Business information written specifically for newspaper advertising departments

No matter which industry you’re in, one thing seems to be true for all professionals: Offices are littered with a variety of personalities, and some of them can act as a deterrent to your productivity and success. From insufferable know-it-alls to the office gossip, these characters can distract you and even decrease your personal satisfaction at your job. Nevertheless, getting along with coworkers is a fundamental part of professional life, and it’s a key part of a successful career. While we don’t advocate anyone putting up with a job he is deeply unhappy with, these personalities are a reality in almost all workplaces. Therefore, it’s necessary to learn how to cope with these personalities, which range from just plain odd to detrimental to your performance. 

As we prepare to head to sunny Palm Springs, Calif., for the 2013 WCAA Conference, we thought it only appropriate to address the networking potential of conferences. If navigated correctly, you could meet potential colleagues, make valuable contacts and, yes, even land some new clients! We have some tips to make the most out of conferences:

With the school year underway and autumn approaching, you and your advertisers might be deciding whether or not you will hire seasonal interns for the office. We already know that internships are a cost-effective solution to filling out your staff and consequently easing the workload of your team of full-time employees. However, sometimes training and educating an intern on top of your existing work can seem daunting and more time-consuming than it’s worth. Despite those fears, we’re here to tell you that the pros out-weigh the cons when it comes to internships.

Achieving your bottom-line wouldn’t be possible without the hard work and dedication of your sales reps, right? Therefore, the logical conclusion is to create an office environment that cultivates the work ethic you need to maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty and meet your department’s goals. In Forbes contributor Judy Martin’s article, “Challenge 2013: Linking Employee Wellness, Morale and the Bottom-Line,” she reflected on how employee health — physical, mental and financial  — plays a key role in their work satisfaction. According to Martin, the ROI on employee wellness programs should not be overlooked.

In the latest issue of AtF’s “Off the Cuff,” we sat down and discussed company culture and what it takes to build the culture you want. With that still in the backs of our minds, we’re adding Dr. David Vik’s new book, “The Culture Secret: How to Empower People and Companies No Matter What You Sell,” to our summer reading list. Vik is the founder and CEO of The Culture King, a company that helped Zappos.com create its now nationally recognized company culture that has created both loyal and satisfied customers and employees. In the book, Vik offers five steps for creating the company culture you want.

 

Branding is an integral part of any business, be it your own ad department’s services to the community or your clients’ companies. It is a complex concept with many facets that go beyond a logo and a slogan. After all, these days, the ideas behind brands extend from advertising all the way to social media profiles and customer service. Branding can go terribly wrong if you don’t dedicate the time and research it requires. For example, Netflix’s attempt to break its services into multiple sites and call its DVD rental service Quikster — that was a branding disaster and customers fired back. It takes time to figure out, but in a column for Inc.com, John Parham, the President of Branding at Parham Santana, discussed a couple of the foundational rules to live by when it comes to branding.

Last week, the CEO of Yahoo!, Marissa Meyer, started requiring that all Yahoo! Employees that had been telecommuting, now work from the office. While many arguments have arisen about the new policy, some supportive of Meyer’s decision, others are condemning her as a hypocrite. The big question however, is how will this decision affect Yahoo!’s success, and if similar policies, if implemented in your departments are wise. 

 

No matter your career, sales reps and ad managers included, you are bound to find yourself at social gatherings with colleagues and fellow professionals. This could be happy hour drinks after a long day at work or perhaps a holiday party; whatever it is, there are ways to navigate these professional social outings that will help you solidify yourself as a leader within the company, while displaying your friendly, out-of-the-office side. The key is to interact with everyone, even if they are outside of your normal work circle, in order to establish your presence within the company. However, you also want to avoid offending your co-workers by acting like you’re on the clock 24/7, hypercompetitive and incapable of distinguishing between the work and non-work events. In the Inc. article, “How Leaders Make the Most of Social Gatherings,” the author, Minda Zetlin, interviewed the Chief Learning Officer at Dale Carnegie Training, Michael Crom, on how to get the best of both worlds during professional social events. He affirmed that you can be a leader while not losing the casual, work-free environment. Keep reading for our assessment of his advice and take it with you to your next work party!

The prevailing opinion of the entrepreneurial world is that you have to create something big to make a difference. Like Mark Zuckerburg or Steve Jobs, you must change the landscape of human and technological interaction for the foreseeable future to make it big. Although the prospect of making billions of dollars or being able to rock a black turtle neck is endlessly exciting, sometimes all it takes is small acts of innovation to be successful. 

We all feel as though there are not enough hours in the day. All it takes is one big, stressful project to make an eight-hour workday feel like 10 minutes. Part of the reason for this is, however, that other things tend to pull our focus away from where it should be. There are some simple solutions to this problem, as outlined in a Forbes.com article by Susan Adams, called “How to Overcome Workplace Distraction.” 

