Does Move of Well-Known HR Blogger Signal a Trend, or Something Else?

Sometimes, a move is just a move. Is that was this is, or, is it an indication of something else — perhaps a larger HR trend that is starting to take hold?

Here are the details and background. You decide if it is indicative of something larger or not.

The news is fairly straightforward: Laurie Ruettimann, the former HR professional who turned herself into one of the best known and most well read HR industry commentators, first with Punk Rock HR and now at The Cynical Girl blog, is joining Starr Tincup, a full-service HR marketing agency, as their Principal HR and Social Media Strategist.

Fort Worth, Texas-based Starr Tincup’s primary focus is human capital management (HCM) software and the HR services industry. When Ruettimann joins join Starr Tincup later this month, her primary initiatives will include:

  • Social Media strategy – developing and implementing new social media strategies that connect HR solutions vendors with HR professionals in authentic and engaging ways;
  • Human Resources advocacy – monitoring and predicting trends in the HR community to help HR solutions vendors provide better products, services and guidance to HR professionals and other senior executives; and,
  • Thought Leadership – contributing to a wide range of thought leadership products for Starr Tincup clients that include contributed articles, white papers and media and analysts strategies.

A “tectonic shift” in the HR market

In addition, Ruettimann will “continue to participate in the broader social media and human resources discourse, leveraging her influence as a sought-after speaker, celebrated blogger and renowned writer.”

As an example of this, a company press release notes that Ruettimann’s widely read blog, The Cynical Girl, “will remain an independent media property; however, Starr Tincup may support the blog as a sponsor.” (Full disclosure: Ruettimann has been an occasional contributor to TLNT, and may continue to contribute in the future.)

That’s the “what” of this announcement. The “why” may be much more interesting.

According to Bret Starr, a partner at Starr Tincup, there is “a tectonic shift, a major change taking place in the HR space.” He says that the HR market (for goods and services) is maturing at a rapid pace and becoming more of a mainstream market where defending and building brands is the critical element for HR vendors rather than just simply looking to gain market share.

To build better brands, Starr says, they will need better messaging and more sophisticated reputation marketing that will “engage with people in more authentic ways.” Credibility is a key, he adds, especially “connecting with people on an authentic level.”

Viewed in that way, hiring a well-known HR voice and social media expert like Laurie Ruettimann makes sense because “her social media experience, voice, and authenticity allows her to connect (with people) in a very authentic way.”

The big growth in the HR market right now, Starr says, is at the mid-market level — companies with between 50 and 500 employees. They need more of what he calls “street level marketing,” that isn’t necessarily what you would use with a larger organization.

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Bridge between vendors and practitioners

And that’s where hiring Laurie Ruettimann comes in. Her social media skills, Starr points out, will allow her to connect with clients that want help but don’t know what they want to achieve. She will work with them to create authentic marketing channels through social media and social media campaigns that develop online brands and brand messages.

“Laurie is a unique bridge between vendors and (HR) practitioners,” Starr said. “There’s no best practice around social media marketing right now … we want to focus on building best practices for that.”

So, does this hire of a well-known and well-read HR blogger representing a tipping point? Is it the start of a larger trend to more fully integrate social media into HR marketing by vendors looking to use it to appeal more directly and effectively to HR professionals and their organizations? Is it something that many more marketers in the HR space will feel pressed to do?

Only time will tell, of course, but here is an interesting sidebar to the discussion. Just this week, a new study by SHRM found that found that more than half of human resource professionals (56 percent) now use social networking websites to source potential job candidates, a significant increase from the 34 percent who said they did so back in 2008. In addition, one-fifth of organizations (20 percent) that do not use social networking sites say they plan to use them in the future.

While sourcing passive job candidates isn’t marketing by any means, what this survey does seem to indicate is that social media is gaining wide-spread acceptance in the HR space by a great many HR professionals for all manner of HR functions.

And one more thing about this move: what does it say about the state of HR as a career path when a smart and accomplished person like Laurie Ruettimann decides she needs to get out of the profession and go a different way as a blogger and social media expert in order to build a fulfilling career?

These are all good questions, of course; only time will tell if this is indeed a real trend as social media becomes broad-based and mainstream, or, just one hire by one company looking to do something very different.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.


31 Comments on “Does Move of Well-Known HR Blogger Signal a Trend, or Something Else?

  1. I don’t have any insight about Laurie’s reasoning or motivation behind her move, all I will say is Starr Tincup made one helluva hire.

  2. Makes sense that one of the original HR rebels will now help the industry by educating people and companies about doing what she’s perfected: showing genuine personality.

