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Thriving in digital sales and leadership careers in publishing

As the media business reinvents itself for an overwhelmingly digital future, there couldn’t be a more exciting time to join the industry. From a sales and leadership perspective, careers in publishing are increasingly emphasizing strong relationships with advertisers, educating and helping them craft their marketing strategy and creating new digital revenue streams. 

Access the ON-DEMAND webinar series now: Digital transformation in news and local media publishing

This blog is a summary of a recent webinar featuring panelists: 

 

 

The discussion explores what it will take for sales and leadership talent to thrive and how publishers can attract the right skill sets for a prosperous future offering digital publishers solutions to local businesses.

What do you tell young professionals who are considering careers in publishing?

Stephanie Slagle:

“Run screaming towards the media right now. There's so much change and flux, which creates opportunity. What the media looks like today is not what it will look like five years from now. So to someone in this incoming generation, who has an excitement about having their voice heard, this is the perfect time to get involved.”

Siobhan “Sam” Bennett:

“Careers in publishing position young professionals, or someone who's making a change of career, to not only be part of the change, but to also be part of a larger transformation. The opportunity for high earnings, high impact, and high career satisfaction are there.”

Tess Coverman:

“If you don't find that right fit, then you won't enjoy it. But when you do, and you're loving the product, and that mission speaks to you, and that leadership is nurturing you, that's when you're really going to find success.”

What is the appeal of pursuing careers in publishing, when sales professionals have so many options to choose from?

Bennett: 

“We looked at what we bring to the world: 113 years of racial equity journalism. In everything we do, all of our communications and our job postings, we leaned hard into that and got an extraordinary response. So I would say, in this competitive environment, never has it been more important to brag about what you bring.”

Slagle: 

“We are strengthening journalism and making sure that journalism exists beyond us. We're also helping our communities thrive, one advertiser at a time, by helping them strengthen their businesses.”

Coverman:

“We’re privately owned, and we really like to lean into our entrepreneurial spirit. That lends itself to stronger products. Also with recruiting, I love talking about our culture. I've interviewed people coming into this industry from outside and they often speak to a cutthroat culture. We really pride ourselves on a culture of helping each other. We know that when we lift someone else up, they can lift us up too, and it helps lift the entire organization and our clients as well.” 

What do you love about your job? Why have you chosen to build your careers in publishing?

Coverman:

“Every day I wake up excited to come to work, and I've been in my job eleven years. I think that's really rare to be able to say. We're here to do something great; I'm not just here to sell something. I'm here to coach others to be their best versions of themselves, and I'm here to help local businesses.”

Bennett: 

“We are the engine that fuels the possibility for more journalism, better journalism that helps change the world. So that's what gets me up in the morning.”

Slagle: 

“My personal core values are leadership, education, and innovation. I get to use those values to inspire my team, inspire others in my company, and inspire our clients. This business I hope will be different because of my influence over time.”

Why do women and minorities struggle to break into careers in publishing sales? 

Slagle: 

“TV has been historically dominated by white males, so when I started, it was difficult to get a voice. It's got to be an intentional effort on the part of leadership to want to hear from all voices.”

Bennett: 

“It is a question of leadership and intentionality. There are barriers we don’t even know are there, but we need to trust that they’re there and work to break them down. You can’t sit back and wait for the talent to come to you. You are responsible for cultivating that talent.”

Coverman: 

“Intention and a team approach are critical. We’ve had a lot of training about implicit bias to hold each other accountable. We hold meetings to kick off hiring regularly, so it’s not just a once-a-year thing. It also needs to come from everyone.”

How should individuals who are beginning careers in publishing pursue growth and progression in this industry? 

Coverman:

“A piece of advice I always like to give people is to ask for help. Everyone, if they're asked, wants to help somebody else. Over my career, I’ve been able to pinpoint different mentors along the way who had skills that I really admire.”

Bennett:

“There was this meeting. The CEO was there. He was trying to make a point. I raised my hand in a sea of six hundred other trainees. And I said, “Sir, I think what you're trying to say is this: Is that correct?” And he said “In fact, it was,” and then he said, “Who are you?” From there on in, I just kept getting promoted. I would advise that when you see something that someone needs to point out, go for it. Abraham Lincoln said it best: “If you want to have a great life, create it.” So if you want to have a great career, create it.”

Slagle: 

“Be present, be seen. Raise your hand, and say, “How can I help?” Secondly, offer solutions. I've managed a lot of people over my years, and when people come to me with a problem and a solution, I weep openly. Also be willing to work hard, show your value, and do the job you want before you get the title.”

What are your tips for retaining top sales talent?

Coverman: 

“We've implemented the CliftonStrengths model at our organization. There are 34 strengths that each person ranks themselves on from the most competent to the least. Instead of focusing on weaknesses, you're just focusing on the things that they do well. Throughout your organization, everyone will be different so you never have to be the best at everything.”

“I don't personally believe that it's your paycheck that's always keeping you at a job. You can probably always find something where you're maybe earning more money, but you're maybe not as happy. By finding ways for your top talent to mentor others, they're gonna get a lot of satisfaction out of that.”

Bennett:

“I have had 22 jobs in my career. I’ve worked for some organizations that were incredibly dysfunctional, and I've worked for some organizations that were the opposite. Lean into building healthy workplace culture and lean in hard. People spend shorter amounts of time in their roles than they used to. We can earn a lot of money no matter where we are, but what makes us stay is that workplace culture.”

Slagle: 

“Especially in media right now, where things are changing, and they're not always necessarily changing for the better in some cases, leading with transparency is the most important thing. Helping people understand even the tough decisions is critical, because I think most people really do care about their organizations and want to be part of the solution.”

What are you doing to increase your digital sales? 

Slagle: 

“It's very easy to sell a package, a grouping of impressions. But when we can actually understand the client's needs and serve those needs. Then we're no longer an expense. We are an investment.” 

Coverman:

“Giving businesses the opportunity to tell their story is a really great way to be able to scale digitally and package that with print. Then the client is reaching their audience on all levels. Also look at who is naturally selling digital and look at what their best practices are. Look at their data, and create a sales process around that.” 

Bennett:

“We're a legacy print newspaper, and digital sales alone have fueled a 30-percent increase in overall revenue over the past 12 months. Having a dedicated sales rep, where digital is the reason they wake up in the morning, has been transformative for us, and they’ve been training the rest of the team. With Google Analytics and Google Ad Manager, we’ve leaned into offering advertisers real-time reporting as well. We've invested in software that our reps can give our customers, where we can show the return.”

We’d like to thank contributors Stephanie Slagle, Tess Coverman, and Siobhan “Sam” Bennett for their insights into pioneering leadership careers in publishing. This article is a written summary of a webinar series produced in partnership with the Local Media Association. You can check out the full series on our website here

About the Author

Nicole Lauzon is a Content Marketing Manager at Vendasta and has spent the last decade of her career helping local businesses tell their stories. Kickstarting her professional journey as a writer and producer for a major Canadian television network, Nicole would later spend five years as a PR Agency Creative Director, managing brand journalism, social media, blog and video content for corporate, non-profit and local business clients. Whether Nicole is marinating over her next piece of writing or enjoying some down time with her family, she likes doing it in floral print.

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