It’s not your rate card; it’s your confidence

Build confidence in your news media advertising value proposition


In the world of parenting, I’ve noticed my children growing more confident in expressing their ideas, particularly when they really want something — a skill they continuously enhance, notably in their requests for toys.

Funny enough, I also realized how crucial confidence is when communicating a sponsorship or advertising strategy. It struck me during coaching sessions with news organizations last year, where pivotal discussions often centered around evaluating rate cards and media kits. Acknowledging the importance of these tools in comprehending market trends, I stress the need for efficiency to ensure healthy margins, consistent renewals and a strategic value proposition. However, I quickly recognized a necessary shift in the discussion.

Moving beyond rate cards and media kits, we could harness the power of compelling narratives, data-driven strategies and confident value propositions. This approach unlocked self-assured communication and collaboration, paving the way for mutually beneficial solutions and sustainable success for both organizations and sponsors.

In news media advertising, organizations often spend too much time analyzing rates and comparing them to similar-sized outlets. It’s important, but sometimes, focusing too much on rate hinders the ability to assess an opportunity directly. Before immediately delving into pricing considerations, it’s crucial first to identify opportunities aligned with your organization’s goals. Rather than getting bogged down by rate cards, consider exploring collaborative possibilities with sponsors and organizations that share similar missions. This approach allows for a more efficient and strategic use of time, facilitating the testing and refinement of conversations and the clear articulation of your advertising strategy and product value.

While rate cards provide internal consistency and aid in governing profitability in some ways, they shouldn’t overshadow the pursuit of opportunities, especially in the early stages. That said, it’s imperative to carefully balance opportunities with financial needs. Confidence comes from partnering with mission-aligned sponsors and understanding the profit margins needed for long-term sustainability. Balancing this helps create vital sponsorship talking points, ensuring our actions and agreements match our financial limits and goals. This is crucial for more thoughtful decision-making in advertising strategies, budget use and overall campaign customization.

Though not universal, some organizations struggle to find the right balance and lack confidence in these discussions. It affects how they shape their product positioning, significantly influencing opportunities, responses and sponsorship success.

Consider essential pricing and cost aspects if you’re unsure about pricing for sustainable growth and profitability in your organization’s advertising structure. Different organizations have diverse structures, costs and expenses — making a one-size-fits-all model impractical. I suggest considering a pricing strategy with approximately a 75% markup to allow for effective operation, considering factors like audience reach and unexpected expenses. Set and adjust your pricing strategies according to local market research.

Recognizing the subjective nature of pricing, conducting thorough research and consulting with reliable financial advisors can assist in establishing a price structure that meets your organization’s requirements and guarantees sustained success.

Another practice I’ve found to be highly effective in enhancing confidence in presenting an advertising proposition or pricing structure is determining the lowest acceptable amount you’re willing to walk away with. This approach helps bring clarity and conviction to the value proposition. In coaching scenarios, I often ask presenters to identify the minimum amount they would accept, emphasizing the importance of understanding one’s value and worth. This safeguards against later dissatisfaction with a deal and ensures the integrity of profitability and sustainability. Being confident in your proposition is about recognizing it as a no-brainer opportunity, and this confidence is essential for effective communication and negotiation. Once you’re clear on your value and limits, the conversation becomes more fluid, allowing you to articulate terms confidently and navigate negotiations more effectively.

Finally, consider longer-term commitments to boost confidence in sponsorship and pricing discussions. Not all sponsors may seek extended commitments, so not every opportunity aligns this way. However, if your pricing is sound, the opportunity is ideal and there’s potential for brand and ROI for everyone, explore a multi-year commitment conversation. Show stability and commitment through longer partnerships, assuring sponsors of sustained collaboration and extended brand exposure, possibly even exclusivity. This goes beyond pricing — encouraging discussions about shared goals and tailored campaigns. Emphasize value alignment over mere transaction to build trust and confidence, enhancing the potential for long-term ROI. Confidence thrives when a shared vision guides the partnership.

Consider the possibility of reaching a level of confidence where you don’t need renewals every month or quarter from the same sponsor or advertiser — perhaps annually or biannually. In news media advertising, the emphasis often leans toward short-term campaigns. However, reflecting on successful models, like sports franchises with extended brand contracts, can be enlightening. The lack of confidence up front leads to constant retention haggling later on instead of perennial agreements built on mutual trust and shared success. By embracing longer-term partnerships, you become more than just a media outlet; you become a strategic partner invested in the community’s well-being alongside your sponsors.

Throughout this process, my coaching mantra for organizations, especially when dealing with rate cards and media kits, is to keep things simple. While diligence, research and determining market-friendly comparables are crucial, the ultimate yardstick is confidence in your conversation or proposal. The key is clearly communicating your strategy, making a convincing, influential, mission-aligned case backed by data and a sound ROI justification. Addressing needs and urgency while building trust is the true indicator of an effective campaign pitch. It doesn’t have to be overly complex; at its core, confidence matters because it’s typically conveyed when you’ve done the homework and identified the right opportunity for the right partner. Real assessments happen in the field, and the more confidence you have in the opportunity and your pricing structure — ensuring practical long-term ROI — the stronger your position and conviction in building lasting partnerships and yielding healthy results for your organization and sponsors will be.

While there are numerous resources to help assess the viability of your rate card, the most effective premise lies in identifying opportunities for the long haul and communicating perennial concepts that yield high margins. This holds true for both subscriptions and advertisers in the news media landscape. Confidence comes from aligning with your organization’s mission and conveying compelling narratives to potential sponsors. Ensure your pricing structure aligns with a comfortable profit margin, making your offerings a no-brainer for any discerning partner. While rate cards provide consistency, remember they are a guide — not a rigid rule. Focus on profitability, sustainability and effective communication, keeping it simple, clear and aligned with your mission. This approach ensures confidence in your advertising campaigns, fostering lasting partnerships and success for your organization. And just like kids, the clearer and more confident you are in asking for what you want, the more likely you are to get it.

Richard E. Brown is a News Media Alliance Rising Star recipient, the former director of renewals and digital sales strategy at LPi, and the former director of digital operations and sales of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He recently served as the head of digital subscriber churn for Gannett | USA TODAY NETWORK and is the former senior director of retention for The Daily Beast. He is a member of the board of directors for the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation and is the owner of RE Media Holdings, LLC. Richard is available for consulting and can be reached at


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