No sooner had I posted my last blog than I noticed more content marketing research showing a drop in the outsourcing of content creation from 56% to 40%. This makes more sense to me – you can’t outsource your voice to someone else, but you can hire in people who are able to bring your stories, culture and values to life – articulate them in a way that engages others.
CocaCola have recently created a new blogger network of experts. Watch the following video, which says a lot about changing attitudes to content marketing. It only lasts a couple of minutes, but in it Ashley Brown from Coke is able to give us a glimpse of the future:
- The corporate website is dead – think beyond it and turn it into a media property.
- The blog is more important.
- Kill the press release – by 2015 in Coke’s plans
- Create something that you would want to share if you weren’t at Coke – spark emotion and connection
- Hire brand journalists
To fully understand brand journalists we need to think about what we understand a journalist to be. According to author David Meerman Scott:
“A story teller is a story teller no matter who is telling the story”
Anyone who writes or creates something, who understands the need of the reader, could therefore be classed as a journalist. As the journalist Dan Gillmor said:
“We are all creating media. Any one of us can, and many of us will, commit an act of journalism. We may contribute to the journalism ecosystem once, rarely, frequently or constantly. How we deal with these contributions – deciding to try one, what we do with what we’ve created, and how the rest of us use what’s been created – is going to be complex and evolving, But it’s the future”
As I said in my most recent post, it is the blogger who is most likely to be able to articulate the brand for the reader that you want to engage.
And I’m now finding this through experience – companies are currently approaching me to write for them not because I am a trained writer, but because I can write things in a way that engages HR professionals and InHouse and Agency Recruiters. They are my network, and an audience whose needs and concerns I understand.
A future without a traditional corporate website, press releases and old school comms may seem a big leap but it will certainly happen. If Coke can envisage this for 2015 then smaller businesses can be looking at this now, leading the way and innovating.
It will start with understanding your customers and employees, their journeys and needs, and finding story tellers with the insight, authority and creativity to talk to them.
If there’s a word that’s been impossible to escape in 2012 or 2013 then it’s CONTENT. Even more than ‘Talent‘ it’s been a word that unites sectors and disciplines, marketers and HR, managers and non-managers. A word on which everyone has a view, for which every business has a need, and one that inspires many to claim that they know all the answers.
As someone who spent the last two and a half years creating, curating, sharing and searching for content on behalf of a major digital business I can tell you that there’s a lot of it about – much of it of questionable quality and value.
I’ve also spent almost 5 years creating my own, through social channels and this blog, but when it’s for you then the odd misfire is acceptable (still can’t believe how few of you interacted with this blog on my favourite band Wilco, and what we could learn from them about talent management!) and the attempts to try something different aren’t always as critically viewed (although I accept you’ve probably seen enough pictures of my fish & chip dinners on Instagram).
Earlier this year the Content Marketing Institute produced this presentation on 2013 trends in content marketing…and some of it’s survey findings would have come as no surprise:
- Top challenge is producing enough content
- Next top challenge is producing content that engages
- Other challenges such as variety, integration and measurement seemed much less important
- The main goal for content marketing is brand awareness
- The second goal is customer acquisition
- The goal of customer retention/loyalty came in 4th
- Case studies were deemed the most effective tactic
- Larger companies tend to outsource content creation
So let me get this right, given that it came from marketers themselves – content marketing is mainly aimed at awareness and getting new customers, volume over quality is the challenge, and someone else is being trusted with your voice. Hmmm.
Does anyone know the customer journey? At what point the potential new customer may be interacting with the content? How is it being shared? How many existing customers (seemingly unimportant) are being turned off by this noise? And why is someone else talking for us?
For social platforms, as with email and the phone before, is it a case of new shiny communication routes being flogged every which way to try and create as much noise as possible? Because noise = success. Right??!!
The content that’s right is the content that works, the stuff that connects, informs, enlightens, educates, amuses or captivates – all or any. So it’s important to get the right balance and the right people producing and sharing it. The number of likes has ceased to be of relevance – it’s the quality and identity of those likes that are important. Repurposing the old marketing approaches for a new platform will miss the opportunity to create something fresh and vibrant that will capture the imagination.
And strategy is important too…is keeping and building loyalty with your current customers really only the 4th most important??
