advertising executives
advertising executives

Ninety days ago I was asked to change jobs at Tribune and assume a leadership role in our digital organization. I gladly accepted.

Going forward I will no longer be blogging about integrated sales (although I do have a very strong point of view that we can't get there fast enough to counter all of the forces arrayed against us who toil in the newspaper-centric local media business), and will offer my departing thoughts here.

Perhaps it's because I have had the good fortune to have worked in a variety of different media disciplines prior to my arrival at Tribune — broadcast television, cable television, events, a movie studio, a digital entertainment company and a vertical publishing company — but I have always made it a point to stay current with the major trends affecting the media business.

In my view, the biggest thing affecting all of us today is the pace of change that has been wrought by light-speed developments in digital technology, and distribution tools that have made it possible for our audience to custom build their own unique user experience when consuming and interacting with our content.

We can't stuff the genie back in the bottle, and wishing it would all slow down is also not a viable strategy, so how do we compete against a seemingly infinite universe of competitors?

The big trend the past several years has been to “integrate” our sales organisations, so that our sellers sell all products — print, Web, mobile, events, data, services, etc.

As clients have begun to take a more holistic approach to media planning and buying in the national level, and as local customers are having to do more with less, this approach appears to be right. But all too often we hear that it's just not working.

At Tribune we have tried a variety of approaches including more training, financial incentives for performance (and disincentives for lack thereof), and partnering our salespeople with Solutions Architects who have subject matter expertise to help make sure we're delivering the right solutions. And while things have improved, we have not raised our sales organisation's digital IQ to the point where we can all play on the open field.

To be sure, we have a number of highly motivated, skilled, modern-day salespeople who make it their business to know our business, and whose customers rely on them to be their wilderness guides, but it's not everyone and until we get there we cannot rest.

So what to do?

In my experience it all starts at the top. Salespeople the world over are motivated by achievement and take their cues from the organisations that they work in. If our managers make something important, it will be, because rewards and recognition flow from achieving the objectives management sets out for us.

As humans, we also have a great capacity for understanding the different cultural values of all of our “tribes.” So if in our work tribe staying current with the media business is a core cultural value, and we see people who do this rise in our organization, it is likely that we will follow suit.

To jump-start this all of us in leadership positions need to engage, and engage now, with the tools and techniques that are shaping our world:

Mobile Devices: We should all be familiar with the current state of the device category related to our business. Nothing's better than using them ourselves, so standard equipment today should be an iPhone, an iPad and an Android phone so that we can be familiar with how we are connecting to our audiences beyond the printed page and the web.

Social Media: At minimum we should all be using Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

Here are some quick thoughts on each of these services:

  • Facebook will soon reach 700 million users. In fact, they have an 80% penetration level in Chicago, and that is likely consistent in most U.S. markets. Their tools and techniques for connecting audiences and businesses are best-in-class, and this is how many people in our non-print audience get to us. In addition to having personal Facebook accounts, all of our sales and marketing teams should be using Facebook to connect with specific audience segments as well. At the very least this should be a good way to check in on your old high school pals and compare notes — you'll be surprised at who's there.

  • LinkedIn is the preferred business social networking site (although I have had good success in this regard with Facebook as well). We do not take a candidate seriously in our group that does not have an up-to-date and complete LinkedIn profile. It's a great tool for recruiting, and it sends a strong message that we are taking this sector seriously when we use it to find great employees. It's also a great tool to build and maintain our individual business networks, as you never know when they might come in handy.

  • Twitter is fast becoming a way to glean insight quickly into trending topics, stay current on a subject, or share insights and accomplishments within your organisation. I believe that it's imperative that all publishing industry leaders are active on Twitter. To reinforce the point, CNN has cited Twitter as one of the driving forces in the spreading anti-government revolts taking place right now in North Africa. It is a powerful tool and if harnessed correctly can have a positive impact in our business. You can find me there at @dwmeek57.

In closing, I want to challenge all of us to embrace this moment, get in the game, and let your teams know that you're in. Update your LinkedIn profile, join Facebook and start a daily Twitter update talking about an interesting topic, or use it to highlight a great sale in your organisation.

It won't take long for your sales teams to start following you, and as they grow more comfortable and confident, they will find themselves using these tools and more with their customers, and soon we will be that much closer to our goal of fielding modern sales teams that can truly compete.

It is only from the front that we can effectively lead.

And so, if not us, who? And if not now, when?

Good selling,