Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

60 Ideas in 60 Minutes

Taylor’s ideas ranged from how to make changes in your own departments to how to encourage advertisers to purchase special sections space.

The 2012 America East Conference was jam packed with helpful presentations and even more excited presenters, eager to talk with us about how to implement great ideas in local newspapers nationwide. One of these sessions, “60 Ideas in 60 Minutes,” presented by Jason Taylor of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, managed to fit some really meaty concepts in a short 60-minute time frame. Taylor’s ideas ranged from how to make changes in your own departments to how to encourage advertisers to purchase special sections space.

Here are some of the many ideas presented in this session:

1. The biggest sale you can make is the one in your building

Taylor’s point is that if you can’t sell your employees on what you are doing, you will have a hard time selling advertisers. Make sure that you are passionate and confident enough in your goals and ideas, so that your employees can get excited about it too.

2. Increase accountability

This may seem like a no-brainer, but being accountable in all facets of your business is essential to success. Taylor does point out, however, some areas that are frequently lacking in accountability.

• Ride along with your sales team

How can you expect to tell someone how to do their job if you haven’t watched them do it?

• New minimum standards

Not just for the sales team, raise the minimum standards for everyone.

• Post everything

Accountability begins with transparency; make it a must for everyone in your department.

• Daily sales meetings

­When was the last time you met with your sales staff? Last week? Last month? Do it tomorrow, or today if you can. Schedule meetings every day.

• Content quizzes

This is brilliant, and comes one step closer to uniting departments. Since sales people will be intimately familiar with their own clients, but not as familiar with the newspapers content, ask them to read it. You can quiz them on it too, if previous requests to read the paper have been unsuccessful.

3. New Launches

Make new developments at your paper, like special sections, a big deal. Even if you have a limited budget, adding excitement to new products will energize both your staff and readers.

• Sections need to be proposed

Proposals are a good way to check that ideas have been thought out. So, make sure that every special section is proposed and researched before it is produced.

• Benefits

This may seem obvious, but make sure the benefits outweigh the cost. Since special sections are intended for smaller demographic groups or major events, make sure that the benefit to the consumer or demographic group is large enough to get them reading.

• Predesign

Design everything, even if it changes. When you approach advertisers about being in a special section, bring a fully designed dummy. The more impressive it looks, the more likely they will want to be involved.

• De-brief

Approve, approve, approve. You can never look at a special section too many times, or be too critical. Use all of your knowledge of buying patterns and demographics to analyze the quality of the special section so that you can determine the value of your product.

• What worked?

This is key. After every launch, meet with your staff and have an open and honest discussion about what worked and what didn’t. Did you make money? Did people respond well? Unfortunately, special sections are fun and interesting, but you have a bottom line. If it’s not being met, ditch the section and start from scratch.

4. New working rules

Some workplace SOPs are good, others need to be thrown out. Establish a new set of working rules to better internal relationships and inter-office practices.

• Inter office communication

No “No’s.” Really, don’t say “no.” Ok, say “no,” but only when you really need to. Otherwise, approach every idea as a possibility.

• Filter decisions as readers

Don’t make decisions based on what is most important for stockholders. If you don’t have readers, you wont have a paper. Readers should be first on your list of priorities, next are your advertisers and then employees. Stockholders should be your fourth business priority.

• Circulation is sales too

Don’t forget to have sales meetings with the circulation department. Since they sell the product, its important to keep them in the loop with the latest sales techniques as well as any new paper features.

5. New Streams

Finding ways to do business with new people is a great idea. Not only will you broaden the awareness and love of newspapers, but you’ll get a lot of fresh ideas.

• Summer sales interns

Interns are always a good idea if you can train them to do what you need. You’ll make new connections, and possibly find a wonderful new employee.

• Big and small events

Events are a great way to increase revenue for the newspaper, it gets the community excited and engaged, and gives you great bragging rights.

• Non-traditional single copy promos

You undoubtedly sell single copies at local coffee shops and other venues, but what about sit-down restaurants? You could negotiate a meal and single-copy special, for value to the customer, and regular patronage for the restaurant.

6. Inspire pride

The best way to make people happy at work — other than doling out money — is to make people feel good about what they do. There are a couple ways to achieve this; ideas range from philanthropy to testimonials.

• Testimonials

Helping people always makes you feel good. When you can show that your product or service has helped someone, show it off, other people might find it useful too.

• Encourage philanthropy

Encourage staff members to get involved with local organizations, especially if they can get a position on a board or another decision-making team. Not only will this allow your employees the opportunity to do good and feel good, but will build important networks that can benefit your paper in the long run.

• Use SWOT

This acronym — meaning strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats — is a great tool for analyzing how your department is working. It also helps your staff to compartmentalize and organize possible issues and make them more manageable.