Attracting Top Talent to Public Media
By Amanda Hirsch
On the heels of last week's post about Adam Schweigert's departure from public media, which provoked a fairly strong response (some of you even called iMA to thank them for posting it), we thought it might be nice to take a look at efforts to attract new talent to the public media community.
You may have seen the #pubjobs hashtag on Twitter in recent months, in connection with public media job announcements; that's the brainchild of Lars Schmidt, Director of Talent Acquisition for NPR since February (pictured at left). Ditto @nprjobs, an account Schmidt manages that currently has over 4,000 followers, where he regularly re-tweets job listings for stations and other public media colleagues. Schmidt, the former Vice President of Human Resources for for Ticketmaster/ Live Nation Entertainment, says his recruiting philosophy is "driven by collaboration," and social media is a space that makes collaboration a breeze -- I'll re-tweet you if you re-tweet me. Having managed several collaborations in public media myself, including the CPB-funded EconomyStory project, I can attest that social media is indeed an easier play space in many ways than, for example, coming up with a co-branding strategy; it's low-hanging fruit, often with high-impact results.
Here's an example of how collaborative recruiting via social media can work: Schmidt was speaking with Deepina Kapila, Web Manager at KUT in Austin, about the station's desire to hire bilingual journalists. He suggested they tweet the job announcement in Spanish. KUT took the suggestion, and the message was retweeted broadly, ultimately leading to a hire. Schmidt doesn't have a long list of specific success stories like this one just yet, but one look at his @nprjobs account shows he's regularly re-posting system-wide job openings, always with the #pubjobs hashtag -- which not only promotes specific employment opportunities, but also more generally promotes the idea of working in public media. It certainly seems like this can only help attract savvy candidates.
Schmidt's hire was part of an overall revamping of NPR's human resources team, he says -- a result of the organization realizing that it was time to modernize its HR practices, recruiting included. So, what does "modern" recruiting look like, aside from leveraging social media? Fundamentally, it's a matter of being more proactive -- instead of just posting job openings and waiting to see who applies, NPR is now doing more to reach out to prospective talent via conferences and networking events, and of course, social media.
He cites this example as evidence of the value of using social media to aid recruiting: NPR decided to extend the application deadline for its fall internship program by one week. They announced the extension via a single tweet from @nprjobs, which was retweeted over 100 times, leading to 770,000 impressions and 140 new applications for internships. So, one tweet - 140 new applications. Seems like a good return on investment.
Of course, a lot of people would like to work for NPR -- that's not a hard sell. But other organizations in public media may be less immediately attractive to top talent, so the real test of Schmidt's efforts may be their ripple effect system-wide -- in other words, whether efforts like #pubjobs begin to make the prospect of working for public media, period, more attractive, beyond the allure of a single brand.
His success may ultimately be measured, too, by his ability to diversify the talent pool at NPR -- an age-old challenge and hot potato issue for the organization. Schmidt says he's currently mapping out specific strategies for attracting more diverse applicants both at NPR and system-wide, but says it's too early to share details. You can follow him on Twitter at @ThisisLars.
What is your organization doing to attract top talent? What opportunities do you see for the system to work together on this front? Moreover, what would your pitch be for why someone should come to work for public media? Let us know on Facebook.
Amanda Hirsch is a writer and online media consultant with deep ties to public media. The former editorial director of PBS.org, she's written for MediaShift and P.O.V. and managed the EconomyStory project. Amanda also co-hosted the weekly #pubmedia chat on Twitter. You can follow Amanda on Twitter at @amanda_hirsch.