Best Advice (Last In A Series): Never Stop Learning

How long can you say “Happy New Year!”?

Some people give up after the first week.

Others share the best wish throughout January.

I practice the monthlong campaign.

Happy New Year! 

With February fast approaching, we have time to conclude our nine-part series reprising the best advice from 2020 presentations at virtual conferences organized by news media associations.

The Relevance Project was there.

In Part IX, we share the last batch of words of wisdom and the slides we captured via the trusty iPhone. It’s some of this and some of that. 

Read on. 


In October, Gordon Borrell reminded us in two brutal-facts slides that only the strong among local media will survive.

And this:

Any predictions for 2021?


In turbulent times, focus on what you can control. 

A good place to start is the sales plan for reps.

Especially new hires. 

How strong are the goals and do they follow a “management by objectives” approach? Study these suggested components from Laurie Kahn.

Related to an individual plan is the overall strategies to strengthen revenue teams. Here’s another good action list to ponder.

As I mentioned in a previous installment, Kahn, the CEO of Media Staffing Network, detailed the findings of a sales compensation study. Here are two additional slides that provide industry intelligence to help make smarter decisions on what newspapers should pay their top and average performers.

By all means, don’t demonize the achievement of “average” reps. In many ways, they’re doing what you ask them to do. Maybe it’s your goal-setting that needs revamping if their average performances aren’t getting your organization to where it needs to be.


Another appealing part of master trainer Charity Huff’s guidance about digital selling is how she puts herself in the shoes of the seller as well as the buyer.

Success means adjusting a sales approach to the buyers, the CEO of the digital-first agency January Spring says.

Take a look at these generational differences, starting with the group that might be the most skeptical about a newspaper’s audience or effectiveness.

Compare to this generation, which is smaller in number.

And then there’s those who have been at it for a long time. 

Remember: adjust.


Some day in the next year, events again will be a shiny revenue contributor.

One of the best performers in this space is The Texas Tribune, which often appears on conference agendas. I always try to tune in. 

Save this case for events when things get back to normal. Or, use the points if you are still tweaking a virtual approach to events. 

You can’t go wrong if your events showcase your journalism.

Think big on inviting “stars.”

That is a positive result of the emergence of widespread virtual conferences because travel and accommodations can be skipped, making it easier for speakers to participate.

In 2020, The Texas Tribune “pivoted entirely” to virtual events. 

See how many personalities you can recognize in this promotion of a major festival.

Several presentations in 2020 touted non-profit business models to protect quality journalism. A big reason is the continued decline in print advertising. Before jumping into a new structure, examine the Tribune’s revenue pieces.

Here’s a larger look. 

Still interested in that direction?

Last point: a newspaper hosting a virtual community forum on COVID-19 is a natural act. Let’s see more.


We saved this last section to wrap-up our nine-part series. It’s a crucial Relevant Point . 

Doris Truong’s thought-provoking advice on building a culture of inclusion and respect for diverse perspectives involved journalists and newsroom. But it also could apply to all  departments of a newspaper. 

Here, Truong of the Poynter Institute explains what is at stake.

And in the America’s Newspapers’ PIVOT 2020 presentation, she elaborates on the required behavior.

As well as what it also takes. 

One more: the sincere effort to think long-term as momentum is established. Ownership is vital to ensure progress. 

When in doubt: Focus on your people and their careers in clear and beneficial initiatives. Don’t leave it to random acts.  


That concludes the initial Relevant Points of 2021.

Thanks to all of the outstanding presenters for sharing their wisdom, encouragement and passion for our industry. 

The upshot: Never stop learning. Never stop advancing. Never stop being Relevant.   

Here’s to better days ahead.

–Tom Silvestri

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