Gannett is the largest newspaper group in the United States, yet two years ago, the company decided it was not the world-class media player it wanted to — and could — be. 

That bit of honest self-evaluation launched the company on an improvement programme that Vice President/Advertising Leslie Giallombardo outlined to INMA on Tuesday.

“If we really want to stand out for our customers and be valid and vital, we need that competitive differentiation,” she said.

What Gannett needed was a strong competitive advantage.

Historically, Gannett focused on sales month to month.  Now the company is moving to long-term sales, focusing on quarterly, which Giallombardo said is best for customers. Employees needed to be more consultative and sell solutions that get results, she added.

That is when Gannett decided to redesign its workflow and training. The company now sends employees through a 16-week boot camp with a combination of hands-on classroom training and virtual exercises. The sales certification requires participation in e-modules, learning, and behaviour assessment. Management also redesigned employee benefit packages, increasing pay and making more defined selling goals.

In addition to working to create strong sales representatives, Gannett altered how it interacts with the market.

“What we really need to do is not look in the mirror but look out the window,” Giallombardo said.

Gannett quit competing against itself and focused on truly understanding its own market potential. Management also focused on the digital world.

“Growing digital as fast as we can is a major component of what we expect that restructure to look like,” she said.

Gannett now aims to putting its advertisers first, always. Even if that means looking outside of the company’s abilities to help make smart advertising decisions, she said.