1. Interesting article. I appreciate that it has balanced perspective. The issue I keyed on, and one that I’ll keep keying on, is that there’s a cash influence question here. William was right when he said you have to kind of roll the dice when it comes to the personal ethics of someone who’s getting paid by some vendors for referrals, consulting fees, etc. It’s something I’ve never been comfortable with, and it’s become the norm. When we tell vendors – politely – that we don’t take fees/ sit on boards/ accept speaking money, it tends to confuse them. That feels wrong. Granted, I’ve been on the product side, and had an influencer say (without any level of shame) “Give me a paid advisory role, and I’ll say nice things about you. If not, I’ll do the opposite.” Which was… well, icky.

  2. This article really bugs me. Very limited information – mostly anecdotal, regurgitating subjective opinions on a topic that’s more nuanced than the article represents. Those of us who earn a living by providing insight and analysis on a dynamic vendor landscape and increasingly complex HR function aren’t doing it out of the goodness of our hearts. But this article gives me the impression that anyone who sells their expertise and perspectives to vendors is likely to have very little ethical standards (never mind any personal discretion when it comes to how and where that expertise/perspective is used). I’m left assuming influencers are in it for the money with relatively little real value in the market… and yet you still compile a list of folks who fit the bill.

    What you fail to articulate here is that influencers come in all shapes and sizes – some help build brand awareness, others drive relevant conversation, and a few research trends in tech adoption and emerging best practices. Do some have more integrity and higher ethical standards than others? Of course. But I’d give the HR buyer and solution provider audience some more credit than to think they don’t know a paid shill when they see one, whereas this article seems to imply that anyone paid by vendors to speak or write about HR trends has very little tangible value for the market.

    Am I missing something?

    • Hi Kyle. With respect, I do think you’re missing the forest for the trees. There is a real problem with subjective opinions and information that is mostly anecdotal. But that’s a problem not with this article but rather with the HR industry and how it’s marketed, in particular the tech segment of it. That was the point of the story – to pull back the curtain if just a little bit of the role influencers play in how products and services are marketed in order to help HR buyers better understand where the information they consume comes from.

      Not everyone who sells their expertise and perspective is operating unethically. There are legit consultants, well-respected analysts like you as well as “influencers” (there is a distinction to be made there) – several of whom are quoted or have responded in discussions about the article elsewhere who operate above board and are open about their agenda and any potential conflicts of interest. I think Michelle makes that point in this piece. But there are some who do not.

      I can speak to that firsthand. Two or three years ago we hired a PR firm to help raise the profile of one of our conferences. Part of their strategy was to tap the influencer community. One fairly well-known HR influencer came back with an offer to help – if we paid airfare and hotel for them to attend as well as $10K for a couple of blog posts. That’s straight pay-for-play and none of it is disclosed to the public. That happens too. Needless to say, we didn’t pay or play.

      Hopefully, the article brought some of that to light. There’s still more to the story as you point out and the discussion it sparked is one way to bring that forward. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  3. “HR Famous” is the tagline here, I think. Michelle’s a good writer and I think a lot of this article explores the sexy side of this, which is the fact that people like me are sometimes paid to write and speak and we all have various viewpoints and motivations. That’s fair and there haven’t been many articles that have kind of gone after the influencer group a bit.

    I think the only thing missing from this article is good representation of why people like this group do what we do. We do get paid a bit (i, like Lars, must be doing it wrong – go read his blog post linked in his comment), but there are many, many reasons we do it beyond the pay and many reasons people connect with us rather than us selling something on someone’s behalf. I think she missed that angle, because that component is how it started for all of us – no one starts doing what we do getting paid anything…. Most of the people on this list started by writing and attempting to make the community better as a result. Most of them are pretty good, also. The invisible hand of the market of readers kind of sorts that out.

    I always say that the process of writing daily on the field of HR/recruiting/Talent has made me much stronger as an HR pro, and I’d do it all over again (11 years in now), even if it yielded nothing on the money side.

    That being said, please go read my column on this site and in the print version. It’s AWESOME.

    (influencer motivation alert sound) 🙂


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