Media recruiting: should you plan for editorial success – or not plan for success?

This article first appeared in Press Gazette

I’ve never been one for a plan. Most of the best things that have happened to me – personally and professionally – have just come out of a willingness to say “Yes”. Or at least “Why not?”

It’s the answer that got me into media recruiting fourteen years ago: working on a monthly magazine, I was approached out of the blue and agreed to an interview. As far as I could see, I had very few qualifications for the job, but I thought it would be interesting to see how I got on. And here I am – for better or worse.

Some of our clients are currently looking for publishers with an editorial background. The clients’ view in each case is that people with editorial experience understand the value of content, and are best able to communicate that to journalists. Another client is looking for project managers for digital products: the favoured candidates are former hacks who have developed their skillsets into appropriate areas.

One of the marks of journalistic success is curiosity; another is an interest in the route to market. Peter Guest – interviewed in this magazine – is an exemplar. He has not sat still and been satisfied to plough the same furrow. He has moved his career forward by embracing different media, and was fortunate enough to work in an environment at the FT that allowed him to do so. Despite various changes of strategy over the years, the FT has been essentially progressive in this regard: it encourages its journalists to publish across its many platforms. As a journalist both curious and interested in his route to market, Peter has made himself a new place.

There is an increasing tendency amongst media owners to want candidates in every discipline – editorial, sales, marketing – to have worked in every other area. They want editors and writers who understand marketing, and publishers who understand content. Moreover, as discussed last month, all of these people need to understand different media disciplines: be it video editing, SEO, or whatever. Most journalists are bright, curious people who want to get their message out. Those that will win out – like Peter – are those who are prepared to stick up their hands and say “I’ll give it a go” when they are offered an opportunity to learn new skills.

Without that attitude, I’d still be writing tedious analysis for Acquisitions Monthly rather than tedious columns for Press Gazette. Just say “yes”.