A Riddle Wrapped In A Mystery Inside An Enigma – Meet SHRM’s Curtis Midkiff

William Tincup HR, SHRM, William Tincup

Curtis Midkiff gets it.  Curtis just so happens to work for an organization that largely doesn’t get it. Curtis is daily fighting the good fight though.  You see… Curtis manages social media operations for SHRM.  Stop snickering… I know who you are.  Stop.  Give him a chance to explain.  You see, Curtis is on “our” side.  Rather than complaining about the mothership organization – Curtis is changing the game from the inside, each and every single day.  And, you know what, they are listening – they do care and he is winning them (and us) over every day.  Curtis is a solid human being and his role at SHRM is critical to everyone who cares about the HR profession.  Spend some time getting to know my friend Curtis. Really.

JWT: What’s the one thing people need to know about you?

CM: I don’t know everything there is to know about social media (then again who does?) but I am open to learning, collaborating, and partnering with people and groups that are making great strides in this area.  Social media is just that – social – in the sense that interaction is key, so I would hope that people know that titles and other distinctions don’t matter in this space, it’s about engagement.

JWT Editorial: Good point Curtis. I think we’re all newbies with regards to social media.  If someone says social media “guru” or “expert” to me – I automatically deduct 40 IQ points.  Those of us who care about the intersection points of HR and social media should foster more knowledge sharing – raise the level of the game for all of us not just the privileged (read: echo chamber) elite.

JWT: Name three people in our industry that have influenced you, and why?

CM: Hmm…That’s a tough one because being somewhat of a “newbie” in the HR space after nearly 15 years of experience in communications and new media and most recently social media, I am learning a lot from many people.  In lieu of naming specific people…

1. My SHRM Co-workers – Their influence has been more in the area of work-life balance most of all.   I come from a previous working environment where work-life balance was a foreign concept – basically work was your life. At SHRM, I have been influenced to look at work as a part of life that is complimented by family, friends, hobbies, etc.  This balance has made me a more effective professional.

2. Our Members – I worked with a range of associations in previous positions, but I must say that our SHRM members are among the most passionate.  I have had the opportunity to meet members who are very passionate first about their profession and equally about the organization that serves their profession.  Our members applaud us when they feel we are meeting their needs but they also are not afraid to express when they feel that there is more we can do. Their passion is very influential in terms of the work we do here as I feel an obligation to do my part to assure that we are meeting their needs.

3. The Social Media Cool Kids – I use this term to describe the tight-knit community of social media leaders in HR.  I have met many of them IRL (for my Twitter friends) and many more via social networks and they are very influential in my work.  For example, when I came to SHRM, one of the first things I did is review archives of blog posts that, let’s just say, provided constructive criticism.  This was very helpful in some of the initial goals we set for the year.  The listening continues on a daily basis as I am amazed with the body of knowledge that these folks possess when it comes to HR and social media and how the two interact.

JWT Editorial: The newest term for the cool kids is “echo chamber” and by summer of 2011… you’ll see a group of people that wants to be considered “in” said chamber and a group of folks running like hell from said chamber.  It’s kind like 8th grade all over for me… during that year at Griffin Middle School in The Colony, Texas… my biggest decision was… am I going to get a perm like Michael Jackson or wear French fru fru shirts like Prince?  I, of course, chose the latter.  Come on now… who didn’t like Darling Nicki?

JWT: Why do you love your job?

CM: It brings together the best of my professional experiences and I can call upon that past experience to assist in the present.  This is also the first position I have held where my creativity can be paired with resources that can bring the ideas to fruition.  We have a very supportive team atmosphere at SHRM where new ideas are encouraged and applauded especially in the social media space.

JWT Editorial: And, quite frankly, the obvious… most HR professionals need to understand how social media has changed their world – forever.  So the work you are doing right now is painful from the perspective of bringing your audience up to speed.  It’s probably also a thankless job on most days.  Sorry about that… insert “frontier” and “arrows in the back” joke here.

JWT: What do you think holds back your profession?

CM: I really think that social media as a profession is held back by a lack of understanding of the platform by many companies and organizations.  I am lucky though as my position was created as a result of an initiative spearheaded and supported by our Global Leadership Team to increase our engagement via social media.  But many HR professionals are not as fortunate, as the “C-Suite” in their organizations don’t recognize how strategic use of social media can increase engagement on many levels and have a positive impact on a company’s bottom line. I think that this could change as the “business” of social media comes to the forefront and C-Suite executives begin to see both the ROI that it can yield as well as the return on engagement.

JWT Editorial: I’ll go even further. Until recently, I thought HR didn’t get it in regards to social media… the truth is further out… I think they want it all to go away.  They see the Pandora’s Box that is social media and they (in large part) have opted out of social media for ze business.  IMO, until they emotionally opt in – most progress / training / knowledge will be lost on them.  They have to want it.

JWT: Assuming you attend industry events, what is your favorite event, and why?

CM: Of the events I have attended thus far, I think that my favorite event is actually a series of events – our SHRM state and local conferences.  They have allowed me to really get an idea of who our members are and interact with our volunteer leaders who empower SHRM as an organization. I have come back from many of these conferences with new ideas and opportunities to share with my peers.

JWT Editorial:  I agree and I like regional SHRM events.  Question – do these shows share best practices in any way with one another?  I’m wondering because they all seem so different – is that because they are tailored to the localized audience or because the knowledge branch is different for each local chapter / region / state, etc.?  Just curious…

JWT: What excites you the most about our industry?

CM: The influence of social media is expanding with leaps and bounds. How many commercials have you seen where brands are imploring their consumers to follow them on Facebook or Twitter? The impact alone shows the level of influence of social media on the business community. It ignites a “peer pressure” of sorts which then creates more opportunities for social media professionals.

JWT Editorial: Great point but it brings up the question… who owns/manages the brand?  PR, marketing, advertising, HR, etc… one thing I know, it is forcing a lot of internal discussions in terms of the publically facing social media presence.  That’s good news for HR professionals who are aware and care as it gives them yet another way to prove value to the organization.

JWT: What are your three favorite online sources for industry information?

CM: Hmmm… for HR information of course I enjoy FOT!  I enjoy it because you have assembled a team of contributors that comes together under one “roof” to offer a universal perspective on the HR profession coming from different angles.  The benefit of that is it allows a person like me who is looking to social media as a listening tool to come to the site and hear what’s on the minds of HR pros and also learn a bit about trends, developments, best practices and more. That doesn’t mean I always agree with what is written here, but that’s the beauty of the medium, it can provoke thought and there is room for disagreement and dissent.

For social media information, I rely on Mashable and Smart Brief.  Mashable keeps me in the “know” of what’s new and different in the social media space generally.  With the daily updates, I am able to get a quick read on “what’s next” in terms of gadgets, apps, websites, and other developments.   It also gives good fodder to drop at conferences and meetings when I am wearing the “social media guy hat”.

SmartBrief’s various newsletters keep me up to date and offer more topical insight on items and challenges I may be facing or looking to address.

JWT Editorial: Interesting… I see a lot of folks quote Mashable via Facebook and the Twitter.  I need to pay more attention to that site… thanks for sharing.

JWT: In 50 years from now, what’s the most significant change that has taken place in our industry, and why?

CM: Hmm… in 50 years all media will be social media and there will be no distinction made between traditional versus social media because the integration of the two would have already occurred.  The platforms will be different; the tools will be different as will the devices but what we know as social media will be mainstream media to the generations to come. And I think you can see the integration of social media happening more and more every day. Using your cell phone to make calls is almost a secondary function, it first and foremost works as your social media hub. This will not only be the norm but the expectation as you will have generations who grew up in the age of social media and will be steering its course as a part of daily life for years to come.

JWT Editorial: Interesting.  I was talking with my niece recently and I was talking about Facebook… you know… trying to relate… and I said something about the website… she looked dazed and confused… what website, she said.  The Facebook website, I said.  Still confused… she didn’t know that Facebook had a website… she had only ever interacted with Facebook through her iPhone.  The Facebook app.  Btw, I got her that phone when she turned 12.  Damn, I feel old.

Curtis Midkiff, Manager PR & Social Media Relations, SHRM.  Connect with Curtis:

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