Monday, January 8

Feeding The Animals: TalentZoo

If you ever wondered whether communication ignorance is contagious, visit Talent Zoo. There you will find a news release that attempts to one up Jobster, not at being a better company, but by demonstrating its people lack the most basic understanding of public relations and strategic communication, which is ironic given they serve "communications" executives (they mean communication, but let’s not split hairs). The release opens:

“Award winning niche job board and recruiting agency and former Jobster rival, Talent Zoo has announced plans to hire an additional 20 people in the next four to six months. Talent Zoo’s hiring plans announced today are directly contrary of those declared yesterday by venture capital funded Jobster, who announced it was laying off 60 employees, or nearly half its workforce.”

The need for style and usage edits aside, it seems to me that Georgia would expect more from a company led by someone recently named one of Atlanta's 40 Under 40 Most Promising Young Stars by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Instead, the Jan. 4 press release (which excludes electronic media outlets, since electronic outlets do not have presses) reads as nothing more than one child thumbing its nose at another.

As much as the lead sentence sets up the news release as an opportunity to show a fair contrast between it and the rest of the industry, the second sentence takes it all away, changing the entire thrust of the release into “let’s show everyone how smug, vindictive, and possibly unethical we can be because the lawsuit we filed in 2005 was not enough.”

After searching for results, the only mention of this release (beyond MediaSyndicate, a news release distribution service) was by Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter John Cook, who calls it mostly right in saying that “Talent Zoo Chief Executive Rick Myers tosses a few darts at Jobster” in the release. Cook is kinder than a former editor of the Las Vegas Business Journal, who once lambasted a public relations representative for the local Girls Scouts for trying to capitalize on a court ruling over the Boy Scouts.

Now, it’s pretty obvious that I am no fan of the communication savvy or lack thereof that Jobster demonstrated in the midst of its restructuring, but it’s almost forgivable because I have come to believe that Jason Goldberg honestly didn’t know better (he may have, but it doesn’t seem so). In fact, he has since made a conscious effort to improve in this area. But Myers, founder and CEO of Talent Zoo, who gleefully participates in this release offering quotes like “It always frustrates me to learn about hard working people who lose their jobs,” knows exactly what he did. And in addition to being possibly insincere, he knows it was wrong to do.

If we take my first Jobster analogy, that alludes to the sinking of the Titanic, then this release can be likened to the captain of the Titanic's sister ship, HMHS Britannic, saying “I’m sorry to hear about 1,522 who perished in the accident, but maybe they should have sailed with us.”

If Forbes, which once awarded Talent Zoo with "Best of the Web" for niche job boards, doesn’t write this release up as “Best New Release Blunders,” then I hope The Wall Street Journal picks it up because Myers deserves his 15 minutes of fame on this issue. Luckily, most editors filed the release under "amusing, but trash."

Tomorrow, I'll offer how Talent Zoo could have turned this release into major headlines instead of a forgettable heckle; they didn't have to mention Jobster to do it.

4 comments:

Canadian Headhunter on 1/8/07, 12:02 PM said...

Hey Rich, I'll bet you don't like hip hop -- but a lot of people do.

Rick Myers and Don JGo Jason Goldberg like talking trash at the competition. You don't. But maybe that's a cultural issue not an objective error?

I don't like the DJ's they have announcing the celeb shows that are on every day at 7pm but someone does. And they make bigger money than you or me, right?

Rich on 1/8/07, 1:14 PM said...

Hey Canadian Headhunter,

I appreciate the feedback. Sure, I like some hip hop. I like a lot of things, but this release is not one of them. It's not because of personal preferences, but because it fails at meeting any measurable objective, probably because it did not have one.

If we assume one measure of a news release is to gain positive impressions for our company through the media, this release not only fails, but fails miserably. I'm not surprised the media ignored it, but that is probably a blessing in disguise.

When you're working at getting a message out, it might help to think in terms of economics. One message has a greater potential to stick. Two messages convolutes the news.

That is what we see here, a dual message from Talent Zoo: we're growing and we don't like Jobster. Since the greater emphasis is on the non- news, that they don't like Jobster, I think they missed an opportunity to shine in a struggling industry. I also think reporters have better things to do than read a release that reinforces petty rivalries between companies.

As far as talking trash about the competition ... there are better forums than a news release, if you must. That would be a personal preference (whether you do it or not). I work with politicians too; so please don't assume I'm ignorant of the concept. Increasing the competition's name ID aside, this direction carries with it certain risks. And usually, competitive attacks are from the bottom of the industry up.

If you don't believe me, look at some case studies between Coke and Pepsi. Coke seldom attacks Pepsi; Pepsi frequently attacks Coke. Do you think that too is personal preference? Hardly. Fewer still think to kick someone when they are down.

In fact, how Jobster handled its recent crisis communication situation aside (they are pretty good on the promotion side of their communication), if I worked there, I might use the Jobster blog (not a news release) to fire back a well-crafted and well-deserved message about how some people were obviously tempted to take the low road because they must feel threatened by our new direction, ahem, provided I knew I could reinforce whatever message I want in the forefront.

As far as celebrity/money comment ... it's kind of irrelevant but amusing. I don't even know where to begin except to say I would not want to change places with Paris Hilton (not that there is anything wrong with her) to feel better about myself for want of money. In sum, money doesn't make someone right.

Webmaster on 1/9/07, 7:12 AM said...

I believe that Forbes just re-selected TalentZoo as a Forbes Best niche site - complete with star.

Rich on 1/9/07, 8:11 AM said...

I would think so. Several were. The award is given to niche recruiters because, according to Missy Sullivan at Forbes, it's often the smaller, industry-specific sites that serve up concentrated listings and the savviest inside buzz. Now only if their industry, my industry, had more jobs for those graduating seniors.

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