Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

The Green Guide

With the eco-conscious trend in full swing, April has become a time when people aspire to embrace a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. So what better time to run a special section centered around everything green in your community that showcases local businesses, products and activities.

Earth Day once embraced a strong anti-business and consumerism sentiment. In fact, the first Earth Day organizers refused any financial support from corporations and held teach-ins to challenge and educate corporate and government leaders. But now, over 40 years later, it has been adopted by marketing teams across hthe nation. With the eco-conscious trend in full swing, April has become a time when people aspire to embrace a more environmentally friendly lifestyle. So what better time to run a special section centered around everything green in your community that showcases local businesses, products and activities.

For inspiration on how to create a green community guide, take a look at the News & Record’s “Discover the Triad” special section, which also has a print-to-web component. The Greensboro, N.C. paper releases this magazine-style introduction to the Piedmont Triad area, which is primarily produced by editorial, every year. As a newcomer’s guide to the area, the paper publishes this section in August because it’s a time when advertisers can reach the families that moved over the summer months with a back-to-school slant. It also works well for the paper because it fills a gap during a typically slow advertising period, right before the holiday.

Each year, Discover the Triad takes on a new theme. In 2009, it went green—it was even published on recycled paper. While this section is published in August, it’s a good model for how to develop a green guide any time of the year. For their green issue, the paper took a detailed look at the demographics of the six counties in their area, as well as focusing on the various environmental initiatives the cities were undertaking. Its “Need to Know” sections and directories also were approached from an eco-angle, with stories like “Public Safety: Conserving resources and tax dollars,” “Politics: Lawmakers take environmental actions” and “Industry: Going green is good business.” I recently had the opportunity to talk to the News & Record’s local sales manager, Sheryl Southern, about this special section, and their green theme.

CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE “DISCOVER THE TRIAD” SPECIAL SECTION: DOES IT ALWAYS HAVE A GREEN FOCUS?

“Green” was the focus for the 2009 edition of Discover. In past years, the editorial focus had been on topics such as the growth of area business and industry. In a time of economic challenge, when good news was not easy to come by, focusing on sustainability initiatives in the area seemed like a good place to turn for feel- good information.

HOW IS IT DISTRIBUTED?

Discover the Triad is distributed in- paper on the second Friday in August, and all Sunday subscribers receive the newspaper this day as a part of our bonus distribution plan. Readers can also find it in free racks in high-traffic areas, such as the Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Chambers and public libraries. These racks are replenished throughout the year, giving the piece a year-long shelf life.

ARE THERE CERTAIN COMPANIES YOU TARGET WHEN SELLING ADVERTISING FOR THIS SECTION?

What’s great about a section like Discover is its broad reader and advertiser appeal. It’s a great branding tool, but can also be used to drive customers with the right offers in the ads. Almost everyone is a prospect for this section.

What’s great about a section like Discover is its broad reader and advertiser appeal. It’s a great branding tool, but can also be used to drive customers with the right offers in the ads. Almost everyone is a prospect for this section.

WHAT ARE YOUR SALES STRATEGIES/ APPROACHES TO SEELING THIS SECTION? 

Discover the Triad is the biggest revenue- earning special section that the News & Record produces each year. It also has the longest sales cycle of any special section: the sales initiative launched March 31, and the piece published four months later in August. The challenge each year is to keep the piece fresh to veteran sales reps and also to maintain high motivation and focus throughout the sales cycle. Therefore, a strong sales plan is necessary.

A kickoff for Discover the Triad helped generate new excitement. We met at the Proximity Hotel, which is certified plat- inum-level green—an amazing achieve- ment for this hotel owner.

An early bird deadline with free online impressions available to advertisers who sign up early helps lock in revenue and gets reps off to a strong start with high motivation.

The coordinator met with each sales rep in the department informally and frequently (almost daily) to review prospects and advances. This helped keep reps focused and follow up with each prospect.

The coordinator made joint sales calls with reps to help sell. It’s worth the time. It’s also interesting to volunteer for joint calls with reps and note who takes you up on the offer. This tells you who is engaged and interested in maximizing their sales.

A series of five blitz days at strategic intervals also kept up the momentum. Managers spent the entire day with reps on joint sales calls. Reps earned prizes for sales behaviors, such as most calls, most revenue and most ads sold during these blitz days. These joint rides are important to help managers understand how reps sell and brainstorm together and how to be more successful.

Regular co-op mock-ups by ad ops posted to the bulletin board helped reps visualize remaining space in the co-ops. Ordering in three additional pages, which could be sub-divided and sold at co-op rates, was also a good last-minute tactic to drive a few final sales.

ARE YOU PLANNING ANYTHING NEW AND DIFFERENT FOR THIS COMING YEAR?

This year we will likely focus on how local businesses and industries are recovering from the recession.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR PEOPLE LOOKING TO PUT TOGETHER A GREEN GUIDE OF THEIR COMMUNITY? 

If you live in a community where the majority of the population is exercising its consumer muscle around green themes, then a focus on sustainability can work. Good business owners listen to their customers.