By Chandra Turner
The Talent Fairy chats with people who hire content people
The best part of my role as Talent Fairy is that I 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 folks who have transitioned to new roles outside magazine media. And I talk to lots of people who are trying to transition out of traditional publishing into new roles and careers. But what I’ve found is that those three groups don’t necessarily talk to each other. There is a knowledge gap between those who are looking for content jobs and those who are hiring for them. In this series of posts: Chatting With People Who Hire Content People, I bridge that gap, and answer questions that career pivotors might have about roles and organizations outside of traditional media. I will be talking to folks 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 interview this week is with Bucky Keady, the former head of talent at Time Inc. and most recently SVP of executive search at Media Link. I’ve long had a career crush on Bucky. At Time Inc, where she was for 18 years, she had the exciting role of finding and developing talent at the country’s largest media company. Everyone who came through magazines in the 2000-2010s knows Bucky and has sat across her desk at some point for an interview (or has read her advice column in Real Simple). I remember my first time meeting her was for a role at Real Simple. I don’t remember why I didn’t pursue the position (or they didn’t pursue me), but I do remember falling in love with Bucky’s friendly charm and no-B.S. attitude. She was, and still is, a straight shooter who tells it like it is, but with your best interest in mind. When I first started Talent Fairy last spring, Bucky was one of the first people I called. She gave me valuable advice about how to set my rates when I had no clue how to negotiate with recruiting clients. For that, and her continued support of Talent Fairy, I am grateful as are, I’m sure, the countless editors she has placed in roles over the years. In our interview, we talk about the unique skills editors offer brands, the fear of “selling out,” and her own big career move. This is an edited version of our conversation.
Talent Fairy: It’s been awhile since we have heard from you! Tell us what you’ve been up to since you left Time Inc.
Bucky Keady: Between Time Inc and Media Link I did a lot of consulting work, especially with brands about building culture. I was working with early startups, a lot in the tech space, some in the media space, and some more established companies. That seems to be the hot topic: How do you develop a culture? It can be so vague. It has to do with vision, mission, business goals, and how you are going to reach those goals. What kind of work force do you want to build? How transparent are you? Do you have a clear value set? Do you have a clear communication strategy? How are you developing your talent and communicating that talent? So many people think that culture has to do with perks, like beer at 4 p.m. That has nothing to do with it! It has everything to do with the energy around you. Understanding the purpose and mission of the company.
TF: How is it different working for startups and non-media brands vs. a traditional media company like Time Inc.?
BK: Well, first I have to say, in the last four years of Time Inc. it wasn’t like a traditional media company. We were in a time of fascinating upheaval. We changed from being a traditional media company to leading with data and analytics and we were looking out of industry for talent. I hired the CTO from Amazon to come to Time Inc., for instance. We were bringing people from the agency side of the business to do branded solutions. We launched a video team that ended up winning Emmys! We changed the company to be a multi-platform tech company. It was way ahead of linear TV and what the networks and Condé Nast were doing. Time Inc. had first-party consumer marketing data that was really large and rich because we were so big. … Then we got bought out by Meredith and the rest is history.
TF: And you eventually moved to Media Link. Can you explain what Media Link is exactly, in terms that we editorial folk will understand?
BK: Media Link started 20 years ago by Michael Kassan as a business strategy and advisory company in the media advertising, marketing, and entertainment space. He saw this opportunity to educate people in the sectors where the consumer, and technology, was going digitally. It was about how you frame your company, how you organize, how you think about your new business strategy in a digital way. They would embed themselves into companies at all levels. Michael had deep connections; his thing was connectivity. It’s all about relationships and informing each other and educating each other. So when they asked me to join them, I was excited, and to be a part of where Marriott or NBCUniversal or Verizon was going with their strategies and how they were talking to consumers. Those conversations were really interesting to me. I came in to head up the executive search team and to operationalize the business, make changes in the team, and add my entertainment and media expertise.
TF: And now you are leaving Media Link. Why the move?
BK: The people [at Media Link] are fabulous. It’s been a real education to understand the holding company space and the advertising space in a deeper way. But I really miss being at a brand. I miss the talent management strategy work. So, yes, I am on the hunt! I’ve never made a move without a parachute. I’ve never actually looked for a job. Bucky Keady who did this for everyone else in the world, and I’ve never looked for a job!
TF: Well back in the day you didn’t have to! In magazines we all just bounced around from job to job based on recommendations and insider info from friends. It wasn’t until 2008 when the magazines started folding that folks were forced to be on the job hunt.
BK: And if you were in one of the big three — Condé Nast, Time Inc., or Hearst — you got a decent severance clause or you were offered another opportunity. Yes, 2008 was a real wakeup call. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal used that opportunity to do a deep dive into where the industry was going, and they are now in a position where they are doing some of the most progressive work out there. A company had to go back and exfoliate themselves to finance the builds they needed to do. They would test it out with certain brands, but there were so many different fits and starts. The biggest problem was many companies didn’t give their new strategy time to take. They aborted too quickly. It was such an elitist world for periods of time. All they needed to do was look at the new consumer and see where they were getting their information.
TF: I feel like so many of us who were “just editors” at the time understood that, but so many of the decision makers didn’t. For me, it was hard to watch it all go down. Let’s talk a bit about when you were at Time Inc. compared to now. What is different about recruiting talent for a company or a brand versus for a magazine publishing company?
BK: When I was hiring for jobs at Time Inc. from interns all the way up to corporate, I was hiring for a company that was very progressive. But when you hire for InStyle you hire for InStyle and when you hire for Time you hire for Time. But you still talk about the Time Inc goals and the benefits and the rewards and you talk about the ability to move within the company. We put a lot of effort into internal mobility and the ability to work across brands particularly in the sales departments where they were brand-specific and then vertical-specific. I never had a challenge drawing talent into the conversation. The work was smart and the brands were smart. The company was smart. We never had trouble bringing in talent. Until the very end when it went public and the Koch brothers gave Meredith money to buy Time Inc.
TF: I’ve found that brands are finally realizing that they need quality content to connect with their consumers, which is the backbone of my own recruitment business. Do you find that to be true? Do brands know what they need?
BK: They understand more than ever what they need. In 2008, 2009, and 2010 a whole slew of people left media and went to the brand side and now they are in roles at LVMH or Tory Burch. More of them in the fashion and beauty space because the skills were more transferrable early on. The common thread … it’s all about compelling information. Everyone is talking to consumers. That is what it comes down to, whether it’s audio, video, or on a digital platform. And the consumer is incredibly discerning. They have become discerning visually and with their information. Great editors know how to package that.
TF: How do editors need to change to adapt to what brands need?
BK: The problem with editors, and I do love them, is with the attitude that they are “selling out.” They are still creating great information. It may be branded. It may be doing marketing for a major telecom company. But if that content is truthful and smart and visually well done [the consumer] doesn’t care if Lexus sponsored it!
TF: Do you find that editors still think that they are selling out?
BK: Not anywhere near as much as they used to. Occasionally I still get a couple, I say C’mon, don’t you want a job? There’s information everywhere! I have people ask me all the time, “Does anyone want to go into journalism anymore?” Absolutely! Some of my favorite people are writers and editors in their early thirties and they are producing awesome work.
TF: You’ve been hiring mostly C Suite and VP level, how do you know when someone at a director level is ready for that next big step?
BK: It’s the person who has the equal parts skill set, personality, the communication style, the leadership experience.
TF: What skills do they need to showcase to get those jobs?
BK: They need to pull out their business-side engagements. And their successes. If they worked on a branded program, Did it drive revenue? How much did it drive? If the revenue number is small, give me the percentage. I’m not going to be impressed by a 40k campaign, but if you say that the revenue rose by 40%, that’s compelling. I want to see your business-side partnerships and how you affected revenue. Make sure your go-forward is that you always track [how you made an impact on the company].
The editors who are working in isolation have a tougher time. Many have had to work in companies where they had to wear multiple hats, where now several brands roll up to them. They need to show that in their resumes, those multiple roles that they have. Have they done operational and managerial work? They need to look at themselves objectively and how they are packaging their experience.
TF: What mistake do editors make when they try to break into brands?
BK: They use an old fashioned editorial resume. They are not packaging themselves in a 2020 way. All they have to do is go on Linked In and look at the places they want to work. How are other people representing themselves out there? What does their background look like? And then highlight similar experiences in their own background, moving things around to bring them to a recruiter’s or a hiring manager’s attention.
TF: Where do you find they focus too much or not enough? What should they be doing differently?
BK: They get laborious about the pieces they have written or edited. OK; that’s great. But have several versions of your resume. The resume with your listed articles may be great for so and so, but it’s a fluid document that can be adjusted for every meeting.
“The biggest problem I have noticed is fear. [Editors] have lost their swagger. They need to get that back and listen to how people are delivering their information.”
Get out there and see what other people are doing. See how people are talking about what’s going on in content, information, and in consumer engagement. There is so much information out there to research before you start your journey. Become as current as you can. Do the research on the modern tools you have available to you. And tap your resources. People don’t realize how many resources they truly have. You want to tap people who have deep connections.
TF: OK; here’s the million-dollar question I ask everyone: What unique skills do editors have to offer the world?
BK: That ability to grab a consumer’s interest. Editors know how to package and deliver information whether it’s fashion or hard news. Even hard news has an entertainment component to it because you want to draw a consumer in. You want to be able to speak to an audience and grab their interest. Editors can do that.
TF: Awesome. Thanks, Bucky!
BK: Thank you.
Want to reach out to Bucky? She’s now working as a consultant for brands and as an executive coach. She’s at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chandra Turner is founder and CEO of Ed2010 and Talent Fairy. She is a talent recruiter specializing in the content and media space. She also offers personalized career coaching for media professionals at all stages of their career.
Sign up for Ed’s bi-monthly newsletter for Ed2010 and Talent Fairy exclusive listings, offers, and insider career advice.