Human capital management was mostly an unknown concept 10 years
ago, but today it is one of the key focuses of workplace journalism.
While in the past, most coverage focused on the more traditional
family-work balance stories, now issues related to human capital have
"As the workplace beat becomes more hard news, it's attracting a new,
more analytical reporter," notes Jessica Korn, editor-in-chief of Gallup
The focus shifts
In the good old days of the technology boom, reporters most often
focused on talent retention and training costs. But now that layoffs are
more commonplace, Korn says Wall Street analysts have become more savvy
about employee retention and no longer greet every massive round of
redundancies with praise about how it will help a company's short-term
The result has been that workplace journalists are not only reporting on
the remarkable shifts in the balance of power between employer and
employee, but are in many ways reinforcing the notion that workers are
in charge of their own careers. Fast Company magazine made its name by
championing that concept.
"The power of the job candidate has come to the forefront," says Kristin
Bowl, media relations specialist for the Society of Human Resource
Managers (SHRM). "Now potential employees realize they need to know a
lot more when they negotiate for a new job. That's where you've seen a
lot of reporting."
Demonstrating the growing interest in employment matters among
reporters, the Society says that in 1990 it received 207 calls from
journalists asking for information on workplace-related stories. Last
year that number was more than 3,000.
Virtually every major newspaper now has a workplace section devoted not
only to finding jobs, but also to answering questions about a variety of
office-related subjects ranging from sexual harassment to negotiating a
raise or benefit package. The Boston Globe and Los Angeles Times, for
example, now devote a section in their Sunday editions, while The New
York Times has a "Workplace" segment on Wednesdays.
Perhaps because of its role as the preeminent business publication in
the US, The Wall Street Journal has been at the forefront of many of
these discussions, not only in its Career Journal supplement, but also
on the front page.
The most influential reporters on the workplace beat tend to be at the
major newspapers. They include Sue Shellenberger, Rachael Silverman and
Patrick Barta of The Wall Street Journal, Lisa Belkin of The New York
Times, Jill Hamburg Coplan of Business Week, Amy Joyce and Ken
Bredemeier of The Washington Post. Others big names in this sector
include Diane Lewis and Jerry Ackerman of The Boston Globe, Carol
Kleinman and Steven Franklin of the Chicago Tribune, Stephanie Armour of
USA Today and Maggie Jackson of the Associated Press.
Matt Wright, senior account executive with Atlanta-based Duffie
Communications, says he encourages his clients to participate in this
type of story, even going as far as to package a workplace story concept
around his client, which he can pitch to a reporter. "We've been very
successful in placing these thought-leadership-driven pieces that aren't
necessarily hawking a product," he says.
Wright adds that many of these work-related stories have recently
focused on the downsizing companies are enduring. "I get calls from
reporters wanting to talk to companies facing the challenge of layoffs,"
"I usually steer my clients away from those stories, unless I have a
relationship with the reporter and I'm confident that it won't end up a
The increased importance of workplace related journalism has created
some new PR possibilities, especially for companies such as Monster.com,
intent on building a brand online as both a career and job resource.
Elizabeth King of the Weber Group, which represents Monster, says the
company has a group of executives it offers as experts on
workplace-related issues available for interviews. "We just see this
media outreach as a natural outlet that helps Monster reinforce its
message of helping define how career relates to life," she says.
Lost in the shuffle
Somewhat lost in the mix is the changing face of the American office.
Russell Rowland, executive vice president for New York-based HWH Public
Relations, which represents Samsung, concedes that some aspects of the
current workplace and business journalism climate have made it hard for
office product companies to get the attention of the press. "Things like
fax machines and printers are really considered a commodity," he says.
"They don't cover them regularly."
Rowland says he has had much better success in pitching office products
to technology writers such as The Wall Street Journal's Walter Mossberg
and Time's Anita Hamilton. "You've got to have some hot new angle or
technology for them," he says.
Last year Samsung introduced a flat-panel computer monitor with a
built-in TV tuner so employees can watch the financial news on CNBC
while they work. "It was the first flat panel in the category to do
that," he says, adding that alone helped it generate coverage in Time,
Newsweek, The New York Times and elsewhere.
Rowland says the only other office products pitch with a chance of
capturing the interest of the business press are price breakthrough
stories, such as when a company brings out a dollars 199 laser printer.
"Those can be good stories for newspapers like USA Today," he says,
"Because they don't like to talk about technology their readers can't
WHERE TO GO
Trade publications: HR Magazine; HR News; Executive Recruiting;Executive
Recruiting News; Staff Industry Analyst;
Diversity Monitor; Office World;
TWICE; Computer Reseller News;
Information Week; InfoWorld
Internet: Job related sites like: