Question for the marketing and finance readers out there…


OK, great feedback one whether to have 2 blogs or one. I’ll be making changes to my blog over the next couple weeks (time for a new style anyway, don’t ya think?). One blog it is!

Another thing I’ve been thinking about is how my feeds are organized. I’m working on a project to direct market to our ideal recruiting targets (more on what our target is later…this is the result of all that analysis I was blogging about before). Of course, we want people to opt-in to hearing from us. So I’m starting to reach out to people and network with them, ask what kind of info they want from me, encourage them to stay in touch, etc (this includes you guys, by the way). I’m a little worried that they will think I’m a bit of a nut when they get my e-mail because it’s so hard to explain what I do and many, many people have very low expectations of recruiters, based on some bad experience they have had in the past. Anyway, initially, we were thinking about direct e-mail and possibly some cool collateral if we can figure out what “cool” is to our target audience (my interpretation of cool is something that gets their attention, supports our brand and that they won’t throw away the minute they get it…something they might even share with their own network).

Blog readers are definitely a subset of my target. But still many of the people I want to reach out to aren’t that familiar with blogging (except maybe hearing about it on the news). So, while I would like to push info out to people by RSS, I will still need to send out the same info by e-mail. So here are my questions…you guys were so great to provide all that feedback before (and honestly, a lot of it was so sweet and flattering, that I am probably going to keep going back to look at the comments…reminds me why the heck I am doing this):

1) We’ve identified some specific areas of interest for candidates in marketing and finance (we call these pipes, by the way…I’m sure I’ll eventually use this term without explaining so best to explain now): hot jobs, events, career news and tips. What am I missing? Even if it’s not something that is on my blog right now? What do people want to hear about from me…especially the folks that aren’t actively looking?

2) How much is too much? Lots of stuff in your blog aggregator is different than in your inbox, right? How often do people not actively searching for a new job want to think about career planning?

3) Here’s the tough question: most recruiting outreach takes place in person, via phone or e-mail. Is it too much of a paradigm shift to really deliver career related info regularly via RSS feed? Are people in career-planning mode when they are browsing their bloglines account? If most of one’s network are on e-mail but not RSS, is sending out info via RSS really limiting their ability to send it out and share with others?

I get why RSS is important…I’m just not sure that the people that would receive my info via RSS wouldn’t be better served by receiving in their e-mail instead. Part of it is about peoples’ comfort zones but it’s also about making sure that what I send out has legs. Thoughts?

Comments (19)

  1. Steve Shu says:

    RSS is pretty inexpensive to add to most sites. It looks like HR-related blogs like BostonWorks have the RSS feeds … if that is any indicator. That said, it is kind of hard for me to get in the mindset of looking for jobs via RSS … kind of weird, but now that you mention it perhaps I’ll open my eyes more to see if it makes sense for people thinking about career planning.

    I may not have mentioned this to you before, but the first time I visited your site was because you had a post on management consulting that turned up on Google. It peaked my interest since there is very, very little information on management consulting in the blogosphere today. Your post gave me some insight about how Microsoft thought about carrer tracks for past/current management consultants.

    I don’t know if you have any stats on how many people come to your site via RSS, but if you haven’t tried Feedburner, that might be something that interests you. It can provide you with detailed metric information about number of people, bots, etc. getting info via your feed. It would probably take awhile to get people to shift to the new feed, but if you are going to start a separate feed for your new blogging stuff, this may be a route to go for the new feed.

    For my blog, most people come in direct or via Google. I just migrated blog platforms like 5 days ago so trackback is another path (but it is new to me). Only like 5% of traffic comes though RSS. As far as I can tell, RSS traffic is primarily from people who want to start a longer-term relationship with my blog.

    Anyway, good luck. I subscribe to your blog via Wizz RSS reader in Firefox.

