It seems like 2014 has shot by in a blur. The executive search industry moves fast, and for us this year seems to have moved particularly quickly. Yet, here we are with the calendar year drawing to a close. Well, what better time could there to pause and look back at some of the major trends and challenges that clients (and us headhunters) have witnessed and undergone in that time?
Here is my guide to the major themes of 2014 for headhunters and their clients:
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal summed it up succinctly: some brands, it said, are increasingly using programmatic systems to buy digital ads themselves, rather than paying third parties to do so for them. A survey from Forrester Research and the Association of National Advertisers suggests a reason: it says 46% of marketers are concerned about the transparency of agencies tasked to buy online ads. Put simply, if the agency doesn’t tell you how much of your money its live buying desk spending on ads, and how much it’s taking as a fee, fears can spread.
(If you’re unsure of what programmatic ads are – might be an idea to pause here and read this…)
Hiring the right senior talent into your business can be a time-consuming and expensive process. That’s where engaging the right executive search team to source talent can be crucial – it’s a time-saving and, ultimately, cost-effective process.
Time and time again we see hiring managers do things that, in the long-run, set them back. Common mistakes get made and, if not put right, they can repeatedly cost the hiring firm.
Here’s a quick and easy guide to the type of mistakes that occur time and again when recruiting senior executives – and the simple steps that can be put in place to rectify them:
As headhunters, one of the questions we get asked most (other than ‘how much is it paying?’) is ‘how is our company perceived out in the wider market?’ It’s something of which busy company directors can easily lose sight. In fact, I’ve been asked that question twice this week.
The nature of my executive recruitment job means I talk to hundreds of people every week, and in doing so I pick up an enormous amount of chatter about how happy (or unhappy) people are in their roles. Sometimes the reasons are personal – say, a lack of opportunities for progression. At other times, they’re directly related to office culture. We get a lot of the latter. If you’re in senior management in the media, the chances are we have a better idea of how prospective employees perceive your company than you do.
Earlier this week, I spent a fascinating half-hour or so on Glassdoor.co.uk. For those who haven’t seen it, it’s a bit like Tripadvisor for job seekers. It give people an opportunity to hear a number of views on what it’s like to work somewhere, before they sign on the dotted line. On my first visit, I immediately looked up 20 companies I’ve worked extensively for in the past. And on every single occasion, the feedback was pretty much as I’d expected.
One of the knock-on effects of digital technology is that like never before business leaders can draw on enriched information when making critical choices – but do they really let data rule, or are experience, intuition and gut feeling still the keys to successful management?
In recent weeks we’ve looked at several ways data gathered through digital sources is changing business. We’ve examined how supermarkets are using technology to revolutionise retail, how knowledge of data can help you get a job in both the editorial and commercial departments of a newspaper, we’ve even looked at growing data use in education and how the difficulties of understanding Big Data are, in some instances, restricting the development of personalised, one-on-one marketing.
In short, what we’ve seen is that analysis and data skills will be key to an array of future jobs.
Here at Martin Tripp Associates we’re often approached by people when they have made the decision to move roles and are actively looking for a new job opportunity. While our end goal is to place the best candidates in the best roles, our primary objective is to help clients find the best available talent for the post or business function they need to fill, rather than to help candidates source new jobs.
Unlike most recruitment agencies, retained executive search specialists aren’t looking for a ‘transactional’ relationship with candidates, it’s not the job to try and fit candidates into as many available vacancies as possible, it’s more a matter of establishing relationships with the right people in their specialist area, so when client vacancies come along, we know who to approach.
With this in mind, I thought it might be useful to set out some simple ways in which a senior executive can establish and nurture a relationship with an executive search firm.
If you’ve been following my recent posts, you’ll know I’ve been spending the last few months talking to senior management figures across the newspaper industry – national and regional. The aim of these conversations has been to found out how they see their industry changing, how their specific business is changing, and to understand the recruitment challenges they face.
In all three areas, one word comes up time and time again – data.
“The challenge for me”, said the Head of Digital at one big newspaper publisher, “has been to convince senior management that it’s no longer just about the number of uniques [web and mobile site readers] you can get. That’s in many ways a vanity number.”
If web traffic alone isn’t enough, he went on to say – digital commercial people working at newspapers need to understand much more about their readers in order to sell appropriate ads.
Last month, I had a surprising conversation with a regular media client. He’s used Martin Tripp Associates extensively over the years, but only to help headhunt content roles. I was amazed that he was unaware we also recruit in other areas – heads of digital, marketers, general management, commercial roles, strategy directors, and so on…
So, being a statistics geek, I thought I would share the following infographics with you. They help visualise what it is we do here. Based on last year’s activity, the first chart shows a breakdown of our assignments for media clients according to the disciplines we recruited.
