March Madness Part 3: The “Dear Mark, You Are No Longer An HR Influencer” Episode

Mark Fogel Mark Fogel, politics, SHRM, Sports 6 Comments

Each year I do a post on March Madness and bring you a kaleidoscope of issues and musings across the HR landscape. Of course, I mingle in politics and the college basketball tournament to lighten things up.

This year my post is a little darker than usual, as we see the effects of “the Circus” in Washington D.C. rattle all of us with crazy actions by our executive, legislative and judicial branches. It’s enough to pinch oneself and ask have we entered the twilight zone? Add to this the Coronavirus throwing a scare into the markets last week and HR folks will certainly be busy dealing with folks traveling oversees and keeping folks out of the office for prolonged periods of time to play it safe. Can you say work remotely three times fast?

On the HR landscape, what would conference season be without a little SHRM controversy? Some of you may be aware that after close to a decade, the SHRM folks are ditching the Blogger team at this year’s national conference. Our news arrived via Facebook :

SHRM is implementing a new influencer program for #SHRM20.

For the past several years, SHRM has provided complimentary conference registration to a dedicated and talented group of HR influencers to help promote and cover the best highlights from the largest and most popular HR conference in the world.

This year’s invitation criteria were based on the influencers’ follower numbers (20,000+) and level of engagement. We also plan to add several high-level influencers from outside the HR profession to this year’s mix.

Thank you for your contributions over the years and we look forward to seeing you at #SHRM20.

So based on my twitter feed, I am no longer considered an HR influencer by SHRM. 20k in followers on Twitter is the main data point being used. Fair? I’m not sure, but it’s not my fight and I’m fine if they don’t believe I have a large enough reach. I am not big on Twitter, however my LinkedIn and blogging reach is vast…and as far as the complimentary pass, most years that I have gone have been as a speaker or on my dime. Maybe it was time for a change. From an ROI standpoint, I’m not sure if there was value add the past year or two for SHRM.

What is lost in this is not whether all the bloggers had the reach or created a value advantage, but that many if not most are insiders to the HR community and SHRM. Practitioners, recruiters and educators. Most of this group are extremely loyal to the mother ship and an the event/group provided an opportunity for emerging bloggers to mingle with a few veterans to sharpen their pen and viewpoints. I shared the story of what SHRM did with the bloggers with students in one of my HR classes at Adelphi University (where I teach HR), and was met with bewilderment. One student said it sounds like Ageism, they only want young folks who tweet a lot. Funny comment as I am speaking at SHRM Talent in Orlando next month on Ageism….

Another student stated they thought that marketing folks don’t understand the HR Tribe. Personally, I don’t get adding influencers from outside the profession to the mix either. Sounds like a couple of marketing execs trying to mess with the formula. Let’s remember this is a membership organization supported by and  for the HR community. Oh, and they are a non-profit too. So why the focus on Influencing at 20k? Does it really matter? And in the end it was a way for SHRM to give back to it’s very own. I’ll let all of you reading this decide. My fellow FOT’r Laurie weighed in on this recently too and makes some interesting points.

If nothing else, SHRM could have delivered the news a little better then a Facebook post (Facebook, really?).

In regards to this years Conference landscape, WorkHuman again tops the list along with several talent-related conferences from March to June. Of course, it has become a little tech heavy. Let’s remember most talent acquisition is done for businesses outside the tech world. Maybe it is time for a few conferences to play to a broader audience. As I stated earlier, I will be at SHRM Talent in Orlando with Tim Sackett and Katrina Kibben, my fellow FOTers. If you are there, please stop and say hi!

Let’s move on to the tournament. This year is wide open. Some of the perennial favorites may not even make the tournament. Can you say the North Carolina Tar Heels? There are also a couple of surprises at the top including Baylor, Maryland, San Diego State and Seton Hall. Of course, Kentucky, Villanova, and Kansas are all surging at the right time as they always seem to do. This could be the year a team outside the top 15 wins it all. I like Gonzaga, Dayton and Marquette – why not this year for the little school to win it all?

Well, I have to go work on upping my twitter count and get ready to speak at SHRM. I’m still a believer in the organization even if I don’t agree on some of their actions.

Comments 6

  1. Not only is this new “influencer” policy by SHRM dumb and short-sighted, it just reconfirms what so many of us in the HR and talent management media have known for years — that SHRM is bullying and tone deaf when it comes to dealing with influencers, bloggers, and the media at large.

    For example, I was denied a media pass to last year’s SHRM national conference because it was determined that I had not written enough about SHRM in the last year. Never mind that I have been Editor of various HR and talent management publications in both print and and online over the last 20 years, and that I was a longtime newspaper editor and lifetime journalist before that. SHRM media affairs, in their God-like wisdom, decided that I wasn’t enough of a journalist to cover a SHRM event that I had previously covered and written about extensively for a dozen years.

    Ask yourself: would this kind of media policy apply to, say, The Washington Post if they suddenly decided to send a reporter to the SHRM national conference? You know the answer to that — of course not.