There seems to be a trust of external agencies. I’ve heard many reasons – they can scale content, produce a broad range, have access to the tools for video and graphics – but what about the words and pictures? Have they got the knowledge, insight and authority to write them? Can they authentically speak for you? And do they understand your customers and clients? Can they really create a connection? How will they share the content that they produce – or support your sharing? What are the social profiles of the people who will be working on it?
In my last (short) blog I featured a current newspaper analysis of how the retail industry is looking to Pinterest to save their Xmas trade – sorry guys, but a social platform doesn’t do it by itself…it needs time and attention, to be planted and watered, and tended with care and engagement.
But if we are to trust agencies, why not individual bloggers?
This post on predictions for 2014 via IBM makes reference to the importance and increasing relevance of ‘brand journalism‘ and the positioning of their business as a ‘media house‘ that doesn’t rely on the media, but on getting people onside and into your business who can tell your story. This includes employees too.
And crucial to telling this story will be journalists, bloggers and influencers. People with authority, followings and reach, and the skills to create the type of content that engages, connects, inspires and informs.
In the hospitality sector many companies are already teaming up with bloggers to marry social networks and content marketing campaigns and are able to leverage their networks for greater reach as well as gain further insight to how their customers and potential customers think.
As the Content Marketing Association said, writers, bloggers and the like “already understand that the craft of storytelling is based not on sentences or arresting straplines but on a journey in which characters represent our lives“.
They are also able to bring knowledge, network, access to information, influence, trust and authority. You need to get the best people – they will be your voice and the cost of not getting it right will be greater than the savings from doing it cheaply.
At this point, if I were a tech or consulting business I’d be topping and tailing this blog with some self serving research that showed I was the solution to everyone’s content problem…but I’m just a humble content and social engagement guy hustling for some new work who happens to tick all the boxes above
Let me know if you want to talk more about content…
(image via www.boscoanthony.com)
Maybe it’s better to focus long term on a proper two way social engagement strategy rather than a one-off gimmick?
When I first started working as an agency recruiter the candidate was most definitely king. Or queen. Without the best talent at your fingertips, and in your rolodex, you wouldn’t be able to get in front of clients on a regular basis. This helped to create a candidate driven mindset with importance placed on getting to know who was best, who had good training, who was open to something new and who was adaptable, and then the candidates that you helped would always recommend other friends and colleagues to you – they even invited recruiters to their leaving drinks (not always advisable if their bosses were there, as I found out on one occasion).
Clients would speak to you as an adviser, someone who knew what was going on in the market and would often confide future plans so that you could keep an eye open for specific skills. Some of your successful placements would invariably become clients too. The right candidate was often your value proposition. The only metric that seemed to matter was getting the right person.
Times changed and email, hiring boom, graduates needing to earn commission, LinkedIn, RPO, recession, direct sourcing models and now social have all helped to shape the service and change client, candidate and recruiter expectations. Many agencies that have prospered over the last fifteen years have followed a low cost blueprint involving (amongst other things) a transactional sales model, PSLs and volume job orders at a discounted rate.
The candidate has too often gone from king to cannon fodder, usually the last person to know what’s going on and considered needy or too demanding if they expect any more than a basic level of communication – effectively an email grunt of recognition. The individual candidate now seems of low value provided that time to hire and cost of hire metrics are met.
When I first started this blog over four years ago many posts were over the future of recruitment and what needed to change. The comment threads on posts about the transactional sales model, the telephone and relationship building indicate that as the recession began to really bite in the industry there was little consensus over how to move forward.
We’re now three years on from those posts and times have changed.
Starting with an overview of the market, we could see an improvement in vacancy and activity levels, even though they are still some way below the pre recession peak. However there was one rather concerning statistic that must have chilled perm recruiters – over the last year there has been a 12% increase in the volume of permanent placements, but only a 2.2% increase in fees. A lot more work for comparatively a lot less money. Average annual billings for perm recruiters are also running 13% below early 2008 levels.
The culprit was fingered as ‘procurement‘ but I think it goes a lot deeper than that. Attitudes have changed, budgets have changed and for many smaller businesses, agencies are becoming the talent supplier of last resort.
Kevin talked through what he sees as the three models of recruitment success now. Two interested me greatly as I have encountered them both already during my short time job hunting.
