Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

Leading Through Change

A presentation by Bill Cummings
In order to adapt, newspapers need to change their approach to management.

As day one of the 2012 WCAA Conference in Las Vegas comes to a close, attendees have already received lots of great ideas and information that will certainly be valuable to take back to the office. Current President Bill Cummings opened the first day of the conference with his keynote speech, “Leading Through Change: Leadership, Product Mix, Promotion, Pricing and Salespersons.” As we all know, the newspaper industry is changing, and Cummings’ speech emphasized that it’s time to make a commitment to adapting with it.

In order to adapt, newspapers need to change their approach to management. Much of the industry is facing a similar situation; their longtime ad managers and reps are now reaching retirement, and when they look for young professionals to hire, they aren’t finding candidates with newspaper sales experience. The solution, Cummings offered, is not finding applicants with experience specific to the industry, but instead, applicants with potential that they can train into successful sales reps and managers. Moreover, he said that with the current economy, managers and executives want to hire these reps and pay them lower salaries or solely based on commission, but still expect them to bring in huge sales for the department. Cummings explained that there is something missing in that logic. Instead, he suggested that by compensating reps accordingly they will show initiative and dedication to their positions and will make big sales. Also, when reps and managers do make large sales, reward them with year-end bonuses, which will promote loyalty within the department and consequently increases retention rates.

Cummings went on to propose that ad departments also have to change their product offerings. Digital is no longer the future of newspaper, it’s already here and papers must create strategies for selling both print and digital ads. As is, he believes that papers are not reaching the revenue potential in digital ads, because the inventory is under utilized and the ads are lacking in creativity. He suggested that the solution is to create campaigns around events as demonstrated by many of newspaper’s competitors. Creating ad campaigns around limited time events, like weekend sales, encourages a call to action and a sense of immediacy from readers and consumers.

Sales reps must approach the way they sell differently, Cummings said. First and foremost, newspapers should deliver 4,500 local impressions over 24 to 48 hours with clear and defined rates for each offering, such as print and mobile ads. Furthermore, he said that many reps are finding that customers are hesitant to advertise in the newspaper, because they think there is better reach and results on television and radio. If that’s the case, reps should point out the differences between those media sources and newspapers and explain the benefits of advertising in the paper. For example, cable TV may be an affordable solution, but the reach is actually limited, because timing makes it difficult to guarantee that viewers see client’s ads. Television also can’t promise or demonstrate the results of the ads after the fact, they can only offer estimates before the ad is placed, whereas newspapers can offer tangible and quantifiable results, responses and leads.

Cummings also encouraged sales reps to be more tactical and organized in their selling by planning out five potential or current clients to contact every day. He also noted the importance of contacting clients the Monday after their ad runs to discuss the results, thus demonstrating your value as an advertising resource and consultant. Sales reps must be experts on their clients’ businesses, not only to offer advertising solutions and campaign ideas, but also to show that they are invested in their business and committed to their community at large.