  3. I think by hiring one of the best and brightest demonstrates how important social media is perceived among the HR community. An agency wouldn’t have made the hire without client demand. I wish them all the best.

    1. You’re right, Joy. The demand is definitely there. We’re just happy to have Laurie on our team no matter what she ends up doing. She can pretty much do whatever she wants!

    1. Well … I think it will be at least a little bit interesting. But I agree; jobs are mundane affairs. Now off to my yacht for the weekend! I’m boating to an endangered species dinner. Totally cool.

    1. Thank you very much, Madeline. You’re very kind to say so. We are pretty happy over here as I’m sure you can imagine.

    1. I recently read a report by HRxAnalysts (full disclosure – Starr Tincup was an underwriter of the research) that showed HR people are not only using social media for sourcing candidates and other HR initiatives; they are using it the way the rest of us do … to connect with people and get real information. The numbers are huge (ahead of the national trends for adoption).

  4. I like the trend and think this match up will be a good fit. Certain strategies work to gain new customers; others work to gain long-term customers (some may say maintain customers). This may help with both– but most certainly will help secure the long-term, engaged customer. For StarrTincup, the very essence of providing the ever-elusive and hard to define “services” especially in the HR space, will only be helped by adding “street” reporting especially the broad range that Reuttimann provides. Services usually get lost in the shuffle…but could and should be a differentiator in the HR world.

    I work for a software and services company…and we are seeing much success implementing a similar “consultancy” group on the “services” side. My only hope is that Cynical girls (and StarrTincup for that matter) do not give in to the very tempting desire to cater LR’s messages to their prospects/ customers. Keeping the Laurie’s unbiased edge will be critical for this to succeed.
    I’m fans of both LR and ST—and am excited for this marriage.

    1. Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Dawn. I think you’re spot on. Rest assured that we’re not going to mess with Laurie’s style. I don’t think we could if we wanted to. All of her current efforts will continue and we will support her in any way she requires to maintain the good work she has done of just being Laurie.

  5. I think this is the logical outcome of the push towards Social Media, and the changes in HR in the past few years! I believe that HR will someday soon be more open to a role as the PR point person regarding their employee brand, and company social media person ALONG WITH the actual PR department.

    1. That’s really true, Dawn. There is a significant convergence between corporate brand, employer brand and personal brand. It’s blurring the lines of responsibility. Marketing? HR? PR? Likely to start as cross-functional teams in progressive companies before a mature, wide-spread trend emerges.

  6. I will put a dent in the trend of comments already given.

    I don’t think the move of one consultant/blogger regardless of who that person may be signals anything but a move for that individual person or firm. No offense but it only signals one firm seeing a need and wanting to strengthen a part of their business and finding an individual that can help do that.

    All that being said… congrats to Starr Tincup and Lauren! I wish you both the best for what may come in the near and longterm future!

    1. Thank you, Benjamin. The primary point of your comment is correct. Our clients were asking for our help in a specific area, and we made moves to provide them with that help. I hope that’s good business! Thanks for the well wishes.

  7. First and foremost, I think StarrTincup made a brilliant hire bringing Laurie on board for too many reasons to list here. I disagree that this is some kind of trend or tipping point in the HR industry. Most HR pros are practicing in their own little world and are not even “out there” enough to be reading blogs yet, so I don’t see this as some major shift as a career path.

    As for Laurie “getting out of the profession” by moving to StarrTincup, she had already done that to a degree when she went solo and became a blogger/ speaker/ consultant. Again, she’s a rockstar at all three of those things, so it was a smart move. It just means that there are now more moves along a career path in and related to HR. Laurie and other motivated, dedicated passionate professionals like her will always be out there pushing the envelope and finding unique opportunities to challenge and stretch themselves.

    As I see it, she’s setting a good example for HR pros that they don’t need to stay in a little box in order to have the traditional HR career. You can still have a career as an HR pro as unique and individual as you care to dream and define!

    1. Totally agree, Trish. This is actually all about HR – not a move out of HR. As marketers, the better we know what HR thinks, feels and wants – the better we can communicate with them, the better the solutions our vendors develop become and the better the HR professional will become at fulfilling their purpose and ambitions. I think there are shifts in the technology market – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the changes on the vendor side and practitioner side are balanced. No matter what, it’s an interesting time to be in this industry.

  8. This is a great move for all involved, especially the Starr Tincup clients. Plus, I love it when smart, funny people who like a few drinks get together. It just lowers the viscosity of getting stuff done.

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