What's Up With the CelebutaHRd Phenomenon?

The Spring HR and Recruiting/Staffing conference season is almost complete (we have the exciting SHRM Annual Conference still upcoming in at the end of June). I must say, I have thoroughly enjoyed the 2011 conference season. Most of the sessions I attended at ERE Expo Spring 2011 and at the SHRM Talent & Staffing Management conferences were excellent! The networking and vendor conversations were all great. Both of these conferences are truly different from one another, which makes them both must-go events.


Caveat here… some snarky humor is coming in this paragraph. One of the most important things that came out of this, the 2011  Conference Season, was the true arrival of the “CelebutaHRd”. You know what I may be talking about… those people who are self-appointed, social media climbers, HR vendor types, who have been crowned by the ether of the social media world as “Celebrities in HR”. Or, as I call them, CelebutaHRds. For example, here are these people, many of whom have never been (or very briefly were) in an corporate HR or Recruiting leadership role, and are out in the social media-sphere spouting out edicts on how our profession sucks, how HR is “not at the table”, how this tool or that tool will change our industry, etc. At the recent ERE conference, let me say, that the conference was so full of CelebutaHRds…that I counted no less than half of the main room full of people not paying attention to the sessions, but typing away with Hoot Suite, Tweetdeck, or some other site blaring away in their faces so that they could be consistently be building more inbound marketing and enhance their own sphere of influence to do whatever with. How could they be actively participating in the live discussion?


What is up with this phenomenon? I have been in this game for a long time, and there have always been “celebrities” in our profession. But, with social media… there are people who have built up audiences to listen to their (often excellent, often not) commentary. Much of the commentary is often “snarky” and controversial… some of it is very valuable. But in the end, 95% of the CelebutaHRds are not really HR folks. They are often more “observers” of the function, and a few seem to have a deep-seeded disdain for the function. Where are all of the voices of people who are IN or WORKING in the profession? Why do these people work for vendors trying to sell to the profession and are not IN the profession? Caveat– of course, I am a “vendor” to the profession too… but I will qualify this… I spent a long time running global recruiting and staffing functions and living in the HR world. I learned a lot during that time, and I also made a lot of mistakes that have helped me in my role as an advisor to the profession. I have also spent the bulk of my time in consulting (more than 10 years now), actually doing work with our clients, not “selling” them or building out my own “celebrity”. I wrote this blog article and am posting into the world of social media too — could I be a CelebutaHRd too? Maybe, partially.


Many of the CelebutaHRds are folks that may have had a very small part of their career in the HR or Recruiting profession and now they are “experts” in the world of HR by observing us, not by “living with us”. There are all sorts of people out in the social media sphere now spouting all sorts of observations about the profession without actually really being in it. I actually saw a tweet from one of these folks saying something along the lines of  “why is it so hard to get these HR people to like being sold to?”.


Social media is a huge game-changer for all of business… especially HR. But, most of the voices that are now building influence online (called “influencers”) are not HR people at all. And, the audience in the HR/Recruiting social media world, who are they? Spending time in the HR/Recruiting social media world its really hard to find more HR practioners and true “subject matter experts” than self or social media-appointed “influencers” as actual members of the “audience”. Many cliques have emerged of CelebutaHRds…”influencers” influencing other “influencers”!? So, what I have found is that so many of the early-adopters of social media in HR/Recruiting are the folks who have time. That’s right… they have the time. To be able to consistently monitor the web for content to push out to social media, to be able to effectively research and author content, or simply write rants and opinions takes time… time away from actually “doing” or practicing HR/Recruiting. There are so many “meetups”, “tweetups”, “unconferences”, and even old-school conferences filled with CelebutaHRds and their followers (usually other “influencers”), all talking about how to leverage and actively participate in social media.  Where are the real HR/Recruiting leaders?


Here is my point: HR/Recruiting practitioners must start taking an active role as both voices to be heard and the audience that hears them. Social media is here to stay, and to avoid active participation and  leadership is a huge mistake. Giving up the leadership of both the voices of influence and the audience that shapes how influence is implemented and executed is a huge scary and a huge misstep. To the CelebutaHRds… thank you for being early adopters of social media voices and audiences… now its time to help marshall our industry practioners to join you and truly have them do what we have always done… help shape the future of our industry, together.

Views: 81

Comment by Jerry Albright on June 13, 2011 at 1:37pm
Great post.  You hit the nail on the head - several times!
Comment by David Manaster on June 13, 2011 at 2:58pm
Interesting post, Jeremy, and I think it echoes a lot of the frustration that practitioners in the field feel when they see so many bold faced names talking about the profession that did not come from the trenches.

I have a lot of thoughts on this, but before I get into them I need to take exception to your implication that half of the people at the ERE Expo were "celebs". Having seen the breakdown of the hundreds of attendees, I can make the blanket statement that it's just not true. The attendees are overwhelmingly actively practicing recruiters and recruiting execs. I think there are a hundred reasons why people would have been typing away during a session that are non celeb-related -- taking notes being the first on that list.

Regarding your larger point, I share your desire for a more active group of recruiting professionals taking the time to share their best with the profession. Those kind of "keeping it real" posts are the lifeblood of what make information exchanges like ERE work.

Unfortunately, there is some very basic economics at work here. Vendors/pundits/celebutantes always have more incentive to be seen & heard then practitioners do.

If I am a practitioner and I give a smart, cogent, well thought out presentation at an ERE Expo, I win the kudos of my fellow professionals. I may even plant the seeds for my next job.

But if I am a vendor, my "fame" will sell my product/services/training to more people. It could be tens of thousands of dollars on the line. It could be hundreds of thousands. It could be a lot more. And money talks.

As an observer of the recruiting profession for over a decade, I've seen people start as practitioners then switch to the vendor side and then go back again. And with few exceptions they are clamoring at the door to write/speak when they are vendors, but too busy to do the same when they are actively recruiting.

It's hard to fight this kind of basic economics, but I hope that your post inspires more recruiters from the trenches to share on ERE.net and here on RBC.
Comment by Jeremy Eskenazi on June 13, 2011 at 3:28pm

Thank you David for your response.

OK... maybe not 50% of the audience was tweeting, blogging, or watching the hashtag streams on their Tweetdeck at ERE Expo... I may have been exaggerating slightly :), but there were clearly ALOT more than ever before. The point was not that they were not paying attention, the point was that there were a lot MORE than in the past preoccupied with doing something else. Yep, they could have been taking notes... and yes, you are right, I did not use scientific methods to count the audience.

However, I appreciate your points, and your insights are 100% right on the mark with my feedback.

The bottom line is  the opportunity to lead the HR/Recruiting dialogue on social media is being lost if practitioners dont join in soon. I hope the fine folks in the ERE community see value in stepping up to lead the voices being heard in the social media ether.

Thanks as always David for your perceptions and thoughtful comments and feedback. As always, thanks for the platform.

Comment by Sandra McCartt on June 13, 2011 at 5:20pm

I wonder what would happen if in the interest of common courtesy to the speaker participants were asked to turn off their ego machines for an hour.  What a novel thought that they might not be the first to tweet their learned impressions of every third thought.  Pure speculation on my part but my guess is that few if any were taking notes.  I have seen the twitter feeds from conferences un and not that seem to be a running dialog that would preclude a mere mortal from any cognative listening.


Good post Jeremy and in my opinion right on target.


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