HR, Marketing, Communication: War, Peaceful Coexistence or Cooperation?

If we look back over the past 20 years, we can see that internal communication, like all areas, has undergone significant changes and development. At the beginning of the 2000s, public relations managers, departments and specialists appeared in more and more companies, especially multinationals. They typically edited and managed the then traditional internal company magazines, while frequently visiting human resources departments for information and consulting with board members.

Then, as the years went by, employee engagement and employer branding became more and more important. And in the last few years, especially in the wake of the pandemic and the staff shortage, companies have made internal communication effectiveness, support, and effective internal communication a priority, which also has an impact on employer branding.

But which area is responsible for internal communication, what is its role and how can it work with other areas when necessary?

Where should internal communication be located?

In an internal management meeting, a lot of cross-information and demands are made between different professional areas. HR, Marketing and Communications are typically responsible for internal communication. This obviously implies a multi-stakeholder collaboration, as each area has different additional tasks to perform.    

"Over the last 10 years (...) I have often seen that certain areas are managed (and dominated) in sharply differentiated ways by HR or Marketing Communications. In many cases, there is no communication between the two parties..., no cooperation, even though success would require effective cooperation between the parties involved. In many cases, the poor HR team struggles to write copy, produce video for campaigns, and bring in (if they can) external help, while Marketing achieves successful customer and product communication campaigns on a daily basis. Many HR teams suffer from event management, internal communication copywriting, while Marketing has dedicated colleagues for these.

Why does this not work? What is the obstacle? Or is it no longer an issue and collaboration is thriving?" - Tamás Barathi, founder and CEO of Blue Colibri App, recently addressed the professionals concerned on LinkedIn.

The non-representative responses reveal, among other things, that some companies have already merged HR and communications departments in their organizational structure, while others believe that

coworkers' ability to work together effectively and harmoniously for internal communication is more important than their level in the organization or the department in which they work.  

The collaborators: 'not only tactical, but strategic'

The responses showed that several companies have already merged HR with marketing and communications in order to ensure effective internal communication. 

"In our company, there is a continuous and full collaboration between HR and Communications: the latter leads internal communication and employer branding, HR is the business owner. The cooperation is not only tactical, but also strategic," said Ádám Szinai, Head of Marketing and Communications at CIB Bank

In response to a question from Connect Magazine, he also explained the strategic approach. He said,

the solution lies in the management culture, the corporate culture and the related structure, i.e. the framework of rules and processes.

"HR is the business owner, as everything that concerns old and new employee relations is their domain, while content ownership typically requires a different professional background, based on communication skills. This is also linked to corporate branding, as the core tasks of external and internal communication include branding, as well as promoting employer, and let's never forget, employee branding!" - says Ádám Szinai and adds, "if we can relate to our strategic goals, to the importance of doing good for our customers, doing good for our employees - and of course making a profit at the same time - then it becomes obvious that the corporate culture and the values and cooperation models defined in it have a strong impact on internal communication. This is how HR and communication become natural partners, both at strategic and operational level".

"HR issues, needs and strategies are discussed, campaigns, video and internal communication materials, content development, corporate communication are prepared by the marketing department, as we have copywriters, graphic designers and PR specialists" - explains Gabriella Sándor, Libri-Bookline's Director of Communications and Marketing, regarding the subject.

"We already had a well-established platform, Libri Magazine, and although it is still freely available, we also started to share its content on our internal communication app developed by Blue Colibri App for internal educational purposes," she tells Connect Magazine. Gabriella Sándor also recalls a time when the app was already available but HR pointed out that there was no content on it. "That was when the trust between the two areas was established, which still works well today, as

HR also saw that my team could support their work with quality added value, in this case cultural content, because we really operate like an in-house agency."

– she adds.    

"At Egis, we have an HR and Communications Directorate, and that in itself answers a lot of questions," says Marianna Pajor, Head of Corporate Culture and HR Development at EGIS Pharmaceuticals, who believes that a lot depends on managers, especially their attitude and mindset, while the former can change situations, the latter can serve as a driver.

Mariann Pajor believes that where there is no real openness and attempt at cooperation between these areas, much else is missing or will be missing. And in this case, with the complexity of today's world, the best that can be brought to victory are small battles.

