Best Advice (Part IV): Jumpstarting Sales, The Audience Funnel and The ‘Good’ From Newsrooms

Our Relevant series sharing words of wisdom from 2020 presentations continues with a hat trick: Advertising, Audience and Journalism.  Today’s selected slides come with added commentary. Enjoy. 

Maybe it’s the drawing of the cranky customer, but this first slide stuck with me. Why the skeptical look?

Maybe it’s because local business owners are being called on by an estimated 25 to 83 sales reps from media companies selling “lots of stuff and often the same products.”

Think about that.

It prompts the understatement of the year:

Newspapers must stand out to win.

The cranky guy’s message is how ad sales trainer Mike Centorani opened his presentation to the Illinois Press Association/Foundation’s conference.

How a newspaper starts the revenue conversation with a small or medium-size business is often the deciding factor in selling a successful advertising solution.

There’s little margin of error. 

To win, Centorani says, do your thorough research about the prospective advertiser. Write down your questions, practice, but remember: “Boring questions equal boring answers equal boring solutions.”

At the time of the September virtual conference, Centorani was director of sales training for Gannett Media. In addition to thinking smartly about what type of questions to ask, Centorani says the “secret sauce” of selling is for the sales reps to put themselves in the shoes of the customer to earn their trust — think like them.

It also is important to nail your USP — unique selling proposition. “Ask the right questions. Show them the data. And let them sell you about their business,” Centorani adds. Take it all in and then sprint to a win. 


Let’s stay with sales reps on this next Relevant Point.

Included in Laurie Kahn’s presentation about a 2020 advertising compensation survey was this summary on why reps leave.

Money was No. 1. But the eye-openers were the second and third reasons: New hires didn’t understand what they were getting into and the job turned out to be a poor fit.

“Be upfront” and “very honest” when recruiting and hiring people, Kahn said during America’s Newspapers’ Pivot Conference in October.

That statement alone says a lot about today’s hiring processes.

A suggestion from Kahn of the Media Staffing Network: Candidates might want “to spend a day in the office” before signing aboard. 

A failed hire can be costly.

Let’s be honest.  

For more details on the survey, visit: www.staffingnetwork.com/compensation-studies


Funnels are a popular depiction when audience and subscription authorities describe how you attract and keep subscribers. Here’s one view on examining your entire market and then isolating the various opportunities. 


At his presentation to the New York Press Association, Lon Haenel crafted this summary on all the steps you can take to welcome new subscribers. If you think it’s a one-and-done process, your newspaper will be done, for sure, the founder and president of Local News ROI said. 

“Marketing is a process on a journey,” Haenel added. “It’s not a project.”


So much of the 2020 details about consolidation within the news media industry was about depleted resources in newsrooms as advertising revenue continued to decline.

That’s what made the following “good news” point most interesting at the America East News Media Summit in September. This list was composed by Gannett’s Shane Fitzgerald of the Bucks County Courier Times in Pennsylvania. 


I must admit I did a double-take on journalists “finally” realizing “digital is our future.”


In the same Pennsylvania program, newspaper associations were treated to this advice from Dean Ridings, CEO of the industry group America’s Newspapers. We take special note of one word in particular.

Go ahead and consider this good news as well.


Finally, we always look for a good ending and appreciate those advice-givers who conclude with a memorable point. 

Our thanks to Editor & Publisher’s Mike Blinder for his Churchill-like advice to all of us slugging through the pandemic. I hung a copy in my office. 

What’s next? The Relevance Project will be back soon with more points to ponder.

Thanks for reading us. 

—Tom Silvestri

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