While ‘General Management’ was the largest single category we worked on, the big rise was for ‘Product/Insight’ roles and this reflects a trend toward better-informed product development and customer-led innovation.
We have also seen rapid growth in demand for digital-savvy commercial leaders. They are in short supply, and highly prized by their employers; like the Product/Insight people, the best are only found and recruited by a thorough search process.
Over the course of a few short years digital technology has fundamentally changed our publishing industries. Daily and weekly print editions have been replaced by constantly updated websites, apps, and digital downloads. Not only that, but the way we tell and adsorb stories has also changed.
To accommodate new formats and ways of sharing information, those working in publishing have been forced to adopt new skills. A keen editor now knows as much about the social media impact of their content and they do about story sources. But what do we really know about the skills publishing will require in five years time? What talents will staff need to remain relevant?
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been talking to senior managers across the newspaper industry to gain some insight into their recruitment needs. For those who have been paying close attention to the sector, much of what they’re saying won’t be hugely surprising , but over my next few posts I thought I’d share some insight for the benefit of any job-seekers out there.
As specialists in media recruitment we often get asked about interview technique – what are the best ways candidates can present themselves to us and to potential employers. More strikingly, perhaps, we rarely get asked about the howlers, the absolute no nos, the things you really don’t want to say or do say during an interview – yet time and again we see the same issues cropping up.
Quite rightly, candidates focus on the positive aspects of their interviews – the points they intend to raise that show them in a good light to a potential employer – but too often not enough thought is given to the kind of behaviour that is best avoided.
If you want to avoid coming a cropper, it might be worth bearing in mind these few simple things:
Johnston Press announced last week that every staff photographer working for its Midlands operation would be made redundant. That’s right, every JP newspaper in the Midlands will be left without an in-house photographer.
The presumption is that JP will instead rely entirely on freelancers – or just as likely, on “user-generated content” and other snaps from whomever happens to be in the vicinity with a mobile phone next time something newsworthy happens.
Whether the job title is Chief Communications Office, Head of Content or Director of Corporate Affairs, the day-to-day tasks in-house professionals in the public relations industry are asked to perform are undergoing fundamental change.
Across sectors as diverse as retail, financial services and health, the nature of PR jobs is being redrafted by the inevitable rise of digital technologies. New skills are needed at the highest level so businesses can compete in a world where new forms of communication are increasingly important.
When it introduced its paywall in August, The Sun became the first tabloid in the UK to charge for online content. For £2 per week, users are granted access to the newspaper’s website and its smartphone and tablet apps.
The Sun’s publisher, News UK, has previously taken sister titles The Times and Sunday Times behind a paywall, so the move was not wholly unexpected. However, taking The Sun behind a paywall was considered a gamble by some, given how News UK needs the publication to generate cash to support the wider business, and the wildly different approaches being taken by its closest rivals.
One of The Sun’s big online rivals, Mail Online, is now the world’s most popular newspaper website. It has achieved this by remaining an open site, where revenue is created by the scale of its audience.
Introduction of the paywall at The Sun also had the effect of handing The Mirror newspaper an immediate boost to its web traffic, which it sought to capitalise on with an aggressive marketing campaign intended to hoover up disaffected Sun readers who still wanted to get their news for free.
In a move to drive users to take up subscription, News UK bought rights to show Premier League highlights on The Sun’s and The Times’ online, mobile and apps platforms, in the summer of 2013.
With its traditional conservatism and complex regulations, the financial services industry doesn’t immediately strike you as a sector ready to embrace the brave new world of content marketing, but scratch the surface and what emerges is a set of compelling reasons why it should.
Unlike consumer disposables, buying a mortgage or a pension product is a significant purchase. When faced with such a big decision, potential customers tread carefully and have important questions. Digital technology has enabled them to seek out answers like never before, meaning firms that can engage individuals with high-quality content have the potential to build lasting relationships. But how do they go about doing that?
In a 2200-word screed sent to staff this week, Montgomery outlined his vision of “highly templated” newspaper formats abstracted from “largely online published content” by one content manager or content director.
The implication for a range of media jobs is vast. Under his proposals, subs, news editors and features editors are all outdated titles. Instead, individual journalists would take full responsibility for subject areas such as crime, education, business and sport. Each of these individuals would work remotely, and “embody all the traditional skills of reporter, sub-editor, editor-in-chief as well as online agility and basic design ability”.
