Column: The Biz -- People Who Need People

The media business is a great one to be in these days. There are so many changes with regard to how people can get their content and what kind of content they can actually get. Figuring out what all of this means and how to capitalize on it is both the supreme challenge and the greatest thrill of working in media today.

But all of the work necessary to facilitate the changing appetites of audiences, satisfy those appetites, create strategies to associate marketing with those appetites, and execute against those strategies is going to require something that there simply doesn't seem to be enough of lately.


There are some who might argue that it's always been tough to find great talent to meet the needs of agencies and marketing organizations, but today there is a nearly paralyzing dearth of it.

Marketers, agencies, and sales organizations are turning over every stone to find skilled, or even semi-skilled, candidates for job openings. Some positions are open for months.

During the first dot-com boom, or what some refer to as "Web 1.0," people worked like South African diamond miners - until they got their hands chopped off, followed by a quick exit from the mouth of the mine shaft. This was followed by were three years of famine.

Anyone with ability, drive, and the ambition to stay in this business even during the dark times either ended up with a job, started his or her own practice, or found a new way to make a living. Everyone else left.

Not enough can be said about how important it is for the people you work with to be talented, smart, and fun. I'm lucky - I'm regularly in awe of those with whom I work most closely. We won't be able to find such people if the industry returns to a time where, out of desperation, companies hired employees whose only qualifications were fogging a mirror and putting their mark on a signature line.

So where are the good people going to come from?

It's not going to be from other companies within the online space, though some amount of poaching and cross-cannibalization is inevitable.

Agencies and sales organizations must get serious about creating their own talent, growing it internally. And this, like it or not, requires commitment - of time and resources. Companies are going to have to look at these commitments as investments, not expenses. There are certainly people who, when thrown into the river and told to swim, become very fine swimmers. But there are even more people who became very good swimmers because someone taught them how before tossing them in the water.

Companies need to suck it up and reestablish the kinds of training programs they once had. Agencies may no longer be able to afford the resources it takes to give new hires three months in each of the three main disciplines (account management, creative, and media) to find their skill sets and where their passions lie. But hoping to come across prefabricated talent and paying a high price to acquire it is not a sustainable model.

There will always be the threat of well-trained individuals leaving the company once they accrue skills and knowledge. But there are plenty of human resources experts who can tell you how to slow the march of talent migration. Creative compensation packages that include more vacation or education programs can go much further than a raise and a title change. And even a commitment to training and promoting new talent from within can breed a depth of loyalty not easily purchased with a paycheck.

Speaking of good human resources strategies, here's another tip. If agencies and sales organizations want to get serious about creating their own talent, they need to get serious about the management of their human resources overall. And this means having specialists in human resources. The global media director of an agency may know how to manage client relationships and steward media strategies, but is that also really the right person to be developing compensation packages and hiring personnel?

Life is indifferent; it's people who make it good or bad. It's time that agencies and sales organizations alike get serious about the people they have and start nurturing the people they want.

Jim Meskauskas is vice president and director of online media at Omnicom Group's Icon International. (

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