I was fortunate enough to recently attend PR Council’s Diversity Distinction in PR awards ceremony, along with Ketchum SVP/Diversity & Inclusion Director Sharon Jones. LaunchPad, Ketchum’s gamified summer fellowship application program, received an Honorary Mention award for Best New Diversity Initiative. For those not familiar with these awards, they are sponsored by the PR Council in partnership with PR Week and honor excellence in promoting ethnic diversity within the PR sector.
The idea of LaunchPad was born out of Spark Tank, the agency’s annual employee competition to generate innovative ideas that drive our ongoing success. Stella Volkenand and Isabel Rückert from Germany won Spark Tank two years ago with the idea of adding gamification to our recruitment process. We turned their Spark Tank idea into LaunchPad, an innovative recruitment tool that challenges the creative ability, communication skills and general PR aptitude of applicants.
Prior to LaunchPad, Ketchum relied heavily on an applicant’s past internship experience as the primary selection criteria for our Summer Fellows Program. While the strategy had been successful, we knew it was not allowing us to see beyond a resume – limiting us from broadening and diversifying our talent pool.
The design and implementation of LaunchPad gave us a homegrown tool to help even the playing field, to look at candidates based on their potential vs. what they’d already had the opportunity to do.
Change is not always easy. Building the game itself was one of the simpler aspects of adopting this new selection process. Getting our people internally to understand why we wanted to fix something that was not broken, proved to be more challenging. Many Ketchum employees involved in the Summer Fellows Program wondered how Fellows with no PR experience would fare. We pushed forward, believing we would rather try and fail, then not try at all.
We selected and hired 33 Summer Fellows in 2016 through LaunchPad. Concerns were soon quelled as we moved through the 10-week program, and it became apparent that the quality of the Summer Fellow was nothing short of extraordinary. We received unsolicited comments about the Fellows, which included, “…most creative Fellows group to date.” and “I have never had any group of trainees so smart, so engaged and asking really good questions. They pick up on things faster than any group I’ve ever trained.”
The program enabled us to tap into a more diverse and non-traditional candidate pool, and hire exceptional talent. Out of the 33 members of this year’s Summer Fellows Program we hired a majority of them, and hope to snatch up the remaining ones upon their graduations.
Sitting at the awards ceremony, I felt proud. LaunchPad has truly been one of the most exciting projects I have worked on in my career. I feel like we created something that is making a difference for Ketchum and the industry as a whole. I’m excited to be a part of a company that takes risks and relentlessly innovates.
Looking forward to the amazing talent LaunchPad brings us in 2017!