According to Eboni Rafus-Brenning, Manager for Diversity Recruitment at PRH, a diverse, equitable and inclusive publishing company is a major keystone for creating a receptive and productive environment for authors and their readers alike. New hires recruited from outside of publishing, like VP of Growth Marketing Anne Bono, can offer insights from other industries to help propel authors forward. Read on to learn more about why diversity matters at your publishing house—Eboni will take it from here!
My job, as manager for diversity recruitment, outreach, and partnerships, is to support the recruitment, hiring, and onboarding of folks who hold identities that are underrepresented in publishing, including BIPOC and disabled professionals. To do that, I am focusing my efforts on recruiting midlevel professionals from outside the industry who have the talent, skills, passion, and drive to make a successful career shift. The workforce diversity of your publisher matters because it shapes the culture and values of the organization that is stewarding your book. Diversity also matters because it affects the bottom line. A diverse, equitable, and inclusive publishing industry benefits you as a writer. Conversely, a stagnant, unresponsive one may cost you.
We know from Scott E. Page’s The Diversity Bonus: How Great Teams Pay Off that identity diversity leads to cognitive diversity, which in turn helps teams perform better on creative and complex tasks like publishing a book. We know from Heather McGhee’s The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together that the people who seem the most foreign to us can often be our best teachers. Bestselling author Brené Brown reminds us in Dare to Lead that vulnerability and courage are essential elements in leadership and that a good leader is “anyone who takes responsibility for recognizing the potential in people and ideas and has the courage to develop that potential.”
Anne Bono, VP of Growth Marketing, who recently joined PRH from outside of publishing, agrees with all three of these authors. In the brief Q&A below, Anne offers some additional insight on how our efforts to recruit folks from outside the publishing industry will create more diverse teams.
What transferable skills did you bring from your previous industry to publishing?
One of my favorite things to say about marketing is that to be a good marketer, you don’t have to know an industry inside and out before you work in it. You can learn the industry once you’re in it, as long as you remember that marketing is not about products—it’s about people. What I’ve brought with me from almost twenty years of marketing experience outside publishing is the knowledge that good marketing is about creating value, providing education, and forming connections with people—and that applies regardless of product or industry. A few other skills have proven crucial regardless of industry: storytelling (a compelling tale will almost always be more effective at driving engagement than a snazzy visual), collaboration (the best outcomes are hardly ever achieved alone), and a deep willingness to learn and experiment (if we’re not learning, we’re not growing; if we’re not experimenting, we’re not evolving).
What unique perspectives can you offer publishing, given your previous experience in another industry?
That’s a big question, and one that I’m definitely still figuring out. But I’ll say this, based on what I’ve seen in previous roles—the biggest thing to remember is that the world is digital now. Where we will find many potential customers (in our case, readers) is online, likely on TikTok, or listening to a podcast, or playing Fortnite, or posting on Reddit. Our job is to stop expecting readers to find us on their own and meet them where they are. Our primary competition isn’t other book publishers—it’s Netflix and Spotify. We have to put ourselves where readers and potential readers are already spending their time in order to get their mindshare. We have to branch outside conventional forms of reaching readers and start thinking of them as whole human beings with complex and multifaceted digital interests and identities, then find ways to connect and interact with them there.
What do recruiters and hiring managers need to know when trying to recruit talented professionals from other industries to publishing?
That publishing experience—or even related experience—simply isn’t necessary. You can teach folks about the publishing industry. What you can’t teach is the lived experiences and subsequent fresh perspectives that these folks will bring. They should also capitalize on the fact that, at its core, publishing is what I call one of the purest industries you can work in: We’re in the business of books and knowledge. We’re in the business of finding your next enjoyable read. We’re in the business of satisfying emotional hunger. That’s something worth working with.
Eboni Rafus-Brenning is the Manager for Diversity Recruitment, Outreach, and Partnerships for Penguin Random House.