For me the focus on specialist knowledge, access to talent, strong relationships, consultancy and candidate centric behaviours kinda makes this The One Where We Go Back To Recruiting Principles As They Used To Be. The candidate, and market knowledge, is clearly part of the value proposition. To profitably operate this model you need to look after candidates and put them back on their throne! And, coincidentally, the type of agency mentioned in this post from Julia Briggs looking at recruitment from the HR angle.
Here I see the focus as being more operational, centred around process, scale and workforce management. The candidates are probably quite interchangeable and of similar skills, with the business value being in meeting cost/time metrics and managing budgets. I already have some experience of this approach and as the candidate you’re pretty much left to do the work. Light on detail, you fit in with set timeframes and do the chasing if you want any kind of feedback or perspective.
The third model was for smaller, multi-branch or regional generalists. Here the business focus was on SMEs and avoiding intermediaries, PSLs and public sector.
So, can the candidate be king again? Well, it will largely depend on which model you’re dealing with.
Certainly if you’re applying through a low cost operator, or multi branch group, then my personal experience combined with recruiter sixth sense tells me that canon fodder may well be the name of the game still.
However if you can get on the radar of a specialist recruiter who’s doing it right then maybe there’s a seat on the throne again.
Am I dreaming? Let me know what you think…
(Image via @godfather_90 and #IndiaHRChat)
So the dust has settled on another CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition. The vendors are busily following up the new leads and the delegates are returning to their desks, open workspaces or even their dining room tables (for home working, naturally) with lots of inspirational new ideas for making their businesses better places to work.
Or are they?
I’m guessing that the true test of an event like this is how many people return next year, how many new people come in 2014 through word of mouth (or online buzz) generated by this year’s delegates, and how many can put their hands up in the future and say that their businesses or culture have been improved, or their own personal vision and goals have shifted positively, because of something they heard – or some new technology they acquired – by having been at ACE 2013.
This is the hidden bit that no-one really knows. HR professionals like my friend Robert have ventured back and been surprised and encouraged by what they have seen. We know this because he is part of a vibrant online HR community that shares it’s views and commentary through blogs and social networks. We won’t necessarily know that much about the experience of those who have yet to embrace these tools.
Which is why the growing presence of bloggers and socially connected delegates at this event is so important. Whether we are giving coverage to what’s being said, perspective on some of the opinions aired, or merely bringing the event to life for those not in attendance, the online chat is now an integral part of events such as this. And kudos to the CIPD for realising this. By increasing the number, range and backgrounds of the ‘blog squad’ they ensured a vibrant online buzz around the two days – and it was great to see so many attendees and exhibitors on the hashtag #CIPD13.
We had a rousing start from CIPD CEO Peter Cheese. “The future’s already here. It’s just happening at different speeds in different companies” he said in his opening address. He was a highly visible presence throughout the two days, getting to as many sessions as he could, and always finding the time to stop and talk. I think this helped no end in making the event more personal, social and less formal. Maybe that’s why he opened the hack session by saying “I’m always up for new ideas“
So here are a few of my thoughts on the event itself…
Two Days Better
The shortening from three to two days was a real positive. The whole event felt more compact, the content not spun out, and there was no ‘drag’ when delegates were maybe a bit conferenced out and exhibitors in need of a sugar rush to regain some enthusiasm. Three days is a lot of time for people (delegates and exhibitors) to be away from wherever they work, and the ones that I spoke to certainly seemed to favour the shorter event. I hope this remains next year.
Social Outreach Good
I’ve already mentioned the blog squad as a real positive, and I really did get the impression this year that we have moved, ever so slightly, on from having to tell people how and why they should embrace social…they were doing it for themselves! Certain sessions had their own hashtag, the twitter wall was showing in the main auditorium, and we got twitter handles for most of the speakers. I believe on the first day we trended on Twitter too! Long may it continue.
Hmmm…have to say that although I have blogged about the opening keynote from Jones and Goffee I was fairly underwhelmed by their presentation. I spoke to some who have seen them before and felt that this was below par – in which case I have to say WHY?? Opening keynote, in front of a large audience, to showcase their own research…and they were flat. No pace, perspective or chemistry, it felt a bit like an academic lecture, with plugs to purchase previous works. Considering the topic was building better workplaces the lack of passion and inspiration seemed really poor. Daniel Pink was much more robust and charismatic for the closing keynote, playing somewhat to the gallery. He’s an in-demand speaker and paces his presentation with facts, jokes, insights and audience participation. At HRTechEurope many were asking why there were so many US speakers and not enough Europeans. Well, the two keynotes here gave us one reason.
