Best Advice (Part VIII): In Case You Missed The Crises…

No shortage of advice exists in the news business.

We all know it can be blunt at times.

But in 2020, the recommendations were more emphatic. Encouraging. Understanding. Inviting.

Acknowledgements of stressful days, weeks, months used descriptions like:




And, at times, unbelievable.

With the pandemic, social unrest and toxic politics, w e are all crisis managers.

The daily task: Fighting fatigue, battling isolation and confronting revenue that disappears.

Enter No. 8 in our Relevant series on words of wisdom heard in 2020 virtual gatherings. This installment is a mix of how to manage today’s rapid change, boost your revenue teams, and document memorable footnotes from a difficult year.

You’ll also see the return of some advice-givers who are back with additional worthwhile perspectives.

After reading their points, take a minute to reflect on how you not only survived last year, but never gave up.

Neil Brown of the Poynter Institute provides one of the better overviews. His wide angle was as of October, when the industry champion America’s Newspapers presented its PIVOT 2020 virtual conference. 

In case you needed a reminder, here are some of the greatest hits, thanks to Brown’s compilation of trends, tipping points and timeouts.

As an analyst and trainer, Brown stresses the need to use the crisis to rethink strategies and actions. Push smarter, for example, on boldly marketing our value to attract more readers and advertisers while keeping our news content strong. Think DISTINCT in all actions. 

His list goes on, but you won’t advance without being honest about the last point. There’s always more work to be done there. 

Overwhelmed front-line colleagues don’t always react well to advice-givers who scream YOU NEED TO DO MORE. That’s why Brown’s segment on creating a STOP DOING list was music to tired ears.

Such a list depends on a specific organization’s set of challenges and opportunities — and whether the newspaper is living day to day or able to plan one to two years out.

Brown notes such a STOP effort in Milwaukee which set its goals and then guided behavior. If you’re doing something apart from the communicated goals, stop and question whether it’s necessary or worthwhile.

As a publisher, you could say:

If you’re not bringing in revenue or welcoming new subscribers while keeping those we have satisfied, or you’re not contributing to a high-quality news report, then what are you doing? Why should we pay you for “that”?

Toward the end of his excellent presentation, Brown made this prediction: “We are never going back to the way it was.”

Good luck in 2021.

A happy, energetic and engaged salesforce is a productive team.

Here’s another insightful point from Laurie Kahn, CEO of the Media Staffing Network. It flows from a sales compensation study released in 2020 and pinpoints best practices to work on.

How many checkmarks did you make?

Consider Kahn’s philosophy: “Rethink. Re-tool. Respond. Rebound.” Tailor-made for today.


While we’re on revenue, let’s underscore Gordon Borrell’s very Relevant admonition:
Our customers WANT A COMBO BUY.

Want more proof?

Given the economic pain on Main Street, Borrell also strengthens the argument that helping local businesses is what everyone wants. Newspapers, you are the best connector.

Staying with the theme of SHOP LOCAL is design and creativity maven Bill Ostendorf and his challenge to reinvent print classifieds in online spaces. That’s Bill in the top right Zoom screen making the case for what he calls a top revenue growth category — but only with the new approaches. 

One more direction for opportunity-seekers.

Let’s shift to audience, or the groups of readers who either subscribe or don’t pay for content.

Are your readers:

  • Detached?
  • Disillusioned?
  • Apathetic?
  • Passively engaged?
  • Actively engaged?

I know where I’d like to be.

Note the clues in the next slide so you can grade accordingly.

A skeptic could look at this scale and offer this question: Can your community support a newspaper?

Finally, The Relevance Project’s Revenue Resource Center is a free service to community newspapers. This week, we’ve updated the ALL TOGETHER series of promotions that help sales reps when they knock on the doors of local advertisers, especially those coming out of yet another lockdown.

Here’s a notable example from the North Carolina Press Association which has incorporated The Relevance Project into its member benefits.

Thank you!

OK, there is one more batch to share in the Best Advice series.

It’s in The Relevance Project lab cooling off.

You’ll see it this week.

Here’s the deal:

Reading all nine parts makes you a Relevant Star.

–Tom Silvestri

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