The Talent Fairy Chats With People Who Hire Content People
The best part of my role as Talent Fairy is that I get to talk to people constantly. I talk to folks who still work in print magazines and love it and want to ride it out. I talk to people who have transitioned to new roles outside traditional media (oh, so many different roles!). And I talk to lots and lots of people who are trying to transition out of editorial into branded, nonprofit, or content marketing and communications. But what I’ve found is that those groups don’t necessarily all talk to each other. There is a knowledge gap between those who are looking for content jobs — and those who are hiring for them. With my series of posts, Chatting With People Who Hire Content People, I will attempt to bridge that gap, and answer questions that career pivotors might have about roles and organizations outside of traditional media. I will be talking to executives and team leaders who have content backgrounds and “get it” and those who don’t, but they will all have one thing in common: They hire content people, people like you.
My latest interview is with Gretchen Koback-Pursel, the Chief Human Resources Officer at Tiffany & Co, the luxury consumer jewelry company. I know Gretchen through our to-be fifth grade boys who are on the same baseball and basketball teams. We often sit together on the sidelines of games in our leafy suburb where the conversation is rarely, if ever, about our work. But today Gretchen was gracious enough to talk to me about what she does at Tiffany and what the company looks for when hiring content creators. Gretchen oversees 14,000 employees at Tiffany, but before she moved into the top HR role she’s in today, she did recruiting for the company’s creative and marketing teams. Talking with her I learned a lot about the importance of storytelling within a legacy brand — Tiffany’s Blue Book was the first mail order catalog in the U.S. in 1845! — and why it’s crucial to have a global mindset when you are applying to work at a company as large as Tiffany, which has more than 300 retail stores worldwide. Here is an edited transcript of our recent chat:
Talent Fairy: Thanks for talking with me this morning. Part of what I’m trying to do with these interviews is to demystify the corporate world as much as possible. Those of us who come from a journalism background try to take complicated things and make them easy to understand, and this is no different.
Gretchen Koback-Pursel: Sure. Happy to help.
TF: When I think of Tiffany and your storytelling I think of the ads I see when walking through the MetroNorth tunnel at Grand Central or Tiffany.com. I’d love to hear what other storytelling Tiffany is doing.
GKP: For us, storytelling is key to making sure that our luxury brand is known for the way we want it to be known for. So in addition to traditional print media like what you see in Grand Central, we have so many other means that come in the way of digital and social media. We have a big social presence and online presence. And even though Tiffany.com is a commerce site, it serves as an opportunity for us to tell our story as a branding site as well. We also have other communications such as the Tiffany magazine, which is a graduation from a typical catalog. And we have something we refer to as Blue Book.
TF: How is Tiffany magazine different than Blue Book?
GKP: The magazine, This is Tiffany, is longer form with articles, features, and storytelling as well as product; it’s more content marketing in a traditional form. It comes out in the fall and the spring. In addition to that we have a traditional catalog around the holidays and other gifting moments. And then we have Blue Book, which has evolved over 150 years, and is now entirely focused on our high jewelry collection. It’s mostly aspirational, featuring one-of-a-kind creations and incredible photography. There is less copy than This is Tiffany –– it is largely overseen by the creative team, as they are also designing the jewelry and photographing it.
[See the 2017 This is Tiffany catalog in the photo here.]
TF: Wow. Blue Book has been around 150 years. You figured out content marketing 150 years ago!
GKP: Before the internet, Tiffany had stores throughout the world, we were a store in New York City and to reach consumers who didn’t live within access of a store, we had to reach them in different ways. If you were to see us in a magazine or in the catalog, you had to call up a 1-800 number to make a purchase. And that catalog evolved to Tiffany.com.
TF: Let’s dive into who is creating this content for Blue Book, This is Tiffany magazine, and Tiffany.com. Do you use an external agency? Or do you rely on an in-house team?
GKP: Most of our work is done internally. We do partner with agencies around the world when we need to. But we have both a creative in-house team and a brand marketing team internally who together are the guardians and the creators of the content.
TF: What is the reporting structure? Who do the people who work on these products report up to?
GKP: We have a Chief Artistic Officer. He is responsible for everything from product design to creative assets for communications [such as Blue Book]. We also have our SVP of marketing who is responsible for managing the creative content and how from a media standpoint that is advertised or communicated to our consumers. Together those teams work hand in hand. Depending on the role, it might report into the creative team or the marketing team. And of course there is PR and events which is just another avenue for information to be shared externally with consumers.
TF: What job functions do these people serve?
