There’s A Talent Shortage Because Your HR Doesn’t Know Squat About Barbecue

Is there a difference between buying a spot on “The Simpsons” reruns and sponsoring a whole program about great barbecue joints in North Carolina? There is if you know who your target audience is.

For well over 100 years, HR managers have been publishing job descriptions in massive databases and waiting for people to submit their applications to get hired. Imagine if that’s how you used content to drive your company’s marketing strategy and to build your customer base.

“Let’s post another product flyer on telephone poles and see who comes along!”

We all know that content is crucial to the success of any marketing campaign. So why do we ignore content completely when we conduct a recruiting campaign to fill key jobs on our teams?

If CMOs followed their own rules of engagement for drumming up sales, they’d develop customized marketing content and deploy it in highly targeted venues to reach the people they want to recruit. But they don’t—perhaps because HR controls recruiting.

In a thought-provoking Bloomberg Businessweek article (“For Political Ads, A New Web Micro-Network”), Sash Issenberg highlights Programming Corporation of America (PCA), a studio that creates content just to corral the kinds of viewers that political campaigns want to target with their ads. This is not really an innovation. Soap companies produced soap operas at the advent of television—just to have a way to market their products to homemakers, who were then a different demographic from women who work outside the home today.

PCA founder Dan Beckman creates programming to satisfy an enormous demand from political campaigns for places to run their ads. One week he’s making programs about the Iowa countryside, then he’s in New Hampshire producing “Swimming Hole Secrets.” He’s not selling voter lists from huge databases, like Indeed sells resumes from its bottomless pit of “talent.”

“How much of a premium are you willing to pay for context, viewability, or actual known audiences?” asks Zac Moffatt, co-founder of Targeted Victory, a digital strategy agency, in the Bloomberg article. That’s the demand PCA addresses.

What’s the secret to PCA’s success? “Political campaigns have seized on online advertising as an efficient way to reach ever narrower groups of voters,” reports Bloomberg. This is obvious stuff, eh? Ads on PCA’s made-to-fit content offer “the precision targeting of a mailer, phone call, or knock at the door from a volunteer.”

So why haven’t employers and recruiters graduated from boring job descriptions hosted by massive databases like ZipRecruiter when they could produce custom content that attracts exactly the people they want to hire? (See “Why Do We Keep Waiting On HR?”)

If Beckman can “generate just-in-time programming to satisfy the unpredictable demands of the electoral market,” why isn’t someone solving the “talent shortage” by producing content that brings just the right talent to employers that need them?

Why, indeed. I have an answer. It’s easier for HR to cry the talent market is lacking than to hone its content and define its target market because nobody uses metrics that reveal how effectively HR is recruiting. Huge “talent database” purveyors now control HR recruiting budgets like never before. There is no customized marketing.

Issenberg closes his article with a story about how Beckman himself—because he couldn’t line up a filmmaker in time—drove across North Carolina to make a show about barbecue joints. “Well, we checked two boxes here,” he reported, meaning that his one-minute-long program met two key criteria for attracting the kinds of viewers his client needed to put ads in front of.

When will recruiting graduate from job descriptions served up cold to sizzling barbecue that’s hot with the exact demographic a company needs to hire? HR has no idea who likes barbecue—or how to produce content that attracts the right talent. That’s a marketing problem. (See “Why Marketing Should Run Human Resources.”)

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