If you’ve read just about any blog from INMA or other industry sites recently, you’ve read about multi-platform selling, mobile, Web, tablet and print audience integration, integrated audience packaging, and enhanced reach.

The sales concept is sound and the thinking is, as we have noted, indicative of a major shift from selling advertising in one or several products to the consultative development of solutions for our advertising clients across many platforms.

In short, newspaper multi-media advertising departments are behaving more and more like marketing consulting firms or advertising agencies.

What I have read very little about is the execution of the sales package. How are we taking the “science” of the multi-platform media buy and bringing it to market with creative execution? And how we supporting this integrated model of market coverage in production? How many of us have integrated production paradigms?

Many newspaper newsrooms now routinely expect that a journalist can cover a story today with words, camera and video, single-handedly generating content for print, Web pages, video players and e-newsletters. They write and photograph, produce and voice-over videos, Tweet, blog and post.

Is your advertising production staff equally versatile? Have you evolved your team skill sets to match your product portfolio?

My last blog entry dealt with the many ways in which the Star-Ledger supported the hosting of the NCAA Basketball Tournament in our community. Today I would like to offer some insights into how we are supporting integrated media sales.

Too often, the approach to multi-media is to seek multiple resources as cheaply and simply as possible. The print ad may be produced by a different resource than Web ads and rich media; video production is yet another group; and now development of mobile apps and advertising are additional (usually outsourced) necessities. The long-standing practice of “free creative” with your ad buy still prevails at many newspapers. These paradigms work and may be the best way to approach mass production of creative.

For some clients and circumstances, there is an opportunity to elevate internal skills and technology and take your game to a whole new level.

It is a simple matter to stretch a graphic designer’s skills within the broad parameters of a single media category. Take print for example: if your designer is building a newspaper ad, it is no great leap to also produce a billboard, collateral brochure, direct mail piece and/or magazine version for the client.

How might this work? Here are several examples:

  • Identify the newspaper ad sizes that easily scale or fold to meet standardised postal handling and you can package/bundle newspaper advertising with direct mail to a preferred customer mailing list.

  • Convert the advertising in HTML to a page on the client’s Web site or simply digitise it to make it accessible by link from impression campaigns on your Web site or even search advertising. E-mail applications are also viable in this format.

  • Convert the essential elements and provide a fee-based social media management service with each ad placed. Linking sites with services like Hootsuite enables you to update all the sites with a single posting — linked back to the client’s Web site or other desired destination.

For one local municipality, we recently were awarded the contract to manage an annual, weeklong restaurant promotion. Our ability to manage the promotion was not unique or even necessarily superior to other bidders. We received the contract because of our proposal to go beyond the bounds of the RFP and offer additional services that their marketing committee had not even thought to ask for.

For the event management fee, we

  • Solicited restaurant participation and document their special offers. (Our account executive would have been making the client calls whether we managed the promotion or not for their regular advertising.)

  • Designed and produced the marketing materials including newspaper ads, street flyers, transit posters, billboards and radio commercials. (We also negotiated and purchased all the media on a commissionable basis.)

  • Provided each restaurant with a photo and copy feature in a specially designed restaurant week Web site.

This content was then repurposed in a variety of ways, generating incremental revenue:

  • We published 60,000 glossy, 20-page dining brochures featuring each restaurant’s profile for year-round distribution in area hotels, entertainment venues and attractions.

  • We provided participating restaurants with the opportunity to add the photo and feature content to their business listings on our own site and the city’s tourism site at a very affordable monthly rate — with 100% participation for a one-year commitment.

  • We asked each restaurant for dining certificates and packaged a contest to run with the restaurant week — registered entrants are now part of a loyalty marketing outreach and registered for future promotional announcements.

  • A citywide dining video is being produced using the aggregate content, and each restaurant has an upgrade opportunity to add a video treatment of their own to their Web listings.

  • A mobile and tablet app providing an interactive guide to the cuisine and establishments offered in the city is also under development.

Ultimately, we took a one-week restaurant event plan and converted it into a year-round hospitality marketing programme that delivered continuity for all of its participants — the city, the restaurants and the dining patrons. Most significantly, all of the materials produced, print and digital, are all derived from one brief visit to each restaurant, and all were repurposed in template form from platform to platform, brochure to Web site to app and video by one graphic designer/programmer.

Bottom line? We increased revenue generation by 500% from this annual promotion, with greater margins and profitability. And they want us to come back. And another community wants us to replicate the programme for them.