When I was with Capital Newspapers, I developed an informal rule of not hiring anyone from within the organization.
The newspaper industry was already facing some challenges before the rise of the Internet as a news source started seriously eroding its readers. The only chance for the newspaper industry was to get a jump on their Internet presence and try and deliver news – especially local news – in a way that others couldn’t.
This was a time for new ideas, and I didn’t think I was ever going to find the combination of talent and fresh perspective it was going to take to make the kind of difference I thought needed to be made.
So I decided that I was not going to hire anyone from the newspaper industry – not from Capital Newspapers and not from elsewhere. Over my ten years, I hired a number of excellent designers, copywriters, research analysts, project coordinators, freelancers and agencies. The thing they all had in common is that they had no experience with newspapers or any sort of news publications or providers.
They were simply intelligent and innovative marketers who understood their crafts and how their roles fit into a greater marketing plan. They also followed their professions and were on the cutting edge of what was happening around them.
Together, we became one of the best and most well-known marketing departments in Madison, but also an internationally known marketing department within the newspaper industry.
Thanks to numerous awards from the International Newspaper Marketing Association for innovation and creativity, I fielded calls from newspapers around the globe wanting to know how we approached our problem-solving or wanting more details on some of our innovative marketing approaches.
It is with this demonstrated success by hiring people from outside of an industry that I’m always puzzled by those who insist on hiring from within. There was a point at which I was having conversations with a local accounting firm about being their marketing director. The recruiter told me I was at a disadvantage because I didn’t have experience as a marketing director in an accounting firm.
I explained to him that this was, in fact, my advantage. Whomever they hired with past accounting experience was simply going to come in and do the same things they had done elsewhere. I would bring a fresh perspective and bring innovations that they may have never tried – maybe things the industry, as a whole, was not trying.
Certainly, I understand the argument regarding hiring someone with experience in an industry. But if you hire the right marketer, they will eventually reach the level of the experienced professional… and then they will surpass it in ways unanticipated.
This was not the first time I’ve run into that thinking and probably not the last. But given my past success, I simply don’t agree that you need to hire a marketing person from within an industry. If you hire a truly innovative and experienced marketing professional, they’ll be able to walk into any situation and turn it into a success.
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