  2. Andy says:

    You are planning on doing this via your blog it sounds like? When I am not actively looking for jobs there are a few things that will make me look at a job anyway. First is better pay if I see a job that’s even vaugley related to what I do that is advertising a lot more pay I go check it out to find out why they are offering more and if I maybe I should apply for it. Solid advanced technology in the job description not the .Net flavor of the week type stuff but the promise of getting to work with good solid bleeding edge systems level technology. Also anything that sounds like it might give me more creative say over what I do I will probably go look at. I know you are looking for marketing types but perhapse many of them might look for the same type of thing. If you start putting up good content and start gently feeding it out the word will spread that this is a good place to come check if you are looking for a job or just to see what MS has available.

    If some one at MS did that for developers I would read it out of sheer curiosity not out of any desire to work there. But it would be readers like me who will pass on that info to friends who are looking and like I said word would spread.

    Who knows maybe someday I might even start reading your blog for more reasons than just: "she’s hotter than h3ll and smart to boot" 😉

  3. What would catch my interest is real world stories. Maybe blog about a success story and detail how someone found your blog or newletter and how it all come to pass. I’m not as concerned about the actual job details as I am the employee behind the job and how you found them and what they are experiencing as an MSFT employee.

    My current employer asked for a writing sample and I sent them to my blog even though they had no idea what a blog was at the time. I’d like to hear how others are using their blogs to network and locate new opportunities. You’re in a good position to pass some of these experiences on to others.

    Keep up the good work.

  4. Nicole Simon says:

    As the persons you likely want to target are interesting in expanding their knowledge and learn, of course they are in planning mode when they open their rss reader. :o)

    Just some quick thoughs: I think distribution via rss is less painfull than email plus: it is much easier (and more acceptable) to "read a blog" instead of recruiting topics via email. RSS allows easier categories – you post one thing and it will pop up in all categories related to that. Where each has a feed.

    Now making several different email letters from that is much more difficult. Besides (I don’t know if this is different in the US): most emails named ‘from Microsoft’ go directly into spam filters these days.

    Having a blog and feeds for it has the additional advantage of being archived and searchable later.

    At the moment, you ‘are’ Marketing jobs @ Microsoft. Perhaps it is time to have a group blog (or several connected) for the recruiting topics you and the company are interested in?

    Nicole

  5. Alex says:

    Hey, you know I support the idea. If you were to offer me the choice of RSS, email, or *both* I would potentially take both. As I’ve noted, I would actually prefer to receive it in RSS, for reasons of browsing, location, functional area, etc.

    What about an area for "insider news". I know you can’t divulge confidential information, but people tend to be quite appreciative of any advantage they can gain in applying for a job. Maybe it would belong in "tips", but "insider news" sounds much cooler and more helpful to me.

    I know of people who "read" hundreds and thousands of blogs a day via RSS. The beauty of an RSS aggregator is that you can easily muck through a bunch of blogs, so I wouldn’t worry about over-informing people.

    FYI – you win one "paradigm shift" point. Grrrrr. 🙂

  6. Steve Shu says:

    Heather,

    One other thing you might want to try to offer email updates through Bloglet. Not sure what blogging platform you are using, but perhaps something else for you to consider.

    http://www.bloglet.com/

  7. Turker says:

    For your first question, given that I am not actively looking in the finance/marketing area, I would like to hear about the culture in that type of a job. I think the pipes cover most of the things that a person planning a career in that field would be looking for. On the other hand, for someone who is not looking but interested in watching the field may want to know what the mindset of people in a finance/marketing job is, and how they approach problems. At least, I think I would like to hear about that.

    I also wanna tackle the hard question.IMO, RSS vs. email discussion is here to stay for a while, and I think the best approach is to go with both. Yeah, emal is easier to share but with the pace of the things today I think RSS tools will be able to provide more functionality. I do not think currently most people are in job searching/career planning mood when they are using bloglines but I think it will be a part of the search soon. Finally, yes, I think it is a big paradigm shift if you to really deliver career related info regularly via RSS feed, but unless a provider goes along with such a shift it is harder for the ones on the other side of the road to shift their paradigms.

