Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

You’re likely to be hiring someone new, sometime soon. Why not shake up your interview routine and find out some truly illustrative qualities about your prospective employees? An article from outlines “Three Interview Questions That Reveal Everything” and why those questions are so revealing. These questions might seem basic, but provide important illumination into both the intentions and personalities of your interviewees. These questions are as follows:

A newspaper is theoretically an unbiased news source for the local community. Of course, there are biased news outlets, but all in all, community papers should report the news in all of its unfettered and unbiased glory. Most papers stay away from activism, as it alienates readers and is a slippery slope that can hurt revenue.  For example, a newspaper in North Dakota is taking some heat for pulling a paid marriage announcement from their Weddings section. The Fargo Forum recently removed the marriage announcement of Allison Johnson and Kelsey Smith citing that they do not allow announcements for same-sex couples. While same-sex marriage is not recognized is North Dakota, the couple wanted to publicize their union for family and friends. 

Niccolo Machiavelli was a philosopher, writer and diplomat. You may know him best by some of his works, like “The Prince” and “The Art of War.” However, you may have never considered how Machiavelli’s writings could inform your management style — but they can. Both CBS Money Watch and Business Insider recently took some of Machiavelli’s quotes and discussed how it reflected the author’s business and entrepreneurial sensibilities. We have gathered quotes that we think are great philosophies for those working in the newspaper industry. You may just find that you already subscribe to some of Machiavelli’s philosophies without realizing it.

Like any skill, certain aspects are innate. While most would argue vociferously that their skills are developed through nothing but hard work and dedication, some others might beg to differ. We found an article in Inc. Magazine, called “The Secret to Their Success,” that suggests that the very psychology of successful sales people may not only enable them with persuasive abilities but also a set of personality traits that forces them to bite at the heels of every sales opportunity. These personality traits include not only greed and competition, as many believe are necessary qualities of successful sales people, but also masochism and the prospect of rejection, says the article’s author, G. Clotaire Rapaille.

This article may seem like a divergence from our usual advice, but hear me out. Your day is stressful and hectic, and I’m willing to bet that you aren’t getting the proper nutrition to help your brain work at full capacity. Often, people with a lot on their figurative plate don’t take the time to put enough of the right foods on their literal plate. Below are some brain-friendly foods to help give your mind the boost it needs to power through your day. 

It’s a common perception that all sales reps are extroverts. In order to sell newspaper ads, you have to be talkative and personable. However, this is a misconception that, if assumed, will do you a disservice as a manager. Although your employees may appear to be extroverts, chances are there are some introverts-at-heart on your staff who turn it on for the job. Therefore, it’s important to understand how to effectively manage different personality types, which is exactly what Butch Ward and Jill Geisler discussed on a recent live chat hosted by 

Conflict is a reality of the workplace. Even in the most easygoing places of work, peers are going to have disagreements. Often, conflict is brought to management, as it should be for cases of harassment, discrimination or other serious accusations. However, many conflicts can be resolved between peers. Not only will cooperatively resolving differences in the workplace allow you to get back to work without institutional hassle, but might also foster a stronger bond of trust and respect between you and your co-workers. Below are five key rules to follow when trying to resolve conflict in your workplace.

It’s time to re-think the questions that you ask during the interview process. If the goal is to find the best person fit for the job opening, then some of the stereotypical interview questions are no longer going to cut it, such as, “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” Some hypothetical questions are good, but they should be based in the reality of your industry. For instance, present interviewees with a possible conflict scenario and ask what their resolutions would be. Their answer will help you discover something tangible about them as a potential employee. Avoid asking the questions that always seem to be asked in interviews, but don’t really tell you anything about the applicant. Just because everyone else asks them, doesn’t mean you should. Instead, ask questions about their actual work experiences that are relevant to the position you are trying to fill. Below, we show the questions typically asked at interviews, and suggest what questions you should ask instead.

Things are going well. Things aren’t spectacular, but hey, things aren’t terrible either. Although you probably feel that you are doing just fine, and any discrepancy in your department can’t be chalked up to you managerial skills, take a look at these “8 Core Beliefs of Extraordinary Managers” from to either further solidify yourself as an exemplary manager or maybe learn something new that can help turn your department around.

Social media is here to stay and it’s time to join the party. A strategic and mindful approach to social media can allow you to reach your audience in new, more personable ways, maintain the business you currently have and, ideally, branch out and make new connections. Creating a strategic social media plan may sound like a difficult task, but it’s not as hard as you may think.

Sales enablement is a relatively new concept, and its definition has prompted much debated. Is it a role, a function within a company, or is it a task? While it may appear as though sales enablement is a task performed by a sales manager, it is actually a company-wide organizational process that must be well crafted in order to be successful.

Internships are a win-win for both interns and for businesses. Interns gain experience and begin to build their résumés, and businesses gain a boost in creativity as well as low-cost employment. Despite potentially benefiting both the intern and the hiring company, be aware that problems can arise (especially when your expectations are unclear). Interns are not always the perfect solution to a problem, but more so an opportunity to bring in an innovative, productive new employee into the company for little-to-no cost.

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. 

