Does your HR need some PR?

by 05 Dec 2011

The role of HR in many organisations has been shifting and changing in recent years – either subtly and slowly or rapidly via an almost overnight transformation. But many of your colleagues in other departments across the organisation may not have ‘got the memo’!

So comments and questions like:

“What does HR do anyway?”

“I’ll complain to HR.”

“Why are they always HR bashing us? We’re just trying to help stuff happen.”

may be rattling around corridors, in lifts and over coffees in the café across the road.

I’ve heard many of them over recent months and I can understand why this might be happening. Some of the divisions and departments in your organisations don’t know the detail that you as an HR practitioner and professional know. Your role, service, offering or delivery may have shifted and changed. And many people, busy in their own roles and challenges, see HR the way it ‘used to be’.

Your HR may need some PR.

And not that sleazy, spin and political-speak PR. Rather, some strategic communications responses to ensure that specific audiences in your organisation receive some specific messages about who you are, what you do, how you do it and how you can help them. 

Over the past year I’ve consulted to several organisations (insurance, social/welfare, disability, manufacturing) on bringing some strategic PR to their HR. Overwhelmingly these HR teams realised they don’t usually think strategically about the communications aspect of their projects or services.

They certainly communicate – via phone, face to face, email, the intranet and other tools – but they hadn’t developed a planned and strategic response to the misunderstandings that abound about what HR is up to these days.

So how do you get information to people in the organisation? How do you shift these dated perceptions?

Your business may have an internal communications, marketing or PR team but they might already be up to their armpits in managing the external perceptions of the business and busy dealing with projects and other company-wide internal communications.

You may just have to take it into your own hands!

Here’s a quick checklist to develop a plan for some PR for your HR:

  1. Write up what you’d like to happen as a result of some planned and strategic communications with target audiences internal and external to the business (objectives).
  2. Now write down some of the key messages you’d like people in the business to receive. To get you started, what are some of the questions people ask a lot about HR? Hidden in these questions are the keys to what your 25-words-or-less key messages can be. (message)
  3. Who needs to get these messages? Avoid saying ‘everyone’ or ‘staff’. Be more specific like: executive leadership team, senior team leaders, finance team, new managers and so on. (audiences)
  4. Now identify which tools, methods or avenues you’ve got access to in the business to get these messages out there. (media)

Wait a minute! You have your HR team available to you too, remember. Even if it’s a small team. If you didn’t identify them in the list of media above, then you’re probably resorting to tools like the intranet, email, noticeboards, newsletters and other printed or e-things that may communicate, but are much less engaging than…. YOU!

At every meeting, phone hook-up or conversation, you have the opportunity to clarify who HR is, how it’s changed, the purpose of a new initiative or process, the reason for a change in a system and what’s up ahead on the horizon.

Be more in tune to how often you frame or position (or reposition) HR so that more people understand more about the team and the services offered.

Use your voice, your succinct explanations, your use of metaphors (what’s this ‘like’) and your stories or case studies about who else has done it and how it’s gone. Use visuals to engage and clarify and repetition to reinforce.

Most of all, think ahead and plan how you’ll communicate what HR is up to. A quick ‘plan on a page’ of your objectives, messages, audiences and media will go a long way to clarifying HR for people, and reduce the bruises and battering from all that unnecessary bashing.

About the author

Lynne Cazaly is a communications specialist and facilitator. For further information visit: