Interview: Todd Raphael

As editor-in-chief for ERE Media, Todd Raphael directs ERE's print and online publications, which cover recruiting and human resources.

As editor-in-chief for ERE Media, Todd Raphael directs ERE's print and online publications, which cover recruiting and human resources.

The Ohio native had a former life as a lobbyist in Washington. He spoke to PRWeek about recent developments in the recruiting media space.

PRWeek: How do you develop your news - who are your sources?

Todd Raphael: Before this, for seven or eight years I worked for another publication in the field, called Workforce Management. Prior to that I was in the lobbying world in DC, working with employers. So at this point after 10 or 15 years, some of the sources are people I know personally. Beyond that, I read or skim or look at the headlines of a couple hundred articles per day that relate to recruiting, hiring, the labor shortage, job fairs and so on. I spend a lot of time just talking to recruiters and executives in person also-- whether it is at a conference or, like yesterday, I got a group of four of them together and met for lunch to discuss recruiting. I do that constantly.

PRWeek: What are some hot topics in the industry?

Raphael: I can't find enough (blank), and that blank is varying, but that sentence usually begins with "I can't find enough (blank)." And the blank is often nurses, police officers, skilled IT employees, truck drivers, teachers, accountants. So it depends, but the biggest challenge for people is ‘How can I find enough (blank)?"

PRWeek: Talk about the story on your Web site about an upcoming work shortage caused by the fact that there are not enough people in Generation X.

Raphael: It depends on the country. And it depends on the industry. In some countries in the world, like Japan, Italy, and, to some extent, the US, the population is aging rapidly, and in a few years, you will see a large number of retirements.

It's not really hitting full-bore yet because if you were born in 1950, you are only 57 right now and not necessarily ready to retire yet. But brace yourself for eight years from now, when, if you were born in 1950, you may have had enough.

PRWeek: When you say a lot of topics are ‘I can't find enough (blank)," do you hear that from the public relations industry?

Raphael: What happens at some companies is, over the last 15 years there has been a lot of cutting and a lot of pressure to meet shareholders' expectations, so at PR companies and other companies you have a weaker bench - not enough people to fill management roles because middle management has been cut so much. Over the last 15 years there have been a lot of layoffs, and employees that remain have been working so hard that they are not always the most enthusiastic and engaged, and companies are finding it is a challenge to retain them.

PRWeek: Do you find that varies by the region in the US? Is it harder to find PR people in California than in New York?

Raphael: I couldn't generalize for a state, because within California, to take one example, there tends to be less of a shortage of PR employees in Los Angeles, but if you go out to the desert where its population exploded, PR and other employees are in greater demand. So similarly, Las Vegas, where the population has exploded, the demand for PR employees, not to mention teachers and nurses, has gone up. The population has gone up so quickly and the infrastructure is just not there.

PRWeek: How closely do you work with PR reps? Do they pitch you stories?

Raphael: By the dozens and dozens every day. Yeah.

PRWeek: What's the last PR pitch that made it as a story, and why?

Raphael: A fellow who contacted me a week ago with a story about jargon. [There's a] term that is now called "onboarding," which is a more sophisticated term for what used to be called "employee orientation." As a sequel, people who really love jargon are now calling layoffs "offboarding."

I can't get myself to say that. Anyway, his story followed a logical narrative. The company had a solution, and then they had results. It was those three things: You put them together, and then you have a story. I think if you just had the first two - problem, solution, with no result yet - it's less of a story.

PRWeek: What is some advice you can offer PR people?

Raphael: In our industry, which is recruiting and HR, a lot of the stories that people pitch begin and end with some sort of corporate department or function. I mean that the story is a pitch about how a company did something, but they never quite tie it to real human lives. They never quite get a real end result. That is what I think the good pitches do.

PRWeek: What else about your publications and industry do you think is important for our readers to know?

Raphael: In the old days, the career of HR was mainly about filling jobs, administration, or putting help wanted ads in the newspaper. Some people think that is still what goes on.

Now, it's become so incredibly different. We cover things like the US Army, a multimillion dollar campaign to get more soldiers. We cover the Los Angeles School District completely improving the way it recruits teachers, in the end greatly improving how students learn. We cover things that are changing people's lives all around the world. It's not about "How do you fill a help wanted ad?"

Name: Todd Raphael

Outlet: ERE Media

Title: Editor-in-chief

Preferred contact method: todd@ere.net

Web site: www.ere.net

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