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When HR and marketing collaborate, big things can happen in your organization

By Heather Hudson


The Popping Bottles celebration started with a simple challenge for the customer success team at technology company BlueCat.

The challenge was this: In one month, get 50 customers to write positive reviews of BlueCat on the research and advisory company Gartner’s website. With bragging rights on the line for teams and individuals who garnered the most reviews, a ripple of excitement and competition shot through the Toronto-based office.

While the contest was underway, HR was looped in and the promise of champagne and a celebration was added. By month’s end, the customer success team inspired 69 glowing reviews. Corks went flying, cheers went up and everyone went home happy.

Marketing dreamed it up. Customer success got it done. HR made sure people were recognized. On social media, BlueCat shared a story that spoke to customers and employees alike: BlueCat has great solutions and provides exceptional customer service. And, BlueCat is a fun workplace where you can be challenged and rewarded for doing your job well.

The multi-department collaboration was anything but a one-off. When it comes to communicating a holistic brand image for BlueCat, VP of People, Cheryl Kerrigan, and VP of Marketing, Jim Williams, have been co-conspirators for years.

“From a people standpoint, we want to make sure our employer brand is heard. We’re in a competitive marketplace for talent and we want to differentiate ourselves. [In marketing], Jim is doing the same sort of thing from a customer standpoint, asking, ‘How do we get our name and brand out there?’” said Kerrigan.

“There’s a natural type of cohesion between what HR is driving, from a talent perspective and what marketing is doing to create customer awareness.”

Kerrigan and Williams are set to discuss the intersection of HR and marketing at an HRPA Executive Real Talk on Nov. 29. We caught up with them to learn how they work closely – and why your HR organization should cozy up to your marketing department.


About BlueCat

To grasp how marketing and HR converge at BlueCat, it helps to understand their business. In a nutshell: “We sell networking and cybersecurity technology to some of the world’s biggest companies,” said Williams.

Their solution is called Enterprise DNS, a platform that allows any application, service or other platform to connect to a corporate network. While the product is complicated, the goal of marketing it is simple.

“We help buyers discover BlueCat by articulating the problems we solve and how painful they are, such as managing thousands of employees and their technological applications and endpoint devices. It’s difficult for our customers to connect all of their technology in a secure way,” said Williams.

BlueCat’s marketing is carried out through typical channels and activities like branding, advertising, content creation, thought leadership, PR and blogs. They also manage “sales enablement” to keep the sales team up-to-speed on the latest trends in the marketplace. The 14-person marketing team is mostly based in Toronto, but there are a few spread between Colorado, Vancouver and Texas.

On the HR side of things, Kerrigan says her team is focused on recruiting and retaining the talent that helps the 400-person company run strong. They have offices around the world, but are headquartered in the Toronto office. “The Toronto tech market is competitive and we’re constantly on the lookout for developers and other types of tech talent, so lots of effort goes into recruiting. Then, once they’re in the door, we want to make the employee experience fantastic, so they’ll tell others to join and help us get to the next stage of growth.”


How marketing and HR intersect at BlueCat

Kerrigan and Williams credit the internet and social networks as the impetus for bringing the two departments closer together over the last 10 years. They point to the way consumers have come to value peer validation on everything from choosing a restaurant, product or service and even employers.

“As sophisticated buyers, we’ve become very careful with the idea of a brand. We research online, using sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor where you get actual reviews of people’s experiences. That seems to be more compelling than what a company is telling you,” said Kerrigan.

“The same is true when you’re looking for work. LinkedIn and Glassdoor are places people look to for peer reviews and information about a company.”

Consumers and employees alike value authenticity. If a company’s marketing aligns with what they hear from the people who engage with and work for them, it’s more believable. Although the parallels were easily drawn, Kerrigan says a collaboration between HR and marketing wasn’t initially an easy sell.

When she proposed a joint ownership of BlueCat’s social media accounts to Williams’ predecessor in marketing, she faced resistance. “It was almost like a new concept. They were like, ‘No, this is just for how we communicate to customers.’ I had to convince them why it would be okay to intersect the employee experience with what customers are doing.”

They experimented by bringing together a member of the marketing team with one from the recruitment team to work on joint initiatives that had goals in common. For example, it’s in the best interest of both marketing and HR to demonstrate that BlueCat is growing, so they posted photos of new hires, internal celebrations and charity campaigns on social media.

“Today, most of our social media does not focus on product launches. It’s on our people; this gives us a human face as a company and it complements HR by demonstrating to recruits that we’re more than just a bunch of people who sit behind computer screens,” said Williams.


What HR can learn from marketing

Kerrigan says marketing has sparked new approaches in HR, including an appreciation for data. “In HR we talk a lot about big data and collect a ton of it, but from a recruitment perspective, we have more work to do to help find the motivators of employees. There’s a lot more information we can get if we look for it. Marketing has lapped us around being able to analyze and make decisions with data.”

In the meantime, her HR team is adopting marketing’s storytelling approach to help encourage employees to become champions for BlueCat. This means ensuring everyone understands what the company stands for, what problems they solve and what operating systems they use. “This is the world of marketing. We’re telling this to prospects, why not tell it to employees at the same time?” said Williams.

BlueCat’s story has been woven into HR’s overall learning and development strategy, ensuring all employees can sell the product, even if they’re not in sales. While HR is responsible for designing and delivering education, the marketing team collaborates with them to ensure messages are aligned.

“Enablement becomes something that’s not just outward facing, but internal as well. We’re all telling the same story,” said Kerrigan.


Best practices for integrating HR and marketing

According to Williams and Kerrigan, their departments enjoy a symbiotic relationship that makes for a fairly effortless integration. Here’s what Kerrigan recommends:

Identify the synergy between the company brand and the employee value proposition. “That’s a natural conversation to have. It’s important for everyone to understand what compels employees to join the organization.”

Find out what marketing is working on, how they communicate and how a recruitment team can contribute marketing content. “The company website is a great place to start. You’re already talking about the brand, mission and values. It’s a natural fit and a good place to marry the employer brand with the corporate brand.”

Loop marketing into recruitment efforts. “If we’re applying for an award like Great Place to Work Canada, we’ll write the content, but then run it by marketing to make sure it resonates. They’ve got writers and designers that can be really helpful.”

Look for opportunities to use or repurpose marketing materials in recruitment efforts. “I encourage our team to acknowledge that we don’t have all the answers. Marketing always has a bigger budget so anytime I can leverage the dollars they’re already spending to help with our goals, that’s huge.”

Kerrigan points to the popping bottles celebration as the perfect example of organic collaboration that generates success on many levels.

“The contest and celebration helped marketing reinforce our corporate brand, sales build relationships and employees feel good about their contributions. It truly became something for everyone, with the customer in the middle.”

Visit to get details and register for the upcoming Executive Real Talk featuring Kerrigan and Williams.




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