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

These famous words from Mahatma Gandhi, although not intended for newspapers, hold water when we apply them to the current state of the industry. Gandhi’s statement places responsibility on the individual to decide between right and wrong, and encourages one to unsubscribe from the status quo and to begin redefining the norm for the better. No, the newspaper industry is not facing tyranny under an oppressive dictator, and the last time I checked, a hunger strike is an unnecessary action for this situation. However, this industry is facing fierce competition from multiple sources, and although not for lack of trying, it has been unsuccessful in meeting the opposition head on.

LinkedIn — in case you didn’t know — is a business-oriented social network. Since its launch in 2003, the site boasts 135 million registered users, and it is gaining popularity as a tool for both applicants and employers. LinkedIn is more than a job-listing site; it is a network of professionals. LinkedIn posts on their site that “executives from all 2011 Fortune 500 companies [are] members” of this network. The site uses multi-level contacts called Connections, and each user has a list of business Connections. Think of it like a Rolodex™; but (certain restrictions apply) you’re able to access all of your Connections’ contacts as well. They are your extended Connections and this maintains a chain of professional contacts. The site utilizes a “gated-access approach” to preserve privacy, but you can use these Connections to search for suitable candidates.


There has been quite a bit of a time spent discussing the way the industry is changing. Namely, the changes in technology that are affecting how newspapers advertise and how sales representatives sell those advertisements. I am not disputing the fact that the industry needs to accommodate the digital era, however, in an industry where change is mandatory; some things should remain constant, especially sales management skills. 

Facebook is an obvious asset for marketers when working to advertise products and services throughout your community. The instant connectivity to a local demographic that is available through the newsfeed and convenience of posting and sharing only scrapes the surface of the benefits Facebook has for your department. Beyond having the ability to upsell services to advertisers that may be less technically savvy or may simply not have time to deal with general upkeep of their social site, your sales reps can use Facebook to create or enhance working relationships with local marketers and community members to strengthen their reputation and increase their sales potential.

Hiring the wrong person for an open position can end up costing your company far more than just a financial woo. According to Career Builder, two-thirds of American companies admit to making regrettable decisions in the last year. The majority of those surveyed confessed that their biggest mistake could be summed up with one bad hire. “Sixty-nine percent of employers reported that bad hires lowered their company’s productivity, affected worker morale and even resulted in legal issues. Forty-one percent of companies estimate that a bad hire costs more than $25,000, and one in four said it costs more than $50,000.” That’s an awful high price to pay for a mistake that was likely avoidable in the first place.

In the Brainworks-sponsored webinar, Training Classics founder and president Diane Ciotta emphasized the importance of recognizing the needs of an advertiser and steering the conversation, and sale, toward helping the advertiser attain that need as opposed to simply attempting to make the sale. She said the first step was to understand the wants of an advertiser, and how they differ from the need of the advertiser.

As we ring in the New Year, there’s no doubt that many of you are making resolutions to reinvent yourself. May it be disposing of a bad habit — like smoking, or squeezing away the inches of your waistline — ‘tis the season to pledge to your personal wellbeing. But why stop there? This year take the initiative to resolve to reinvent the leadership in your sales department.

Last year, we ran several articles talking about the importance of training or coaching your call center’s sales staff. As the new year approaches, let’s take a look back through the best practices found after months of research. These four tips come directly from you. Some through conference lectures, some through discussion, all through careful evaluation of the changing dynamics in the newspaper classified advertising sales industry. Here’s hoping for another year of helpful hints and techniques “perfected.”

In the thick of daily routines, it may be difficult to identify the real communication climate of a department. A real assessment can reveal strengths and weaknesses. Once those are defined, they can be worked on and made a priority when trying to improve overall performance. Ask yourself if it’s more healthy to say “This is the way we do things, so deal with it,” or “This is the way we do things. How can I help you be most successful?” Giving clear directives with support and follow-up will create a fundamentally strong and balanced structure.

The holidays are “the most wonderful time of year,” as best said by Bing Crosby. Your staff members are a little bit cheerier and your advertisers may be friendlier. As the season has quickly come upon us, caution yourself and your staff to the disasters of which are possible during year-end celebrations. Last year, according to a poll conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management, 61 percent of companies in the USA held holiday parties. Before any office festivities ensue, take the opportunity to look at your newspaper’s classified advertising department’s interpersonal relations with one another. To best evaluate your unique department, it’s wise to observe the interactions and trends among staffers, and then decide upon a course of action before planning your party.

The issues surrounding offering free ads for private-party items is far from settled at most newspapers. In my consulting practice I get the same questions again and again, and quite often management doesn’t like my answers. Those are the managers that want to hang onto the days when we had little or no serious competition, and could profit from private-party classifieds. At most papers true private party advertising hasn’t made a significant contribution to profits in a great many years. By true private party, I mean one-time sales of personal property by individuals. Any ongoing moneymaking activities, bulk items or real estate would be excluded by this definition. The various free online sites have served as a “category killer” for profits from this area. This is similar to what happened to camera stores when discount stores started selling cameras at or below their costs. They just could not compete, and many went out of business for lack of a new strategy.