For many of us who work in the content marketing space, one of the biggest trending topics is the question of whether or not there might not just be too much content out there, sparking an ongoing conversation about how we are living in a “content glut,” or even “peak content,” if you like.
Supporting these statements are a litany of facts, specious statistics like, “there are 2 million blog posts published every day.” “Every day, we publish a million more minutes of footage online than anyone could consume in a day,” which, on the surface, at least, suggest a pretty compelling case.
And when it comes to recruiting, the perpetual source of so much crappy copy and cliche career advice, how could you even make a case that this industry actually needs to keep cranking out content?Here’s the thing: I’d go so far as to suggest that, in fact, there isn’t nearly enough recruiting content out there. Not by a long shot.
Sit On It: 57 Channels and Nothing To Do.
There was a time when there were only three television networks. Even when you added in a local UHF station and a PBS affiliate, there were rarely more than seven stations to chose from. Each channel tried to gain the most audience by broadcasting things they felt the most people would watch.
Shows became simple, shallow and repetitive. How many sitcoms use “let’s switch jobs to show how hard we have it” as a premise? And aren’t we still seeing “surprise twin” and “amnesia” storylines on soap operas, themselves pablum content disguised as content, to draw housewives in so they could be sold soap?
When cable became the de facto at most suburban homes, Bruce Springsteen complained that we had 57 channels and nothin’ on.Because, as the number of channels split, they couldn’t all show the same pablum to their audiences (the TV audience, split 3–6 ways, could support these shows, but when you couldn’t realistically expect more than one-sixtieth of the viewing audience, you can compete in a different way.
That’s why MTV and ESPN and CNN (and the like) were created, to focus on specific markets. Sure, housewives might like drama, but maybe some like news more than soap operas. Or game shows.
As the channels continued to fragment from 57 to more than 300, they could get more narrow in their focus. How many different news channels are live right now? Enough to appeal to almost every flavor of political interest.
Recruiting Content: ‘Aaaaaay’ for Effort.
And then the internet came, and 300 channels became three million. If you can’t get enough of Fox or MSNBC, certainly there is an online publication tailored to your very specific interest. Many of them have just enough of a viewership or readership to maintain some version of profitability despite splitting the audiences into ever-shrinking slices.
The content that drives an entry-level nurse isn’t the same story that motivates an experienced one.
The same is true for recruiting content. In the beginning, there was marketing and corporate brand content. Why you should do business with them was just as good a reason as to why you should work for them. There was one channel, and marketing owned it.
It was fine, but it had to appeal to everyone, be they consumers, investors or prospects. And the content reflected it. There were rarely specifics, and when there were, it was geared toward the consumer, marketing’s client.
Then we realized we needed separate channels to talk to those interests, and the career site was born – the one that was more than a list of jobs. But still, this channel had to speak to all prospects the same, be they intern or executive, working in Atlanta or Austin, technical, medical or administrative. And so channels got more specific again, one to each region or each job type.
What differentiates recruiting from marketing is that recruiting doesn’t need the largest possible audience, they need the right audience. And often that right audience is only a handful of people.
Which is why we find ourselves in “peak content.” The goal of recruiting content is to tell the right story to the right prospect in order to get them to apply (though a better goal might be to provide the right story—one that so engages the prospect that they feel compelled to apply and engage themselves with the entire process).
This means more and more specificity. It might not be enough to talk to IT prospects in general, when the facilities and departments staffing them in Austin and Atlanta are so different. Or that the content that drives an entry-level nurse isn’t the same story that motivates an experienced one.
Building more content that connects those dots, so that the prospect feels like the content is talking to just them, requires more stories told. Lots more.
Peak content comes from the marketers who worry that they can no longer command a huge audience just by telling a pablum story. They are the networks complaining that they can’t compete with what HBO and AMC are putting out there, because those networks learned how to leverage smaller but passionate audiences.
What differentiates recruiting from marketing is that recruiting doesn’t need the largest possible audience, they need the right audience. And often that right audience is only a handful of people. After all, if you have a mid-level IT job opening in Omaha, would you rather have a dozen qualified candidates or a thousand? Because marketing wants thousands, and you really only need a few.
This is a world where our Netflix queues are straining from the number of great stories being told in the form of TV and movies. We have amazing podcasts and Twitter feeds that we follow. Do you complain that you have too much good stuff to watch? Of course not.
There can’t be too many stories, just too many bad stories.
By James Ellis
It's very possible that the rumors are true and that James Ellis was a mild-mannered digital marketer who was bitten by a radioactive recruiter six years ago and now has strange new powers. But what we do know is that James is a leading voice in employer branding, developing and activating dozens of brands of every size, running The Talent Cast podcast for more than three years, writing the Employer Brand Headlines newsletter and writing for a number of industry publications. His mission is to evolve the conversation around recruiting and hiring. He is currently the Director of Employer Brand at Universum. He lives in Chicago with his wife and daughter.
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