Employer Branding: Storming the Silo.
“In branding―as with everything else in business―strategy without execution is only theory.”
― Steve McKee, Power Branding
In past posts (here and here), I’ve argued there’s a synergistic relationship between an organization’s business, brand, and employer brand strategies. Or more accurately, that there should be one. If this assertion is true, then a routinely debated question like, “Who should own the employer brand, Marketing or Recruiting?” is upside down and backwards. It is not an “either/or” question, but a “yes/no” question. And the answer is “yes.”
We have stated elsewhere that without buy-in from the C-suite, any deliberate employer branding initiative will most assuredly fail. There is far too much at stake from a time, budgetary, and resource perspective for lukewarm commitments from an organization’s most senior leaders. On a more practical level―and perhaps even more importantly―the kind of internal collaboration essential to working the leaven through the lump won’t coalesce. The undertaking will be tactic-heavy and strategy lean. We want strategy + execution.
Here’s what we mean:
If the larger employer brand strategy is comprised of at least two tactical channels―the organization (conceived as culture, programs/procedures, systems, structure, etc.) and formal communications―it should be clear that, at the very least, a brand task force comprised of senior leaders in Marketing, Recruiting/HR, and Corporate Communications should be developed. Marketing to steward the brand/brand promise; Recruiting/HR to support that brand through right-fit talent and organizational alignment; and Corporate Communications to reinforce the message internally to all stakeholders, from company shareholders on down, and externally via Public Relations.
The more senior the representatives, the better (CMO, CPO, CCO)―not only for the shared knowledge each has (albeit to greater or lesser degrees) about brand and brand strategy, but for the ability to affect constructive change that rectifies extant disconnects and vision cast.
Should IT/Systems have a place at the table? An Operations executive? Senior leadership across vital functional areas?
Yes to all.
Because again, if there is one brand (and there is), then the silos that tend to carve it up and parcel it out for independent―what exactly … implementation? … expression?―would seem self-defeating on their face.
Naiveté would discount the very real issues of misunderstanding, mistrust, and general territoriality that frustrate powerful synergy. The smartest question is, “What is the bottom-line cost to the business for institutional fragmentation when brand is on the line?” Dollars invested that work at essential cross purposes? Opportunity costs that are exacerbated by more progressive, agile, and aligned competitors? Ultimately, the issue is not silos per se, but an unhealthy posture that seeks retrenchment rather than possibility-thinking―to the detriment of the brand. Well-defined internal verticals can and do make sense, as long as their borders are permeable for larger, enterprise-wide initiatives.
For those intrigued by the idea of developing a Brand Council, here are some superior thoughts by Denise Yohn, one of today’s leading voices on all things brand: “Use a Brand Council to Help Steer Strategy.”