    Finally, unfortunately, I believe RSS aggregators are becoming more like an inbox with many unread items and for someone looking at the feeds regularly it may be as intimidating as email. I think it all boils down to how you manage mass amounts of information more than how this information is delivered to you.

    Just my thoughts:)

  8. Henry Boehlert says:

    On your blog you had many tips and discussions for me about how to use various outreach channels, e.g. (simplified:) resume spam is bad and blogging is good.

    Apart from spam, what I might dislike about about email is the author’s expectation that I will take the time and answer.

    If you reach out via email, you should provide good incentive to reply. I’m not sure if there is enough in the "pipes" you listed.

    Somebody mentioned learning here. That’s an incredible incentive. I’d always miss out a free lunch for a free training session.

  9. Chris says:

    Interesting that you posted this question today and I saw this blog entry which discusses some of the trade offs between email lists and RSS:

    http://www.flashesofpanic.com/panic/000771.php

  10. Sean says:

    Although not currently seeking, I check your blog regularly because there is always something that provides some value (like how to interact w/recruiters or what not to do during the interview process, but also your insight into the NCAA football season!)

    Initially, when I visited your blog–and still–the links you provide offer great resources for information (the recruiting/marketing & business blogs).

    Of the recruiting email/digest resources I have subscribed to, they were of limited value when I was searching–too many details and inefficient formatting, and no value now that I am not actively searching. RSS is likely to achieve better results over the long run–I still check the jobs on Craigslist occasionally through the RSS feed.

    Your blog is a niche information channel, and the fact that I check it regularly means that you do a better job than most of supplying that information.

  11. Henry says:

    Heather, a blog is still a blog. So does email. As you mentioned "…till many of the people I want to reach out to aren’t that familiar with blogging (except maybe hearing about …). To entrench your efforts, why don’t you make use of non-digitalized pro org meetings e.g. chamber of commerce, so-and-so company’s dinner, to create an impression first. Blogs and emails can followup as communication tools.

  12. Heather says:

    Good feedback everyone…

    Steve-my blog is RSS enabled. The question is whether to use it to market the same info we would push out via mail. Anyway, it’s here, so we have the capability. Our tool does aggregate site stats. So I have some data but I must admit that as a marketing tool, it’s very hard to target people. So I look at the stats at a macro level. I’ll look into blogjet…thanks for the tip!

    Andy-yes, I think we would use my blog. Either way. I think it’s important if a real person is visible in the process. I doubt that people would want to hear from an e-mail alias. Good feedback on job description content…point taken! Also…I have to add that it is unfortunate that the hot/smart equation is not a real recruiting tactic…well maybe just the smart part ; )

    Brett-great feedback. I definitely want to incorporate more interviews of employees. More of our marketing folks are discovering my blog (I’ve been told that it comes up in meetings). There aren’t many marketing bloggers here but I could provide info on people in the jobs, why they are here, etc. Does that sounds like it would be what you are looking for?

    Nicole-you are giving me a great idea. I can send the e-mail with a link to the blog and instructions on how to subscribe. Archived/searchable…good points.

    Alex-sorry about the paradigm thing…try to think of another way to say it…it’s not easy ; ) I get your point about the insider info. It’s less about divulging what I shouldn’t and more about how you can make people feel by providing exclusive content. Good point.

    Turker…sounds like another vote for interviews with employees, yes? Great point about RSS…I guess someone needs to lead the way delivering career info through RSS. I think you are right that people should get to choose. I guess my boggest concern is that the people getting the info via RSS 1) read it and 2) share it.