Elsewhere, as Sukh has noted, there was a noticeable lack of diversity, as well as a bias towards larger organisations. When I blogged from the HRD show in April I commented on a lack of passion noticeable in presenters from larger organisations as well as the lapse into lazy stereotyping. At CIPD13 we had Facebook trotting out a whole bunch of generational stereotyping cliches – come on guys, the average age of a Facebook user is 41!! The Facebook generation isn’t just a bunch of college kids! We did get some smaller companies showcasing their achievements. I went to one from UKFast about how to preserve culture whilst growing rapidly. For me though, this was as much cliche as some other presentations. The quartet of inspirations for their journey were Tony Robbins, Jim Collins, Muhammad Ali and Richard Branson. Whilst the speaker did radiate endless energy and enthusiasm for the business, there was little about preserving a culture and more about how to quickly grow a company from 2 to 200 whilst keeping staff happy. There were some interesting developments but I wasn’t sure what the culture was before or after, and felt the whole thing was a bit of a sales pitch – I’ll accept it’s just my view, others may have seen it differently.
As always when I’m live tweeting, certain phrases stand out and almost need no further explanation. Five of my favourites this time were…
- “What your company spends money and time on shows employees what’s important. It’s that simple.” Neil Morrison (Penguin Random House)
- “Start creating talent and stop fighting for it” Rob Zajko (Hilton)
- “Moving the customer to the centre changes everything. Job descriptions, incentives and behaviours” Monique Jordan (Pearson)
- “We’ve gone from buyer beware to seller beware. We’ve gone from information asymmetry to information parity” Dan Pink
- “The war for talent ended at Barclays 18 months ago. We had focused on graduates but had missed out on talent aged 16-21” Mike Thompson (Barclays)
The Talent Question
Two of those quotes came from a very interesting session on apprenticeships involving Hilton Worldwide and Barclays. I’ve covered future talent before from other CIPD events, but what I liked about this one was two large organisations coming clean about the focus on graduates to the detriment of those who either choose not to do a degree, or leave school at 16. There were some heartwarming examples given of young people who had been overlooked but thrived once given the chance. There were two particular themes that intrigued me.
One was whether companies were competing when they should be collaborating over the 16-21 age group. Someone who might be wrong for one company could be suited to another. If business is going to unite to help offer real hope and experience to some of the 1 million young unemployed then there needs to be more collaboration, particularly in identifying those who who ‘fall through the gaps‘.
The other was the realisation that ‘not right‘ really means ‘not right for now‘ and that each person not deemed suitable could become so in the future. To hear two large, global businesses talk in terms of each rejected candidate in this age group being a potential future customer, employee or supplier marked a change for me.
So, Where’s the Inspiration?
The overarching theme of the two days was about inspiring the future…so how many people left the conference feeling inspired? I’m not sure. Having been to a few HR related conferences recently there seems to be a certain format that binds them all. They are topped and tailed with keynotes from authors who have a book, new research or product to promote, and who have a (possibly vague) connection with HR. In the middle are a mixture of case studies and shared experiences from a range of medium to large sized businesses, often presented by someone who doesn’t always look like they want to be there – but it was their job.
Inspiration or perspiration? Practicalities or bigger themes? Do any of these really inspire HR for the future? Doug has raised the point of getting more CEOs along, and this would certainly help. But I think the real solution is to look outside the profession. Why can only HR people inspire other HR people? If we really want to embrace the future and take new ideas and thinking back to our businesses then maybe we need to look elsewhere for some insight.
The day after CIPD13 I went to a small, thought provoking conference in Brighton called Meaning2013. This was purely content – no exhibition or vendors – and drew from a wide range of fields. The common theme was that they were all ‘thinkers and doers from business, academia and activism, each bringing their view of the challenges and opportunities open to us‘. To hear (amongst others) Lee Bryant challenge on who was building the institutions of the future, Anne Marie Huby talk through how JustGiving was launched and the principles that drive it, Falkvinge showcase how to mobilise and influence people, James Watt share some fairly unbelievable stories of the risks that BrewDog took to get established, were all…well, inspirational. There was a real passion and energy about it, and a belief that things can be different.
