Publishers are starting to look beyond the world of books for its leaders, says Abigail Barclay of Inspired Search, the executive search division of Inspired Selection
Recruitment at the senior level of publishing has often relied on networks and word of mouth. It is a low-risk and low-cost approach that allows for a comfortable transition of responsibilities, with new arrivals already in tune with the existing executive team.
But my research for a white paper about talent hiring that Inspired Search will publish later this year suggests this is changing. We have found that an increasing proportion of director-level and other leadership jobs are being taken up by people from outside publishing. This shows that companies are seeking a fresh approach to their work and want to bring in new skills—something to give them a competitive edge. It’s hard to create an advantage when you and your competitors are all comprised of similar people with similar experiences.
Many of these new arrivals have come from related industries, like media, entertainment and gaming. But publishing is also welcoming talent from fields like management consultancy, retail and FMCG, and these individuals bring with them expertise that is essential to modern publishing. People with experience of ecommerce, for example, help publishers to grow their direct to consumer sales, establish new supply chains and make better use of sales data.
This kind of leadership is particularly important at independent publishers, who as the IPG’s recent Awards
made clear have always been agile in the way they adapt to new formats, products, audience demands and channels. Many leaders at IPG members have grown their own businesses, but when new leaders arrive it is vital that they are the best possible people for the job—and the recommendation or the names that come to mind do not always equate to the best. Scoping out not just the whole publishing network but beyond, as Inspired Search does, will help you find the candidate who will bring the best ideas, provide the staff motivation skills and add the most to the bottom line.
Our white paper will look in detail at the range of skills and backgrounds that publishing companies are now looking for in their senior leadership, as well as issues like retention. If you would like to register your interest in a copy of the white paper, please email me