HR professionals are well versed in the dark arts of persuasion and influence.
They are tasked with winning the hearts and minds of present and future colleagues, shaping their organisation’s culture, and inspiring their people to be the best that they can be. Much of this is achieved using communication skills that would be welcome in any marketing department. HR has to reach out to people, both internally and externally, but it equally has to make sure that its message is compelling.
HR and Marketing are inextricably linked, but far from every HR practitioner is able to reach the right people at the right time, let alone craft the right message.
Having ghostwritten over 5,000 blogs over the past five years (an average of 20 per week), and built a personal following of 43,000 on LinkedIn, I have learned few tricks about creating impactful content. There are different branches of the marketing function, many of which are relevant to HR, but as my particular area of expertise is written content, I thought that I might share five tricks that would be effective in an HR context.
Write for the reader. Making the content about the reader is one of the oldest marketing laws. If it is preachy and corporate, people are likely to switch off. If, on the other hand, it makes an effort to reach out and address genuine concerns, people will be more likely to engage. This is nerve-racking, because the needs of people and the needs of the company do not always align, but to create change, you have to meet somewhere in the middle. When content is written for the reader, it enables this dialogue.
Feelings before logic. If a piece of writing doesn’t elicit a feeling, you might as well stop reading. Every word filters into our brain, and the best writing should start a cascade of imperceptible chain reactions. When you read a logical piece of writing, your “right brain” activates, but it doesn’t move you. When you read a piece that makes you feel something, your “left brain” lights up, and you are inspired. If you make someone feel a certain way over a prolonged period, this inspiration can sow the seeds of change.
Cultivate a fan base. This one is straight out of the marketer’s playbook, but it is no less relevant for HR. You want people to be talking about your messages, and the spark for those communications comes from your enthusiastic fans. One manager might inform their people that the latest HR blog is out. Another might enthuse about how the blog was relevant to them on a personal level. You need to find out who your fans are and understand why your content touched them. If it moves them, it will move others, and you can be sure that they will spread the word for you.
Get personal. You draw people in when you share something of yourself. This might not be entirely appropriate in official corporate communications, but there are now many other channels where you can break down those boundaries and let others into your world. HR cannot afford to be a stranger from an internal perspective, and it is often the face of the employer brand for an external audience. Live up to your title, show that you are human.
They can stop reading. So keep it simple and brief. When you speak orally to a (normally captive) audience, they will forgive you a certain amount of embellishment, but when they are physically reading your words, it is much easier for them to stop taking it in. I will never know how many of the people who started reading this blog actually got this far. Less is more, both in language and in delivery.
This is my personal view on why marketing and content, in particular, is such a powerful weapon for any HR practitioner. I ghostwrite for a few HR Directors. The impact of effective and emotive written communication can be immense.
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