Journalists will be primarily responsible for “content harvesting” across their respective areas, with the majority of that content produced by third-party providers, including the police, local government, businesses and sports clubs. The aim is to “serve every one of communities [sic] with content that is rich and comprehensive so there is no place other than the local publisher that our audience and readers need to find”.
In a short space of time almost all discussions on business communication have become discussions about content marketing – but unlike previous hot topics, this isn’t just a passing fad.
In today’s Evening Standard, Roy Greenslade makes a case for metered paywalls for newspaper websites. As he says, it is the pragmatic (rather than dogmatic) approach: users who get past the maximum number of articles each month are required to subscribe. This has several commercial benefits, not least that it does not hugely impact visitor numbers through redirection from Google and others. Advertisers, therefore, are happy; and potential subscribers become used to the service and are more likely to subscribe – it may even help preserve a few media jobs.
Greenslade notes that, since telegraph.co.uk introduced its ‘soft’ paywall in March, it has remained the country’s third best visited newspaper websites (behind the free to access Guardian and Daily Mail websites).
It is a technique pioneered in the UK – after much indecison – by the FT, which now has over 600,000 online subscribers. After similar debates, the New York Times recently alighted on the same model, and now has 700,000 subscribers – and is adding 100,000 each year. In 2003, I met the then Editor in Chief of the NYT’s website, and the debate on business models was raging – it has taken a good ten years to resolve. But pragmatism has won out.
The BBC does have an amazing propensity for self-flagellation – as I have noted before.
Last night was a great example. I was interviewed for around ten minutes by Newsnight to reflect on the NAO’s damning report into severance payments at the BBC.
Hiring, firing and media recruitment at the BBC is always a hot topic. The Corporation has paid out an extraordinary-sounding £25m over three years to 150 senior executives for redundancies, compromise and other exit payments.
In the longer pre-recorded interview, the point I wanted to get across was that the BBC was, on the whole, a fairly responsible organisation. Certainly, its payoffs for George Entwistle and others pale in comparison with those to some media executives like Sly Bailey and Rebekah Brooks. £25m over three years represents less than 0.2% of the Corporation’s £5bn annual budget: pretty good going for a business undergoing a massive relocation and restructuring programme. (Bailey and Brooks between them would have accounted for half of that.)
My strong feeling is that the BBC is under such scrutiny because it is – with some justification – hugely resented by other media companies because of its guaranteed source of income. They see the Corporation as the privileged, over-fed progeny of successive governments: whereas, in truth, the mentality inside the Beeb is a little like that of an unwanted and bullied step-child.
It is odd to think of the BBC as a victim of bullying. It is by far the largest and best-funded child in the playground, should be afforded the protection of the headmaster (though it rarely is), and consistently hands in top work. But, of course, in the pathology of the playground, this makes it a natural victim. And the fact that it consistently takes a mea culpa position rather than punching back only makes the problem worse. Come on, Beeb, the circling bullies chant. Have a go if you think you’re hard enough.
Like many victims of bullying, it simply doesn’t know how to respond to such goading. Mostly, it demurs. Occasionally, it tries to bite back. And inevitably this misfires.
So when Ceri Thomas stepped up to say that the students who accompanied John Sweeney on the trip to North Korea had all given their consent, he must have been aware he was likely to be challenged. The BBC’s Today programme didn’t take long to get stuck in; when asked how he could be sure this was the case (students were briefed individually, without witnesses, and signed no consent document) he blustered: it doesn’t matter whether it was done orally or in writing, he said. Because of the lack of evidence, of course, it matters enormously. The corporation’s detractors will pick away at these bones, and there are at least some of the LSE students who are willing to undermine Thomas’s version of events.
A potentially significant development took place in France yesterday, as the government prevented an internet service provider, Free, from blocking online advertising.
Free, like all ISPs, carries an enormous volume of ad traffic from Google and others, and it believes it’s
Dermot Murnaghan interviewed me today on Sky News about George Entwistle’s departure and the new search for Director General at the BBC. It was a warm-up for his interview with Tim Davie, which ended testily, with the acting DG saying he had a job to get on with and walking off. In contrast, my interview was the very embodiment of civility.
Prior to my interview, I was asked several questions by Sky staff which didn’t make it to air – and some may be worth recording. The following contains a summary of those questions and my answers.
Q: Is it normal for internal candidates to be appointed?
A: As has been fairly well documented, the media headhunters concerned in Entwistle’s recruitment (not us) approached and interviewed a broad range of candidates for the role. The shortlist contained
If early reports are to be believed, today’s news might mark a renaissance in that most challenging of media propositions, the joint venture. In some quarters, Pearson’s proposed sale of Penguin to Bertelsmann is being presented as a JV: in fact, the deal would give Pearson a minority 47% stake in the proposed business. But in another interesting development, David Montgomery is reported to be heading up the bid to combine the local newspaper assets of Northcliffe and Iliffe / Yattendon. Under this proposal, each vendor
EE, the owner of Orange and T-Mobile, has announced tariffs for its 4G service, expected to launch later this year.
