Finding good talent is tough in any industry, and in the fast-paced world of publishing it’s especially important to keep desks filled with writers who can handle the demands of B2B. DeeDee Doke, editor of Recruiter magazine out of the United Kingdom looks to wire services and newspaper regional desks for potential hires.
“They work hard on those desks, having to achieve and maintain quality standards and they’re well trained,” she said. Schools can be another great place to recruit editorial and other talent, according to Kathie Zipp, a B2B freelancer in the United States. “We’re lucky to have colleges with great journalism, communications and design programs in the local area,” she said. “We often reach out to these schools for interns. If the internship goes well, we offer to hire them. It’s a good chance to give each other a try to see if it’s a good fit.”
While Doke appreciates the creativity of Internet bloggers, she finds they tend to be better suited for opinion-based writing and lack the dedication to facts necessary in B2B industries. A trade publishing editor needs to be a strong proofreader, headline writer and analytical thinker, according to Doke. Curiosity is also “essential,” as is the ability to listen. Personality also plays a factor.
“Generally, I think staff on B2B titles need to be selected somewhat on the personality of the industry they will be covering,” Doke said. “Strong skills should serve a journalist in any market, and staff don’t need to have similar personalities to the prevailing characteristics of the industry. However, they do need to appreciate some of the fine points of what makes an industry and the people in it tick and know how to tap into what those people value and understand the nature of the beast.”
Doke oversees titles in four very different industries with equally different industry personalities and believes the unique characteristics of an industry must be reflected in the title serving them. Once the candidate is hired, training them to cover a new beat can be difficult, even for experienced trade publishers. But getting to know the industry is crucial.
“Beats are essential and you have to get to know the right people and your readers,” said Tessa Reed, editor of Travel News Weekly in South Africa. She said the first step for an editor in a new industry is to identify the key players and meet with them.
“This means meeting the CEOs of the companies of your readers, as well as their suppliers and also the relevant industry associations, and building relationships with these people,” she said. “They won’t only be a source of news, but great sounding boards.”
It’s critical to build relationships with readers too. Reed suggested keeping a database of readers that are engaged and willing to give their time and input. Surveying readers about the content you’re providing and where there might be gaps is helpful in developing story ideas and identifying what’s important to them.
“The best stories don’t land in your inbox,” she said. “They come from something said in passing over drinks, and tipoffs from sources with whom you’ve developed a relationship of trust.”
Doke said an editor’s success in a beat is all about immersing themselves in learning about the sector through attending events and having real conversations with people. It’s also important to learn about the business side of any industry. Once great talent is found, it should be retained. Doke said even though she can’t always control the money available to pay employees, managing people the right way can encourage them to stay.
“Give them challenging, interesting work, some flexibility and be open to giving them both praise and tough love when needed,” she said.