How ALM Is Connecting with Young Professionals & Fostering Industry Talent
Before you can monetize an audience, you need to learn what motivates the people in it. The same holds true for retaining talent in a competitive industry like publishing – leaders must listen to employees and create environments where they feel comfortable bringing forth ideas, says Molly Miller, chief content officer at ALM. This approach to both audience and employee engagement led the B2B publisher to launch a LinkedIn group called the ALM Young Professionals Network last month.
“The goal is to truly build a community, not to just create so that we’re also getting [young professionals] to an event, or so that they’re immediately built into an offer to subscribe,” says Miller. “That means a lot to our employees, including younger folks on the team.”
The network, which spans industries served by ALM brands, was conceived by a group of ALM employees who regularly meet to exchange ideas. This “new ideas group” includes reporters from all verticals, as well as employees outside the newsroom in PR, communications, and marketing. Miller says the group recognized a problem – the company’s need “to monetize an audience in order to spend some development dollars on a new platform for them” – and saw a LinkedIn community as a low-risk way to start learning about what that audience wants.
Below, Miller delves into content strategy for the ALM Young Professionals Network and shares how ALM is using employee input to rethink its internal training program.
Engaging an Emerging Audience
Since its launch in early June, the ALM Young Professionals Network has grown to 350 members, including individuals in legal, benefits, insurance, financial services, consulting, and real estate. Though the group has “young professional” in its name, membership is not limited to those aged 40 and under – older professionals are encouraged to join and share their mentorship.
Miller believes cross-industry connection is a key part of the group’s appeal for young professionals, many of whom have not yet staked their future in one field.
“People who are looking to grow their careers, whether it’s within the position they’re in today or what their next step is, they really want to have a broad set of advice from a broad set of mentors,” Miller says. “It isn’t as if we just want to find someone going into commercial real estate and give them real estate verticals. They want to understand how other people are getting ahead.”
To serve relevant advice to those in a wide range of industries, ALM’s content strategy for the group includes original community-generated posts, plus existing articles with editor write-throughs to specifically address the emerging professional point-of-view.
“Say, for example, we have an article about investing through our ThinkAdvisor.com platform, and it’s geared to how are you saving for retirement when you’re really new in your career,” says Miller. “Rather than just posting that article, which we believe is absolutely not the best way to engage the community, an editor would think about that article from the perspective of a young professional and write through it to give them a tone, a voice from someone else in the community about that particular topic.”
Each week editors and community members also engage in discussion surrounding a “topic of the week,” such as work-life balance or mentoring. They can post about personal experiences and lessons learned or ask questions. Though editors are leading most of the current discussion in the group, Miller hopes to see it grow into a forum for members to share their own thought leadership. Over time, she says they could also become contributors to ALM publications.
The publisher is focused on building the young professional network organically through editor outreach over the next six months and engaging group members without any paywalls.
“Obviously the goal is that as our readership moves on and retires, we want to bring in new readers,” says Miller. “But we think letting [young professionals] explore and be exposed to our content through write-throughs without having to register or subscribe yet allows us to interact with and learn from them.”
Developing Internal Talent
ALM is also looking to grow young professionals within the company. Earlier this year, editorial leadership conducted a survey of the newsroom to inform their creation of a global training program.
“We’ve hired so many new reporters and in almost every single interview people have asked, ‘What’s your training program?’” says Miller. “They asked that more than any other question around culture or environment or even compensation. Training just kept coming up.”
As a result of their survey, newsroom leaders learned that employees wanted more choice of training topics, shorter training sessions, and follow-up workshops where they can apply what they’ve learned. ALM also established monthly office hours so employees can tap senior leaders for their expertise surrounding various topics of interest.
“They can call in, learn about a topic for 10 minutes, and then ask questions,” says Miller. “That program is really built to address what we’re hearing from the younger reporters. Investing in them and their education is so critical.”
Miller stresses that executives need to design training programs around the workflows of departments throughout their organizations and not expect employees to adjust to an executive schedule or dedicate an entire day to training: “When executives really understand the work that their teams are doing, that really resonates with people, whether they’re journalists or marketing managers.”
Connecting employees and collaborating across departments is also needed to retain young talent, says Miller, who sees young professionals seeking advice from divisions outside their own.
“I think when you can really overcome those silos that seem to be naturally occurring in organizations, that means a lot to young professionals,” says Miller. “Perhaps more established professionals are used to that and working within those restraints, but young professionals are like, ‘you know why should I?’”
Leah Wynalek is the senior editor for Publishing Executive and Book Business. She has worked at national magazine publishing companies including Trusted Media Brands and Rodale, where she assisted in digital content creation and strategy for Prevention.com. More recently, she used her multimedia skillset on behalf of clients as a content specialist for Philadelphia-based marketing agency En Route.