Critical Thinking: How Can Newspapers Improve Relationships With Advertisers?

By: Heidi Kulicke

Critical Thinking: How Can Newspapers Improve Relationships With Advertisers?

Q: How can newspapers improve relationships with their advertisers, leading to increased ad revenue?  

Ryan Ford, 21, senior, University of Texas at Austin
Ford is currently the student advertising manager of Texas Student Media, which includes the university’s newspaper, The Daily Texan. He is studying advertising media planning with an emphasis in business.  


My experience in working with ad revenue comes from a college newspaper perspective. The college market is a unique challenge in itself due the constant cycle of students and the media consumption habits that tend to differ slightly every four years. These factors lend themselves to the problem of losing touch with your audience. As most people in the print industry understand, if you lose touch with your audience then you lose touch with your advertisers. Subsequently, this turns into loss of overall revenue.

A strategy that always seems to be a success with the student market is events. The success lies not solely in the event itself, but the concept of getting the product, whether that be your print product or the advertiser’s product, in front of the students. These days, with the advent of online news sources ranging from Yahoo! News to Twitter, it is too much to assume a reader will seek out your product. Therefore, you must bring your product or the advertiser’s product to your readers in various informative or entertaining ways.

Today’s readers have become masters at being able to sniff out an ad or a salesperson a mile away, and it is for this reason alone that mediums such as social video have become so successful. If advertisers are able to package their branded content in an entertaining and relevant way that engages readers without merely just trying to sell them on something, then the efforts will pay dividends. The issue of ad revenue is less about the newspaper relationship with advertisers than it is about newspapers being the catalyst for a conversation between advertisers and the consumer.

Lowell Johnson, 50, general manager and advertising director, Herald Times Reporter (Manitowoc, Wis.)
Johnson is also advertising director at the Sheboygan (Wis.) Press. He has held management positions for 24 of his 27 years in the industry.  

Newspapers need to be problem solvers for advertisers, finding ways to increase store traffic or assisting with marketing ideas. The relationship starts with having a genuine interest in the customer’s business. Be passionate about helping each customer succeed. When meeting with an advertiser, plan ahead and be prepared. Ask enough questions to understand the business, products, competition, and market strategy so advertising solutions can be offered that make sense and get results. Become a good listener. Use the Internet, and do more than just visit the business website to gather key information.

Build marketing solutions that closely match advertiser needs. If digital is the best solution, build a digital program. Advertisers want to see ideas. Be creative. Ideas win customer loyalty, and this is the start to a long-term partnership. Make things easy for customers. Plan out three-, six-, or 12-month advertising calendars. Use today’s tools to custom build solutions that work for companies of any size.

Be great at customer service. Ask questions about how the last promotion or ad worked. Rework programs that under-delivered. Follow through. Update advertisers on new product offerings. Stay informed and share relevant information. Be a secret shopper and pass along feedback. Send notes of appreciation. Great customer service is often overlooked, so do the little things, and revenue growth will follow.

Be an ambassador for the industry. Market reach with print and digital products remains as strong as ever and continues to deliver results for customers every day. Informing advertisers about the progress being made underscores the value and commitment our industry has for the future. After all, if we don’t tell advertisers, who will?

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