Career days, mentoring state case for sales

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Cable industry executives are wooing minority and women college students into ad sales.

Through the program, "Cable Advertising Career Forwards," executives such as David T. Cassaro, exec VP-sales at E! Entertainment Television, visit historically black colleges and other schools with a high enrollment of African-American, Asian-American and Hispanic students.

"We know there is a need for more minority candidates and our members have expressed the same need," says Steve Raddock, VP-communications at the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, which sponsors the program. "Our objective is to encourage more minority candidates to consider cable as a career."

$12 BILLION MARKET

Ad revenue growth over the past decade justifies the need for additional talent, according to CAB. In 1990, revenues were $2.5 billion; in 1999, revenues hit $12 billion.

Last year, the organization tested its recruitment program at Pennsylvannia State University and Howard University.

"The idea was to take the message to colleges with large populations of minorities to talk about sales opportunities," says Mr. Raddock.

At Penn State, "we had attracted a standing-room-only crowd of 200 students and faculty -- nearly the entire communications department," he says.

The two-hour presentation included ad sales executives from such networks as Court TV, MTV and E!

The program will be repeated at eight universities this year, including sessions at communications and business schools at Hampton (Va.) University at and Morgan State University in Baltimore.

"Just looking around the industry you can tell there's a need and a burning desire on the part of the candidates," says Mr. Raddock. "We need the talent. We must make sure that African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics and women are being developed."

According to Mr. Cassaro, E! makes an effort to bring diverse employees into its corporate fold because the network's audience is so varied.

"In addition to hiring a lot of [minority] interns, we reach out to colleges mainly in Southern California, such as [University of Southern California and University of California]," Mr. Cassaro says. "We reach the age 18-to-49 audience that cuts across all races and creeds. We try to mirror that, though it is sometimes hard."

E! also wants to encourage high-school students to choose a career in cable.

E! hosts a "Mentoring Day" and career-opportunity tours at the network's Los Angeles headquarters for area high schools with high minority enrollments, says Lisa Kaye, exec VP-human resources.

CLOSE LOOK AT BUSINESS

"In addition to a general tour, we also give them a look at the business side. Since our headquarters is in Los Angeles, they get to meet our sales and advertising staff," Ms. Kaye says.

In general, members of the marketing staff "spend a lot of time recruiting and mentoring on their own time," Mr. Cassaro says.

Retention is an important issue for E!, Ms. Kaye says.

"We have a strong internal policy on promoting from within," she says. "We have groomed executives who have started off as low as administrative assistant. We provide feedback, team building and coaching to get them to each step."

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