Time for HR and PR to join ranks

As the internal dividing lines between PR and HR become blurred, a new overall comms strategy is starting to emerge. David Woods reports.

Battle lines? PR and HR [pic: Getty]
Battle lines? PR and HR [pic: Getty]

Battle lines are being drawn in workplaces around the country, to decide who is responsible for internal comms, recruitment and social media.

HR departments traditionally communicate company policy to staff and recruit new talent, but they are increasingly treading on the toes of PR departments.

PR executives manage social media, promote their brand to would-be recruits and engage existing employees through internal comms.

So, in this land of blurred boundaries, where does PR end and HR begin?

As workplaces evolve out of silos and departments begin to work together in a coherent strategy, instead a new hybrid of HR and PR is emerging.

In 2009, Shell appointed a global marketing, recruitment and HR comms manager who reports to the recruitment, HR and comms vice-presidents.

And insurance and pensions firm LV= went one step further by appointing David Smith as director of HR and comms - overseeing both the PR and HR departments.

Smith says: 'It's really important for an HR director to have a good working relationship with the PR department, as he or she can provide significant support in helping to communicate your employment proposition, hence shaping the brand of the organisation.'

In practice, can this utopian ideal work for every business - or is it only a matter of time before HR and PR head into full-scale war?

PRWeek examines three areas where PR and HR may overlap.

Internal communications


Social media



Which of the following scenarios is most true to your organisation?

The CEO announces, due to tough trading times, the amount of money the firm pays into staff pensions is going to be reduced ...

a. The HR team emails staff explaining this has been done to save redundancies. Attached is a contract, with the new pension arrangement, to be signed and returned.

b. The PR team sends staff goody bags with a golden envelope saying: 'Sorry, we are cutting back on your pension, but we still love you.'

c. The HR team explains the reasoning and implications of the changes, and PR sends emails to staff setting out the changes and their existing benefits, with contact details for someone in HR if they have any questions.


2. The MD of the firm resigns out of the blue and sends staff an email to let them know ...

a. The HR team does nothing. No pensions or benefits are going to change, so staff should not worry, should they?

b. The PR team does nothing. If the MD has made an announcement to staff about his departure, that is his business.

c. Both HR and PR appreciate that if staff read negative stories in the press then they will feel vulnerable and disengaged. So, the PR team sends all staff an email letting them know information will be relayed to them as soon as they have it, and HR contacts line managers asking them to reiterate this to their teams.


3. The firm is growing rapidly and is to recruit 200 staff for a call centre in Doncaster ...

a. The HR team sets about contacting local recruitment agencies.

b. The PR team contacts local press, branding the company as a 'great place to work' and gushing about job creation for the local community.

c. The PR team contacts local press; the PR and HR teams create a Facebook page to direct applicants to and tweet the link out; staff are encouraged to tweet to their friends and offered a referral incentive if their contacts are offered a job.


Mostly As and Bs Your HR and PR teams are working in silos. You should consider setting up a meeting to decide the ways you could work together to devise a strategy for internal comms, recruitment and social media.

Mostly Cs It appears that your PR and HR teams are engaging in a dialogue. Keep up the good work ...

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