In what looks like a major land grab ahead of the launch of rival networks, EE has plumped for a relatively low tariff of £36 a month for a basic data bundle of 500 megabytes a month, rising to £56 a month for packages of 8 gigabytes.
Significantly, EE has opted to launch the service under an entirely new consumer brand
Gordon Brown once famously said that there are two types of Chancellor of the Exchequer: those who failed, and those who got out in time. The same may be said of Director Generals of the BBC.
George Entwistle might be feeling like Napoleon’s apocryphal unlucky general today. In a few minutes, the BBC will air its Panorama Special on the Newnight investigation into Jimmy Savile, and why that investigation was dropped. (It is an interesting scheduling choice to put the programme up against Newsnight itself.) Peter Rippon has already “stepped aside” as the programme’s Editor while the matter is investigated; Entwistle’s role in the decision making process
There has been a small but, I hope, significant trend over the last few days. ‘Traditional’ UK consumer media companies have been announcing encouraging results – let’s hope the media recruiting follows. Today’s announcement from the Lebedevs that The Evening Standard has made a £1m operating profit in the last year was preceded a few days earlier by Briefing Media’s short blog on the fortunes of IPC, Dennis, and Haymarket.
Whatever its shareholders may think, News Corp
So, Marjorie Scardino is leaving Pearson after 15 years in charge. A paean of praise has been heard since the announcement – much of it well-deserved. After all, she has re-engineered the business away from an odd hodgepodge of diversified holdings (James Ashton reminds us that Madame Tussaud’s and Alton Towers were both Pearson properties when she joined) to a more coherent – and sustainable –proposition. But one stat struck me as
I don’t wish to turn our blog into a Kelvin MacKenzie fun-athon, but his decision to instruct his lawyers to demand an apology from South Yorkshire Police – with the implicit threat of further legal action – for the ‘vilification’ he has endured since Hillsborough simply beggars belief.
MacKenzie, lest we forget, has long claimed that his news sense is second-to-none. In his most recent statement, he has claimed
Tomorrow, the DCMS will publish its recommendations on best practice for how (and if) public libraries should lend e-books. It’s not straightforward, as this item on C4’s news tonight demonstrates. There are four parties involved – users, publishers, authors and libraries themselves – each of which demand satisfaction.
Libraries have always challenged the publishing business model; but e-lending, with the implicit suggestion that the reader can borrow a book at any time from anywhere, throws the doors wide open. A drop in
It will be fascinating to see whether Elisabeth Murdoch’s MacTaggart lecture (full text here) signals a glasnost moment in the relationship between BskyB and the BBC. While it is important to note that she is not an executive at either News Corp or BskyB, her company Shine is owned by News Corp, and her membership of
It was announced today that, after an extensive media executive search, Euromoney Institutional Investor has replaced its MD, Richard Ensor, with a member of the Euromoney board, Christopher Fordham. Moreover, it was announced that Ensor would become Executive Chairman of the business, replacing Padraic Fallon who has held the position for a number of years.
This is one of those moves that normally makes me raise my eyebrows. You call that a search? Usually, given these announcements, I am reminded of James Murdoch’s appointment as CEO of BSKyB in 2003 – and look how well that turned out.
But Euromoney is arguably different. While it is self-evidently true to say that a company has a unique culture, in Euromoney’s case this has been critical in its success. And it has been incredibly successful: it has a market cap approaching £1bn and is likely to announce profits of over £100m this year. As this article shows, when Ensor took over, the company was making one tenth of that.
Fordham joined the company in 2000 (placed, as it happens, by my former business partner John Watts), and has since overseen a hugely successful strategy of organic and acquisition-driven growth. Like his predecessor, he is very smart, with an absolute grasp of detail and a gut instinct for strong businesses. He will fill Ensor’s boots admirably – just as Ensor will fill Fallon’s.
I don’t envy the search company that had to try to better Fordham (it wasn’t us). Executive search is all about covering the market to ensure that your client has absolutely the best candidate for the job. As frustrating as it may be, you sometimes have to accept that the best candidate is already in the business.
Martin Tripp Associates is a London-based executive search consultancy. While we are best-known for our work in the TMT (technology, media, and telecoms) space, we have also worked with some of the world’s biggest brands on challenging senior positions. Feel free to contact us to discuss any of the issues raised in this blog.