The "bumpers" and ping-pong: no cooperation, no communication

Commenters also pointed out that there are cases where, although cooperation is orderly and supportive, a decision on a project ends up in the hands of the Purchase Directorate. "Whose first question is about what the difference is between a city-light and a billboard," wrote one commenter.

"It often gets bogged down," commented an employer branding expert, who believes that marketing is primarily a sales support function. "I think content should definitely go to HR, as they know what we can offer potential and current employees. Even if marketing is responsible for market research, HR talks to candidates and colleagues about their motivation at the interview/performance appraisal, they have first-hand information".

"But the question “How” is for marketing to answer," he added. "How is that ad copy, graphic, video, event going to be good? How can we communicate in a user-friendly way on a given interface? How do we determine which source produces the most applicants? How do we get more people to read the newsletter, internal communication? The question is whether there is enough money, time and manpower to support employer branding from the marketing side, or whether marketing is willing to transfer part of its knowledge to HR to make it more self-sufficient?”

According to one HR director, "it's not a question of who does it better, but of how well the activities are coordinated". He says, "You can communicate your company values well, for example, but if it's not integrated into your HR processes with the right emphasis, it won't come alive! The 'pretty words' of marketing need to be reflected everywhere, from the onboarding process to the company's core competencies! I don't think it makes sense to approach success from only one direction!"

A marketing professional commented that "in many cases, it is not clear even in-house who is responsible and why, hence the ping-pong effect" and added that "internal communication is crucial for both corporate communication and employer branding. If there is a common purpose and clear lines of responsibility, there should be no problem. Let's allow each other to work, and trust each other, only good can come of it".

Internal communication stakeholders: start talking to each other!

"Why doesn't it work? Because there is no communication between the two parties...,no cooperation", wrote a professional in the social networking site's group, who also suggested a solution, "start talking, start building a relationship, start involving the marketing director".

Others are of the opinion that "even on the issue of non-employer branding, many HR departments are guilty of taking control of things that other colleagues, even managers, are better at or it is more sensible for others to do". Examples include the selection process, performance appraisals and even training systems. This contributor believes that "in these areas, HR should at most have a coordinating role. He also points out that managers are less involved than they should be in the development of policies and procedures, even though they will be the enforcers in many cases and will have to take responsibility for the results.

Another problem was expressed ever more sharply by another commenter who believes that, 

„HR usually tries to sell the reality, but marketing often seems out of touch with that.

But if you've experienced disappointed "customers" making you take responsibility for good-sounding promises, you'd rather write the text yourself next time, even if it's not as exciting". Then he asks the non-rhetorical question: should it (the text) be exciting anyway?

A major cause of ineffective cooperation and performance around internal communication, according to another expert, is ego. He says that if someone has difficulty admitting that someone else can be better at something, it can be a major problem. At the same time, as he puts it, it can also be a serious issue "if there is no marketer in the company who is willing to take on a task, is happy to do it and is good at it.

It is only reasonable that a task should be done by the most qualified person, even if it hurts your pride. But that doesn't mean that HR can't have an impact, it's a very close collaboration".

Finally, in the online professional discussion, it was also expressed that there is simply no dedicated capacity within the company. It was said that "I often hear from HR colleagues that they don't get enough help with this and that there is no budget to outsource it".

"What is an employee story today is an employer branding element tomorrow..."

"We are seeing more and more positive examples of cross-functional collaboration between departments, which we will showcase at the Connect Conference on 20 April," Tamás Barathi told Connect Magazine. As the founder of the Blue Colibri App sees it:

  • The role of corporate internal communication is becoming more and more important and complex, therefore it requires joint thinking and effective task sharing of managers and domain specialists with different competences.
  • The boundaries between internal and external corporate communication are becoming increasingly blurred.

What is today an internal employee story will tomorrow be an employer branding element. What is today a professional post on LinkedIn is tomorrow an internal podcast on corporate online channels.

"In one way or another, communication is making its way, it's up to us how consciously we manage and control it!" - he concluded.

Connect Conference is the perfect place for HR and marketing specialists to connect and find common ground. 

To support their collaboration, we have a fantastic offer: for every HR and marketing professional who decides to join the event and buy tickets together as a team, we offer a 15% discount with the code: CON_HRMRKT 

Secure your seats here!
We can’t wait to see you there - Let’s Connect!

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