How To Get a Job in Social Media: Ketchum

We’ve noticed that in the advertising and public relations industries, agencies are increasingly on the lookout for professionals experienced in social media. We can argue the merit of who has social media expertise and who doesn’t later. For now we want to know: what are agencies and their clients looking for in this burgeoning field?

Over the next few days PRNewser and AgencySpy will run interviews with major agencies seeking social media hires. These are not exhaustive interviews, just 10 quick questions aimed at peeling the lid back. Hopefully the questions we asked will help you guide your career path, if social media is part of it. Today, an interview with Nick Ragone, partner and associate director, New York at Ketchum.

What are the core skills of the social media staffer?

We’re looking for individuals who have diverse experience in new media content and delivery; more specifically, individuals who are deeply ingrained in media culture, “pull-not-push” marketing and the dynamics of on and off-line community-building.

Of course, these characteristics are required for all of our account staff, not just our social media specialists. Clients ask for social media counsel on virtually every program we work on, and as we couldn’t possibly defer to social media specialists for each request, all of our account teams are well-versed and can offer experienced counsel in the space.

For those who do fill the specialty roles, we look for people who are already well-immersed in online culture and participating in online communities. While some of these candidates come in with PR experience, we’re not necessarily requiring candidates to come from a communications or PR background.

Bringing in an “outsider” can add fresh ideas and perspective to an industry that lives and dies by its creative output. It’s also worth noting that it doesn’t matter if a candidate’s social media experience is based on work experience or personal passions – social media tools can be taught, but an authentic understanding of Web culture has to be rooted in personal experience. We can teach a person to understand Twitter lingo but we can’t teach what makes for compelling content.

What are the breakdowns of social media titles/roles within the agency – i.e. SAE, AE, VP and so on…

Social media strategists at Ketchum have specialized titles that describe their specialties, including Senior Interactive Strategists, Vice Presidents of Social Media Strategy, Interactive Specialists and Senior Social Media Specialists.

What did these candidates do to stand out? Any interesting stories of someone “breaking through the noise?”

A great way to demonstrate an understanding of the space is to have a robust online presence. The first thing we do when we receive resumes for this type of role is to look up the candidate’s social media accounts, particularly Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Flickr and YouTube.

This allows us to not only screen for inappropriate content, but also to see how they’ve added value in these spaces. Ultimately, though, Ketchum is a “we” culture – so a collaborative mindset, coupled with creative risk-taking, is a major must-have for our social media candidates.

Where does the top social staffer rank in the agency hierarchy?

As partner and associate director, New York, I oversee Ketchum’s Interactive Strategies Group in the U.S. Gianni Catalfamo, who is president of our Italian operations, leads social media strategy in Europe.

In addition, Barri Rafferty, senior partner and director, New York, is the Executive Committee member responsible for ensuring that digital and social media strategy is embedded throughout the agency at all levels.

What are clients looking for in social and what is Ketchum recommending they do?