Budgets are on the rise and event marketers are taking a strategic seat at the table. But how is the job market shaping up to respond?
We asked some seasoned eyes and ears of the industry to riff on what’s new what’s changed and what they’re looking for in a 2007 event-marketing job candidate. Is the bar higher than it used to be? Yes. Are there candidates hiding in unexpected places? Not so much. (People come from all different backgrounds to get into the biz. Staying in is what makes them an asset.) But one thing remains the same—in this business you gotta love it. EM jumps into the job pool to find out what makes a resume sing plus where to look to find the best new recruits.
Mark Greenspahn director of contemporary event marketing for Anheuser-Busch manages seven mobile units five full-time direct reports 44 road crew members and several hundred brand ambassadors in markets across the country. 2007 marks Greenspahn’s 30th year with A-B.
Buffy Filippell president of Shaker Heights OH-based TeamWork Online recruits and places executives in sports and event marketing positions. Her 2007 client roster includes Champ Car World Series Wells Fargo Bank and USA Boxing.
Paolo Zeppa executive director-program strategy built and manages a 65-member program strategist team at George P. Johnson in San Carlos CA. Clients include IBM and Cisco.
Event Marketer: Is the bar higher for event marketers than it was five years ago?
Mark Greenspahn: The event world is more sophisticated than it’s ever been. We’re doing much more targeted programs and we’re doing a more focused job of hiring people based on their skills and qualifications.
Paolo Zeppa: Yes. If you are a marketer it’s a fantastic time in this space right now. Brands and agencies are starting to see the power of event marketing when it moves beyond its traditional event strategy silo and gets taken to the next level. We’re starting to see how funding is getting allocated and how decisions are being made. The role is being elevated so it’s much more involved in strategic development rather than just being the execution arms for programs.
EM: What new skills and experience do you think today’s candidates need to compete?
PZ: First and foremost they need to be strong marketers. To understand the importance of dissecting a brand’s go-to-market strategy the audiences they’re targeting and the impact they’re looking to make. How to leverage not just events but the entire portfolio to drive the right results. If we came to a client with just an event strategy it wouldn’t be relevant because it’s just a sliver of what the brand needs.
Buffy Filippell: Someone who understands much more technology—the wider array of touchpoints you need within your event than what’s been required before. The other big push is cause marketing how that brand wants to be considered in the community. Event marketers now need to have a lot more tools to be able to handle companies that want to be in cause marketing or sponsorship.
MG: We find that people who have a passion for our business are the most successful when it comes down to assessing their future potential. We do most of our hiring from within so at entry level we look for people with college degrees because it gives them a long-term career path with the company. Consumer-facing jobs are good experience like in special events fundraising or retail. For us working in a restaurant or bar is also really attractive. For middle-management jobs we would look for people that started at entry level and worked events on the road. For upper-management positions at A-B I’d say you need at least 10 years of experience not only on the event side but in all different facets of our business.
EM: It sounds like as you move up the ladder multidisciplinary backgrounds become more important?
BF: I see a demand for people who can intertwine sponsorships with business to have greater value. For example a bank doesn’t just want the title sponsorship on the PGA Tour they want the PGA Tour’s investments. The event marketer must really understand much more about business to make it valuable to both parties.
EM: How important is in-the-trenches event experience?
MG: Our number one goal is to find people that have been out there. When you’re on the road you learn to find creative solutions that make things work. For someone who has only worked in an office maybe with a marketing degree and thinks they’re going to run a mobile program or an event program there are a lot of surprises.
PZ: Event experience is a plus but it’s not essential. Our last two or three hires didn’t have direct event ownership but they understood events as a platform. They brought to the table a much more multi-disciplinary background where they headed up marketing teams that were responsible for the entire mix.
EM: In a recent EM survey sixty-five percent of respondents said creativity was very important to being successful in the job. True?
PZ: We look for informed or focused creativity. The strategists we’re looking to bring on need to feel comfortable with pushing the envelope with their thinking both in terms of how to address a problem but also how to translate the strategy into some creative applications. But that creativity can’t be just focused on events. Clearly it’s the core of what we do but where we’re seeing experiences move is more holistic and integrated creating communities that reside beyond the sphere of events.
EM: Fifty-three percent said patience was the number one thing needed to do the job successfully. What other personality types do the job best?
PZ: You can be a great marketer but if you don’t have a consultative background it can be difficult to be effective especially on the agency side. Not just from a presentation standpoint but to be able to listen and engage to facilitate and mediate brainstorming and to build trust. Also someone who is personable but at the same time not overly rambunctious. Less is more. Especially when dealing with strategy. There is so much information and data confusion as it is you need someone who doesn’t feel the need to fill space with words but just comes back with powerful recommendations.
EM: Seventy-one percent ranked passion as very important. How do you zero in on that?
MG: The best candidates we find are people who enjoy traveling going out and being in bars and clubs. We look for people who are already having fun and put them to work.
EM: Where should people look for good candidates?
BF: Consider people with a business background possibly MBAs or marketing promotions people who got their feet wet on the implementation side servicing a certain genre of brands like consumer products soft drinks or banking. Those are candidates that are getting good strategic development and could go on to a brand role. Teams and leagues are also good places to look. Some candidates on the team side are becoming more hands-on in creating programs. In retail the people that are out in the field creating promotional programs and sampling are equally as good.
EM: More than half of people we surveyed said they’d network with friends and colleagues to find their next job. Is the deal in this industry once you’re in you’re in?
MG: The world of events is small. Networking is really the number one way to move between companies. We barely advertise anymore because word-of-mouth is so strong with people on our team and their friends. I’d say it’s about networking and meeting people in the industry.
EM: What’s your position on stealing from the “other side?”
PZ: Many of our people have come from the client side. Sometimes the client side can seem more stifling. On the agency side they see more of an opportunity to push the envelope.
MG: We have a nice partnership that enables folks to start with our agencies and build a career with A-B.
EM: Where are some surprising places you’re finding candidates?
BF: I have been noticing the international resumes. We probably tend to look within our own borders and don’t recognize that somebody from another country could be doing something incredibly new and innovative. When you’re looking at event-related ideas on a worldwide basis the international candidates are thinking way out of the box.
MG: I’m surprised by the number of MBAs and people with graduate degrees who want to get into the event world. One of our most recent hires was an attorney.
EM: Any words of advice for job seekers?
PZ: We’re in marketing and you have to use creative tactics that break through to get to your audience. They have to use those same tactics to get to me. Find out who I am and what I do and start by putting together a letter that gets me to listen.
BF: If I were a candidate wanting to be the best I’d go to the company that’s the best or that’s very well known for the implementation side or strategic side of the business. Or work with innovative people who split off from a company that is very well known or well run.
MG: People think it’s just a fun job and anyone can do it. Even though we live in a fun world I would want them to know that we work hard and we look for solid experience and expertise in what we do. em