GKP: For the purpose of your audience, I will note that there is a copy team: everything from content editors to people who are responsibly for digital copy, social content editors, and copywriters. They work hand-in-hand with the creative team to write about a piece [of jewelry] and tell the story of how it is designed in a very specific and unique way: What is behind this piece? What is the best way to capture and embody what this piece is all about? And on the other side, there are producers and graphic designers— for both print and digital, as well as UX creators specifically for digital. There is also a production team. They are trafficking materials and managing the deadlies for content delivery. They are working between these groups.
TF: So I have to ask: Are you hiring now?
GKP: I have to say, there is not a tremendous amount of turnover at Tiffany in general. But that being said, there is always something open. We do post our openings on TiffanyCareers.com. Right now, for example, we are looking for a digital product designer that reports into the creative team. It’s producing assets for marketing campaigns. We are looking for someone with experience working in luxury design.
TF: When you are hiring for any content or creative positions what do you look for in terms of experience?
GKP: We are looking for people who are trained in both print and digital, particularly in the social media world. But the key I would say is to understand the luxury marketing space. And people who will be collaborative partners and interested in working as part of a team. They also have to have a global mindset.
TF: I hear that term a lot. In a job interview, how do you show that you have a global mindset?
GKP: Well, let me backup just a bit. At a brand like Tiffany, we are known as an American luxury brand. Part of our brand identity is that we have a New York sensibility. That is what makes us different from other luxury brands. We need to understand how that lands with a consumer in Japan, China, Australia, or even Europe. If we have too much of a New York-centric mindset we have trouble connecting with consumers around the world. [As a candidate], you have to understand what is culturally relevant with consumers. You need to appreciate and understand it and have a curiosity about it. How you convey that in an interview, is to express the ways in which you are a student of the world. Or a student of different luxury brands around the world. An inherent curiosity of those things. It’s the same thing that makes you appreciate the arts, for example. That is not for everyone. You have to have a curiosity and an interest in that and a desire that comes through in your work.
TF: That’s incredibly helpful. So back to when you’re talking about hiring these roles, are you looking for people with editorial backgrounds?
GKP: It depends on your definition of editorial. In PR we look for individuals with a background in journalism or with strong writing skills. For a copywriter role a journalistic background may be less important; it may be more important for them to have a copywriting background with luxury or retail brands.
TF: Do you have anyone who comes from an editorial background on your team now?
GKP: We have people in the past who have come from magazines. That doesn’t happen as much these days. We might get someone from Net-A-Porter or an online commerce site. In the past, we have had people come from editorial, and magazines, but they have had other work experience too, in print and digital.
As far as digital experience, it’s navigating it and being able to look ahead. If you think of Tiffany as a brand. We talked about our catalog business, and brick and mortar store locations. But consumers shop in different ways. They sometimes are shopping both online and in stores and we hope that is the case. But we need to make sure that their experience is seamless. And for brands like a Net-A-Porter or even a Sephora, their origin was online. They were able to establish in a more modern version of a shopping experience and supplementing with stores. But we are on the flip of that: We had stores first and we’ve evolved to have a digital presence that is consistent and seamless. We want our customer to have the same experience wherever they connect with the brand. And so someone who can think in those terms and someone who can problem-solve and can look ahead of what’s next, because this is a landscape that is constantly evolving and updating itself. You can’t take your time to get comfortable with where you are today; we need someone to take control of that dynamic and who is capable of that agility.
TF: That’s a good lesson for sure. You can’t get comfortable anymore! I think that even my plumber has to learn digital skills. Outside of digital and understanding that landscape, is there anything else you struggle to find when hiring creative or content roles?
GPK: Finding someone who has an awareness and an aesthetic that resonates with a luxury brand. That is not always easy to identify and find. As I mentioned, there are not a lot of American luxury brands. Given that our headquarters are here, there is a lot of talent in the New York metro area, but you need someone who understands luxury as a brand. That sometimes is the biggest trick.
TF: Do you see content playing a bigger role in the business strategy at Tiffany?
GPK: Yes. I think content is huge. As a brand it’s all about telling a story. People want to connect with a brand and they want to have a reason to shop with one brand over another. And the content is what draws them in, gives them that reason.
TF: Anything you want to add about what makes Tiffany a unique place to work?
GPK: What I often hear when I talk to someone who come to us from other places, is that we have a special and unique culture. They love that Tiffany is a very positive brand to be affiliated with it. Beyond that they truly enjoy the people that they get to work with. That is pretty special and we find it is unique for our organization and that we are very proud of.
TF: Well it starts from the top, Gretchen! I’m sure that you have a lot to do with that.
GPK: Well, thank you.
TF: It was wonderful to chat with you today. Thank you so much for taking the time.
GPK: Thank you.
Chandra Turner is founder and CEO of Ed2010. She offers personalized career coaching for media professionals at all stages of their career. This year she launched Talent Fairy to help brands recruit and develop highly specialized creative talent.
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