    Henry-our approach would definitely be to provide some value to the recipient (ala networking). But this is all opt-in stuff. If someone doesn’t want to hear from us, we don’t want to tick them off. I guess as far as incentives go, I’m not necessarily only looking for the immediate reply with a resume. I’m looking to build people’s perception and ultimately, dwon the road when they do decide to look, I want them to think of me first. And as much as someone is going to think that it’s not possible that I will have a benevolent motivation base, I like the idea of helping people make a personal decision in their lives. Gives me the warm fuzzies. Like the idea of learning…think that might also be a vote for employee interviews with some business lessons included.

    Chris-thanks for the link. I get his point, but we know that the majority of our targets don’t do RSS. So I think I’m still leaning toward both. Good to know someone else is thinking about this kind of stuff ; )

    Sean-oh good…someone does care about the football stuff ; ) I was wondering if I was talking to myself. I’ve been ribbed a bit about not discussing the Norm CHow situation and response was that nobody was respondig to my football posts…that’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Your points about the mail…you are mkaing me think more about timing. Some people may just want my name and contact info and to not hear from me again until they are looking. So I’ll have to give that some thought.

    Henry( second comment)-don’t worry, I do all of those things. The marketing work I am describing isn’t my whole strategy. Many of the things you mention are means for us to determine who we want to be in touch with. I’ll be developing my own network, but we also need to address how a small team can reach out to so many people effectively.

    Anyway, you all are great…I’m coming to think of you as my own industry/blogging think tank. As much as many of you have said that you have learned things here or have been entertained, I gain just as much, if not more, through all of this feedback and your personal insights. I so often see people in staffing adopt something because it’s new (linked In for example). You are all helping me make sure that things we are adopting are actually effective too. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it!

  13. The meat of my thought:

    Build relationships with good candidates via the blog. Allow people to sign up for job alerts via email. Have a good way to identify job posts from regular posts as part of your rss and consider a dedicated jobs RSS as # of job posts increase.

    Train of thought:

    It seems to me there are two problems you are trying to address: 1) Attracting good candidates to msft 2) Getting them to apply to the appropriate positions. Lets handle each separately:

    Problem 1.

    Common-sense suggests to me that if my goal is to attract good marketing or finance candidates, I should try to attract good candidates (keywords being "attract" and "good").

    I think your blog is an excellence method of building attraction to msft and maybe it should become a clear and conscious goal of the blog.

    This leads me to my the first part of my suggestion. Use the Blog as a tool to highlight why someone would like to work at MS in the marketing/finance department. More important than most factors (including money) is the environment.

    Build the perception of the environment to the reality of the situation. I’m sure you already know what makes a great environment: great people, unique challenges & opportunities, etc. Figure out good ways to highlight/discuss these key motivators in your content while still dishing valuable information.

    While RSS is great, its not a proactive mechanism. This is why I like email over RSS. I like the idea of doing both. Include job posts as part of the RSS but allow me to get job alerts as they become available via email. Job posts in RSS have to walk a fine line between content and clutter. Prefixing the subject with "JOB: blah blah blah" would do the trick.

    The concerns over email alerts going into spam folder are valid and are the same concerns faced by permission marketers giving away resources/newsletters. The tactical plan on how to minimize the spam problem is something I’m sure your team can come up with. Quick off-top-my-head solution would be "make them confirm the email and in the confirmation email, remind them to white list that email address.

    Just never forget, you are attracting good candidates. Lets take my example:

    I found your blog searching for "marketing blogs" because I was looking for thoughts/ideas of other (preferably successfully) marketers.

    As a marketer, I was attracted to your blog because I hoped that your blog might provide a prospective/ experiences different than mine and would help expand my vision/thoughts.

    Quality content on your blog over time will build a relationship between you/msft and me/candidate… building that attraction factor. Combine that with proactive sending out emails regarding positions I might be interested in … sounds like a good formula to me. (Wouldn’t work on me since I’ve got a business of mind already. 🙂 )

    PS: Good lucks with things.

