have great candidates in the mix.

When you’re thinking about creating content to attract employee prospects, don't just highlight the job. People on the job-hunt are looking for a more complete picture, and will appreciate content that highlights your work process, what it is like to be on your team, or features culture-building, extracurricular activities. Experiment with different mediums or placements on various channels to find what what works best to connect you with ideal candidates.


You might have benefits, perks or other HR philosophies and practices that differentiate you from the pack. If your marketing department isn't promoting them, it's likely not because they don't find them important, and more that they aren't thinking about HR as a content source. No marketing person ever will be upset if you say you have some content ideas.

Thinking about brand ambassadorship during the hiring process is perhaps one of the best ways for HR to support marketing. Candidates with a strong values alignment who also write and communicate well will likely be natural content creators and ambassadors. You can also look to their prior jobs. Did they have content samples they created for other organizations? Are they comfortable using social tools to share content?

Another way to support ambassadorship is to make it provide clarity if it is an expectation of the job. You can assess contributions as part of performance reviews or one-on-ones with employees.

The answers to these questions can vary pretty greatly across different organizations, and that's okay. What works in one place, might not work at all in another environment. When it comes to culture, it is less often about right or wrong, but rather a matter of fit. The point of the questions is to start the conversation rather than to solve what your blend of HR-Marketing might look like.

Do you have other ideas on blending HR and Marketing? What questions would you add? Share them in the comments!

Note: This post was inspired by a conversation with our clients at Jeb’s Brand Ecosystem Serial Box presentation. You can see our live tweets here.

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