    SHRM’s policy to ban journalists who haven’t covered them recently would magically disappear if it was someone from Big Media who wanted to attend. That’s because for as long as I have covered SHRM, they have played politics with media and influencer passes to their conferences, although it seems to have gotten a lot worse and much more heavy-handed in recent years.

    In my 20 or so years dealing with SHRM, the organization has always tried to punish those who write critically or report uncomfortable facts about them. My “sin” was covering and writing about the events that led to the SHRM Members for Transparency group, led by legendary former SHRM CEO Mike Losey, and his group’s challenging of the SHRM Board for their total lack of transparency in voting for increased benefits and pay … for the SHRM Board. I wrote what SHRM didn’t want anyone to write about, and it clearly has impacted my relationship with the organization ever since.

    Here’s what I always tell people: SHRM has a lot of good people and does a lot of good things, but most of the really good work gets done at the state and local levels. There are also good people who work for national SHRM, but like a bad fish, the organization rots from the head.

    The irony here is that smart and savvy HR pros — SHRM’s very members — would probably counsel their management teams against implementing short-sighted policies like this one because there is no positive upside. It is simply bad business.

    But, like the tale of the scorpion who gets a free ride across the river only to sting and kill its benefactor in the end, SHRM just can’t help itself from doing stupid things. Yes, they’re just another example that the fish really DOES rot from the head.

    As much as I miss covering the SHRM national conference, I don’t miss the smell.

  2. John thank you for your insights.

    I have always been transparent about SHRM and their actions. Many of them right here on FOT. I have not received a proverbial game misconduct from SHRM, but certainly sent to the penalty box a couple times for my outspokenness. I love HR and believe in the people who work in the HR trenches every-day. SHRM does a lot of good (you mentioned state and local). They also support HR education. A few of our fellow bloggers have even received support in book publishing…

    With full transparency, I teach SHRM prep and speak regularly at not only the Big SHRM conferences, but also the local breakfast and dinner meetings too. Not everyone has a $2500 budget to go to a major conference. Grass roots HR and support is critical… I have benefited from my visibility teaching and speaking , however giving back locally is super important to me.

    I owe a lot to folks in SHRM National leadership roles over the years including China Gorman, Sue Meisinger, Jeff Pon, Libby Sartain, Lisa Horn and Betty Francis (to name a few) for being supportive earlier in my career. And as you said, SHRM has some wonderful staff and volunteers too. The folks who ran the blog group the past few years are awesome. It is unfortunate that one of them was made a fall person this year. We know it was not their call in messaging us via Facebook.

    So, I don’t want to throw the baby out with the bath water. With that said, they handled the communication WRONG on this. It was a business decision that has some unfortunate outcomes. Now and in the near term.

    My SHRM certification prep class reviews strategy and communication as important technical and behavioral competency skills for all HR practitioners….maybe they should practice what they preach….and maybe they should require the marketing folks who made the decision about the bloggers to be SHRM – CP or SCP certified so they know what we already do… how to treat people properly….

  3. Great points. Since the new leadership, they have also outsourced the membership function…really SHRM, members are all you have! I dont understand why the board at SHRM lets this continue. I am extremely dissapponted and considering not renewing. I think a new national HR group should be started, it is time for some disruption. And by the way, i dont want to hear from folks outside of HR reporting about an HR conference, doesnt help me or interest me at all.

  4. I’m an outsider to this dialogue on many levels (I’m like most SHRM members, not remotely close to being an influencer by almost every standard) but since I’ve been a SHRM member and HR practitioner for 25+ years, I do get a voice. The question I have that seems to get lost in most dialogue about this issue is “what is the point of the blogger team or now influencers at the conference?” Are they to disseminate the word about conference happenings to the same group of people who are loyal, always attend, and just elevate the conference buzz? Or are they there to spread the word to the thousands of SHRM members on the HR fringe, those who don’t attend the conference but still care about and are interested in the topics that are addressed at the conference? First, decide the objective of this team. Then, develop robust criteria (20k Twitter followers is absurd) and select those you believe will best support that objective. Are people upset because SHRM is changing the rules? That the new rules suck? Or that the new rules now exclude them? I’ve seen a little all of the above.

    1. Great points, Ed. You’re also absolutely right. Figuring out what the point is when it comes to the blogger and influencer team is really important … and maybe that’s why SHRM seems to be ignoring that issue.

  5. Just when you thought the News Cycle on this was over, SHRM did a MIA CULPA to the bloggers (and no it was not via Facebook or Twitter!)….I received mine yesterday along with a separate inquiry to SMART STAGE in San Diego… I will let someone else weigh in on the details of the mia culpa and stay tuned to see if I end up going to speak instead of write… Ed’s point, they should have developed a clear strategy and communicated it before (not after) making the changes….the criteria is myopic….One blogger I know has over 30k on Instagram….two others have top 10 HR podcasts…. etc.etc. etc….
    You get my drift….If we only cared about velocity of pitchers we would certainly get rocked for a few home runs …. analytics need to have some diversity, weights, and complexity….along with some nuance. SO put this one in the books for now…. as my title stated “MARCH MADNESS”…and we have not even discussed all the business flying/travel cancellations that are happening faster then the spread of the virus…will folks even go to the conference???…now go watch some college basketball!

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