So maybe the future for a conference like CIPD is to take chances and look outside the profession for inspirational speakers who may get people thinking in a different way. Whether this is through a fringe event, or part of the mainstream, inspiration for the profession doesn’t have to always come from within it. After all, as FlipChart Rick notes, Peter Cheese did say earlier in the year that HR need to become synthesisers and provocateurs.
I did enjoy the two days in Manchester. There’s certainly been some forward momentum in developing the event. Now, perhaps, it requires more of a leap of faith?
Which, if the profession are really to become synthesisers and provocateurs, may be no bad thing…
Everyone’s at CIPD13 – everyone’s a star
(Image courtesy of People Management)
The 2013 CIPD Annual Conference and Exhibition opened with a keynote from Gareth Jones and Rob Goffee on creating the ‘Best Workplace on Earth’. Effectively building the workplace of your dreams…and dreams being what they are then needless to say that this one is full of engaged, inspirational, authentic and effective people all working with a shared purpose and belief in what they do.
According to Jones and Goffee employees want DREAMS…as in:
- Radical honesty
- Extra value
- Simple rules
Talk over? Well not quite. I did tweet out most of what they had to say, and four of the blog squad – Gemma Reucroft, Ian Pettigrew, Doug Shaw & David D’Souza – were quick off the blocks with a good run down of the key points they raised.
Here are some of my thoughts…
Why Would Anyone Work Here?
Not sure how many business leaders ever ask themselves, or their employees, this. Presumably many think it’s charisma, a great product or service, or just that it’s work for us or draw jobseekers allowance, but what Jones and Goffee told us was that there are four reasons – Culture, Performance, Employer Brand, Engagement. Does your business deliver on these? Does the image, or perception, match the reality?
Rob Goffee talked of living the brand and culture through purpose, standards and relationships, and of emotional sociability.
Importance of Conflict
There was a call to encourage conflict rather than suppress it. Conflict can help to drive the creative process. Leading on from this was the need to have characters around – they are the people that make the place special.
I would caution with a ‘be careful what you wish for‘. Whilst these were two very popular soundbites a business rife with conflict and characters often isn’t a very good place to work. For every example of this approach being productive I’d wager that there are plenty of others whose progress has stalled amidst poor engagement and staff attrition.
“Tell the truth before someone else does” was the message to HR….”if you sanitise bad news then the people at the top will never know what’s going on“.
The angle here may have been about the need for truth and honesty and to avoid spin, but in reality everyone else bar the leadership is already on to this. It’s my theme of the Autumn – ‘Organisational Nakedness‘ – cropping up again. The truth is that outside of the business everyone is already telling the truth about your product, your customer experience, your employee experience, your candidate experience and so on. The new reality is that HR doesn’t need to persuade the business to come clean – it needs to show the cost of not coming clean. Businesses that aren’t true will soon being to feel it through the bank balance.
The Department of Rules
A dig at HR and the desire to wrap a process around everything. I’ll take this in context with one of the closing statements which was not to confuse systemisation with bureaucratisation. With a number businesses this is probably easier said than done as the concepts of trusting people and self direction are hard for many to embrace.
Rules that do exist need to be simple and tested, not complex of imposed. Do the people who have to abide by them consider them fair? The concept of fairness is one which has appeared in a few conference keynotes recently and there is nothing that dis-engages your key workers more than a feeling of being treated unfairly.
“People want to do good work” Gareth Jones told us. “Work is a defining human characteristic. Good work equals good societies” HR needs some moral authority, and should be about doing the right thing, which should help create better societies was the message.
Quite a weight on the shoulders then. There is little doubt in my mind that HR professionals have a desire to do the right thing and make working life better for everyone, but is this what their leaders want? As Gemma asks – do you really know what the CEO wants? To create a better society through work probably requires different behaviours, which will need to be influenced by different rewards.
As Rob Goffee noted “Meaning comes from connections to others, community, cause. The most profitable businesses are not necessarily the most profit oriented“
I’ve seen 3 opening keynotes at 3 HR Conferences across 3 time zones in the last few weeks and all have similar strands running through them. Whether it’s building better workplaces, investing in new technology or devising a new reward system to encourage the right behaviours, the challenges for HR come from several new business norms…
- Inspiring leaders
- Heightened expectations
- Experience over functionality
- Self direction over controlling management
Can HR harness these to build better workplaces…or are we really just dreaming?
(Image created by Simon Heath)