  14. Mark Mullin says:

    Talk to this guy (http://avc.blogs.com/) or others that have blogs linked off his site – they’re in finance, high tech, and they certainly know recruiting – about the only problem I see is one of competition for the resources, but that still beats stumbling around in the dark.

    In general I don’t see a problem with the forum, your best candidates are early adopters (look what happened when they went with a sugar water salesman at that other company). I know I read blogs for everything from extreme technical content to finance and marketing (seth godin’s a hoot). As far as actual job postings tho, I dunno – blogs (to me) feel more content focused than that, but links from a blog can go just about anywhere – I guess the main thing is not to force people to wade through dreck they don’t care about, since blogtext tends to be a bit more linear than the average page

    One final thought – your blog should sell high concept, not low execution – as for myself, I’ve turned y’all down a number of times, now I wonder if that was the swiftest thing I’ve ever done – it’s primarily been the large number of blogs and people I’ve talked with on them thats caused me to wonder, not any specific job posts.

  15. Heather says:

    Melvin-attracting people to Microsoft is actually the goal of the blog ; ) I must not be doing it very well. I suspect that the fact that it’s doens’t read like a fluffy PR piece makes it seem more personally focused than professional. You documented some of the things I am definitely trying to do with the blog.

    Mark-I think I have the recruiting thing down ; ) Seriously, my only questions were around RSS versus e-mail. I hope you all weren’t thinking I was asking you how to recruit folks ; ) I don’t really agree with the idea that our best candidates are blog ealry adopters. That may be true in some tech areas…not in marketing and finance. Plus, I do braod outreach across the market, rather than recruiting on specific positions. So not including 95% of the population in my marketing would be dangerous. Anyway, you made some great points and I’ll check out that VC guy’s blog. As always, I totally appreciate the inout!

    The other thing I want to mention is that the feeds and e-mails I was talking about aren’t intended to take the place of this blog. If you come here to to read about whatever for whatever reason, and you don’t subscribe to a very specific feed via RSS or sign up for e-mails, you really won’t see any difference. Trust me, I know why I come here and it’s time well spent. That won’t change. I was just trying to leverage the collective brain power here to make some decisions on how to execute on apiece of my job. Love the feedback guys!

  16. Sean says:

    If the goal of the blog is to attract people to jobs at Microsoft, you might consider placing links for Marketing/Finance jobs towards the top of the nav bar. Even though it is likely that a new reader will seek those links out, it (may) become less intuitive for returning users to browse jobs, and more intuitive to browse content.

    Do you want potential candidates to view your site, then go to the careers at Microsoft site, then contact you about positions they are interested in? That would seem the most efficient process, but a process doesn’t really seem to be specified.

    Just a thought. . .

  17. Heather says:

    Hmm, great points Sean. .text doens’t allow me to arrenge the links but I am sure there must be a trick. I’ll have to think more about how to make the process clear. I thikn it will also alleviate concerns of some people about whether it’s OK to contact me diurectly given that many, if not most, recruiters don’t give out their contact info online. Maybe the first link could be about process (the WIIFM for blog readers) and then I can do the breakout of marketing and finance. Thanks so much for your help!

  18. Heather, the interviews would be cool. It peels back the curtain a little and let’s us see what it’s like to work at MS. And yes, let someone else do the "fluffy PR" stuff. 🙂

  19. David says:

    I’m a marketing and finance type with a tech background. I read your blog to get insight into Microsoft’s marketing culture.

    I think e-mail and RSS/blog is the way to go. SPAM filters are very aggressive these days: just read Seth Godin’s blog where he talks about all the people who opt-in for his newsletter and never receive it. You might also promote the Blog/RSS in each e-mail.

    What I would like to see are case studies of executives at Microsoft and how they shaped their careers to get as high as they have in one of the largest and most profitable technology companies. It might also be interesting to hear from recruits you find who have also done an exceptional job of planning their careers. It would be interesting to see just how far ahead and how deliberate career planning needs to be, or if a lot of it turns out to be shaped by opportunity and chance.