Ask any corporate communicator who they want to report to and they’ll say, “the CEO!” Now ask who they’d NEVER want to report to. They’ll say, “HR.” why is that?
Our corporate cousins in Human Resources have many of the same issues that we do. They want to be seen as strategic resources, not mere tactical cogs in the wheel. They struggle to be taken seriously outside of their functional silos. They fight for budget and resources with some difficulty, because they “don’t drive sales,” or “don’t understand the business.” By these lights, we should be strong partners — the shared pain of the back-office services would seem to be a logical impetus for a good relationship.
My own experience demonstrates that possibility. Goodyear’s (now retired) Kathy Geier was a trusted member of then-CEO Bob Keegan’s cabinet. She reached out to me often on all kinds of matters, and recruited me onto a task force on business process optimization. Many of her team sought me out (and I, them), and we forged a strong, positive relationship. KeyCorp’s Diane Coble and Jeff Darner (since moved on) and I enjoyed similar mutual respect and partnering. Even my brief tenure at National City Corporation included positive experiences working with HR.
But in other organizations, jealousy, turf wars, even outright stiff-necked opposition are the order of the day. Why?
Here are 5 reasons why HR and PR don’t get along.
1. HR thinks they’re smarter than PR. There’s a stronger academic body of knowledge in HR, a business school connection missing from most all PR programs, which reside in Journalism. They think their college experience was more demanding and quantitative than ours.
2. HR is hungry for budget and control. They want more than just the functional duties of compensation, personnel, etc.This is key to their strategic aspirations; the “support services” model often puts an HR person in charge of all the support functions, elevating them to higher pay and bonus as a result of larger budgets and spans of control.
3. HR often believes that only information critical to the employee should be communicated to them — and that means comp/benefits, business conduct and training opportunities should be top of the fold in the employee newsletter and front-and-center on the intranet. They believe that they know more about communication than we do (and sometimes they’re right, but that’s another post).
4. HR provides training in many fields, so it believes it knows better how to train managers to be communicators than we do.
5. HR likes checklists. Communicating something is an output to be checked off, not a process with a closed loop. They prefer push to pull, wanting to declare that a communication has been sent and therefore is complete. This is especially fraught when discussing how to measure the effectiveness of communication activity.
Just a reminder — these aren’t hard and fast rules, they’re examples. Your results may vary. In fact, share your thinking here! Do these resonate with you?