You’ve Probably Already Read This Already.
One of my contributors recently complained, after about six months of blogging, that it was becoming increasingly difficult to say things about recruiting that they hadn’t already said before. I couldn’t agree more.
My friend Maren Hogan wrote a great post yesterday about how so many blog posts are more or less redundant, since they’ve already been written. Definitely read the whole thing – I never recommend blogs other than my own (I’m a whore like that) but in this case, it got me thinking.
Maren wrote the article in response to the frequent allegations levied against her that she is copying or stealing ideas from previously published blog posts, retorting that such duplication is inevitable, because there’s really only so much to say. And arguing about who owns intellectual property that’s both in the public domain and devoid of intellect to begin with is dumber than writing seasonal posts based on minor holidays, like “Celebrating Arbor Day With Wellness Programs That Work” or “10 Columbus Day Diversity Tips.” Sadly, both those are real.
She closed by saying that the only way to avoid the fact that someone will inevitably steal your stuff is to “write something completely and utterly infused with YOU without caring if it will be retweeted or read at all.”
This, she posits, would be tilting at content windmills without abandoning any “blogging best practice” or imposing any form of fucking editing or self-censorship, and saying exactly what you want to say.
In his great Poetics, Aristotle (or Socrates, I get those guys confused) held that there are only 7 different stories out there (e.g. man vs. man), and any deviation is simply an embellishment built on a universal foundation. Which means that even a few hundred centuries ago, all the good ideas were taken.
Fast forward to the age of niche online content marketing in a really small, really static segment like recruiting or HR, and you’re basically doomed to being the B2B Bruckheimer, in perpetual production of a sequel for an already stale franchise.
The fact that I’m writing a post that’s basically just recapping a blog post on stealing other people’s ideas or cribbing from content that’s been there first is obviously ironic, but that’s not the point. Yeah, it’s meta, but so too is this industry.
I’m one of those outliers that does, in fact, get to write without any censorship or filters, and even the content vendors pay me for is done without any input other than them giving me a topic or survey or something like that and just letting me riff. It’s like jazz, but neither smooth nor cool – so like Kenny G meets Kenny Powers, I guess.
Steal This Post.
Those topics I’m writing about for are, at the moment: big data, recruitment is marketing, candidate experience, social media for recruiting and HR technology trends. I was writing about these same topics in 2008, when I wrote my very first ever blog post, which was about how I was sick of reading so many blog posts about Gen Y. This has been a persistent problem that’s been around for a while, now.
I learned from that post, and many like it, that people don’t really give two shits what you say, as long as it has voice and sounds like it’s coming from a real person. Your sanitized content is my competitive advantage, basically; if you write for yourself, and you’re intrinsically satisfied with the result, than you’ve achieved what all writing should ultimately do – reach an audience.
If you care enough about what you’re writing, it’s inevitable that other people will, too. If you’re just writing for a paycheck, a deadline or for SEO, than you’re writing stuff you don’t want to write for an audience that doesn’t want to read it.
This is most content marketing – it’s pretty rare that you’d even look at a blog post from your HCM vendor, much less look forward to the next one. It’s all the same shit, written with no voice but sounding very self-important in its superficiality. Ideas are a cheap commodity, so style is everything, unless you go for shock value, but there’s no sense or value if you’re forcing contrarianism just to be controversial.
Yes, the ideas are redundant, as this post is meant to point out. Voice matters, too – and determines how original or creative any particular piece actually is. But even though I can safely assert I’ve written a hundred posts on candidate experience over the years (really), I guess my feeling is that it’s really easy to keep it fresh.
I’ll let you in on how I don’t go crazy writing the same thing again and again and again (although, being lazy, this lets me continually and conveniently coopt my own content): I think recruiting is really interesting.
It’s really easy to get too complex, and we’ve done that by adding layers like the topics I’m writing about right now, but at its most simple and straightforward, recruiting is all about how people get jobs, and how companies find people. It’s something we’ve all experienced, and will experience again.
Work is a necessity that informs almost every level of Maslow’s hierarchy, from shelter to self-fulfillment. It’s how we spend most of our waking hours. How we find that work is a fascinating subject, both universally relevant and personality driven, a rare 1-2 foundational combination for content of any kind.
The conversations recruiters have and what this industry has real repercussions for everyone, because ultimately, everyone is a candidate at some point and has to use the technology and live with the best practices that this stuff is formulating and figuring out.
That’s the lens by which I look at this stuff, and how I keep sane on days when I have to crank out another iteration of why, say, recruiting is like marketing and make basic business cases for simple, straightforward stuff that we really should stop talking about. But since we can’t, of course it’s all going to be a bit repetitive.
But, if the goal truly is to get readers and RTs, than we’re probably doomed to an eternity of this, since themes and topics that have performed well historically almost always influence future editorial. It’s a vicious cycle that won’t end. Which means you’ll probably be reading this post in some repurposed form in about a year.