On a recent business trip to Reno, I walked off the jet way, entered the airport and immediately saw pictures of Rick Springfield everywhere. Wall signage, escalator video screens, taxi-top signs and billboards—wherever I went, there was Rick smiling back at me, advertising an upcoming show. Surreal is just one word to describe the effect. Either Rick was a big deal, or his brother owned a local advertising agency and had time on his hands.
As I rode in the back of the cab, I asked the driver, Abraham, “Hey what’s up with all the Rick Springfield signs?” He started to bounce up and down in his seat and replied:
“Oh, man, Rick Springfield will be very big in Reno. Very big. Lots of women come to see Rick while their husbands gamble. They will fill the hotel, gamble a bunch, party hard and go crazy. Yeah, yeah. Go crazy. We love Rick. I don’t know why, man, but the ladies come to Reno to sing that Jesse’s Girl and love some Rick Springfield.”
If you’re not into 80’s music trivia, Springfield had a #1 hit single, Jesse’s Girl, and also played Dr. Noah Drake on General Hospital. He was little more than a one-hit wonder, but he has some passionate fans, and I’ll admit that Jesse’s Girl occasionally rocks on my iPod.
Now, when it comes to entertainment, I know Reno is no Vegas—it doesn’t draw big names, and most acts don’t get the cabbies bouncing up and down in their seats. “The Biggest Little City in the World” is really a small town close to Tahoe with lots of railroads and some casinos. A check of websites shows that recent “big name acts” in Reno include Eddie Money, Loretta Lynn and Pauly Shore. Not really A list material.
Translation: If you are responsible for booking talent in Reno to put butts in seats, you’re probably not targeting Lady Gaga. But just because you aren’t the Mirage, you still have to find the best talent you can and differentiate your shop. Here’s how the talent pro who booked Springfield did it:
- Know the market, what it can offer and what your best competitor is doing on its best day.
- Identify your best customers and figure out what will excite them.
- Find talent that meets those needs and gets people talking about your shop vs. your competitor.
- Articulate the value proposition that makes that talent want to come work with you.
- Once you land them, let everyone in your market know about it.
In regard to the value proposition, I’m not sure how they got Rick to agree to play Reno, but they might have just hit him with the quote from Abraham: “…the ladies come to Reno to sing that Jesse’s girl and love some Rick Springfield.” Brilliant.
The same process goes on in HR teams across the country every day. Most of us are not tapping people to work at Google or Microsoft, and we have all had to fill Reno-type roles. No one wants to land your industry’s equivalent of Pauly Shore. Great talent creates buzz, and the definition of “great” depends on your needs in your market. In Reno, a talent pro nailed it.
I have spent the last 20 years of my professional life advising leaders to make great talent decisions to drive business results. In my current gig, I lead talent acquisition and management for a multi-billion-dollar, 100% employee-owned construction company. I geek out on analytics, succession planning, etc. and love it when we position folks to do their best work. That’s fun stuff. I tease bad HR people, because I think we can all do better, myself included. That’s fun, too.