In mid-November of this year, a brand with a distinguished reputation as a staple of American life announced its intentions to liquidate the company after filing for bankruptcy not quite a year earlier. This company is Hostess, the maker of products that have become more than dessert treats — they have become fond memories of Americans for nearly 80 years. Although the company’s many products, including Wonder Bread and Twinkies, have been taken-for-granted regulars on the shelves of grocery stores all across the country, that alone was not enough to keep the company going. Now that Hostess has been relegated to become another bit of nostalgia for American consumers, it’s time to see what business lessons we can take from its shortcomings. Huffington Post’s Joseph F. Coughlin investigated just that in his article, “Hostess Twinkies and Three Lessons About Brand and Innovation.” 

We all know that data is very important to understanding your market and creating your business plan for the year. We use data to track our local demographics, spending habits and also cultural trends that permeate individual decisions. However, it’s important to understand the individual as well. Based on an article found on Forbes.com, many companies are creating archetypal characters based on big data that still have individual and irrational characteristics. By doing so, the author, Jonathon Salem Baskin, believes that companies can uncover more nuanced behaviors and individual mannerisms that allow companies to get a clearer picture of their customers. 

On day two of the 2012 WCAA conference in Las Vegas, The McClatchy Company’s Sales Training and Development Manager, Vince Coultis, gave an engaging presentation on hiring and training in this ever-changing world. He opened by inviting six volunteers to come to the front of the room and untangle a rope. As they struggled, and ultimately failed, Coultis was making a point. When a paper has a difficult problem, they often bring trainers in to solve it, or teach the reps the proper response. However, these trainers often come in and simply present a solution but fail to actually teach it. With this, he emphasized the importance of a good trainer and training program.

As a manager, you undoubtedly strive for the best — the best in your products and services, your employees and in your own performance. While you may not be the CEO of the newspaper or the company, you are the head honcho of your department. With that in mind, there are some lessons to be learned from both the great and the not-so-great CEOs of the world. When a CEO for a major corporation takes a misstep or, even worse, they act unethically, their dirty laundry gets aired for the world to see. However, all is not lost. There are admirable CEOs out there that can teach you a thing or two — in this case, five things — about being a great leader for your department. In fact, Melody Stevens did a case study for The Huffington Post to prove this point. She went on a mission to find 10 CEOs who were smart business owners while maintaining an untarnished reputation and work ethic. After all was said and done, Stevens found that these 10 CEOs shared five qualities in common. We have them here for you to think upon and then potentially reshape your management approach.

When hiring new employees, it can be hard to find someone who fits the bill perfectly. Often, perfect candidates don’t come cheap, and you may have to compromise on your employee skill “wish-list.” Because of this dilemma, we will be examining some of the pros and cons of hiring the imperfect, albeit well-suited, candidate to help you prioritize the skills and qualities that will be best for your office. 

We are in a day and age when communication is constant and doesn’t stop for anyone or anything. This continual flow of information has pros, but also cons. On the one hand, things like on-the-go email and social media allow us to respond to problems when they require a reaction right then and there. On the other hand, now that news travels faster, many professionals, especially managers and execs, feel as though everything is in dire need of an immediate response. However, attempting to keep up with the minute-by-minute flow of information can put a great deal of pressure on your staff and cause larger problems in the long run. As Steve Tobak wrote in his CBS Money Watch article, “Don’t Micromanage Marketing and Sales,” running a business based on up-to-the-minute developments can significantly injure a company’s ability to organize and manage workflow, ultimately hurting revenue and sales, even if that’s what you were trying to avoid in the first place. He offered some key ways managers hurt the office when trying to troubleshoot daily issues:

There is a notion that in relationships, you are supposed to model your behavior toward your partner based on the way he or she understands love. There are several different love “languages” ranging from positive reinforcement to physical contact. Although this philosophy applies to romantic relationships, it can also be applied to work relationships. In work situations, you may, however, want to lay off the physical contact.

We are in full election mode: the debates are in full swing and the voting centers will be open very soon. Although you, as an individual, have your own political opinions, you expect that your work environment is likely neutral and that your newspaper have avoided endorsing a candidate. A non-endorsement is what we, at Above the Fold, advocate since endorsing a political candidate is likely to alienate voters in your locale from reading your paper. However, we found a chart on editorandpublisher.com that shows a good percentages of newspapers nation-wide are, in fact, endorsing a presidential candidate. 

It seems more often than not, no meeting is complete without food. Whether it is because we are all so busy and the two-birds-one-stone approach allows us to eat and work, or because meetings are always more fun when you can score a free muffin, food is essential. We found an article on Inc.com that highlights some of the ways to have a successful business lunch so that your attempts to multitask or feed your employees and guests run smoothly. This article, called “7 Rules of a Successful Business Lunch” by Matthew Swyers, details the (you guessed it!) seven best ways to ensure productivity while your members are filling their stomachs.

On Tuesday at the 2012 WCAA Conference, Jamie Naughton, the Speaker of the House at Zappos.com, discussed the importance of building a company brand that makes employees proud members of a team, rather than cogs in a machine. Zappos.com is an online shoe and apparel store founded in 1999 based in Henderson, Nev., not far from this year’s conference in Las Vegas. Amazon.com acquired the site in July 2009 for approximately $1.2 billion. Zappos.com has earned a reputation based on dedicated customer service and a unique company culture. In her presentation, “Managing the Change: Building a Brand That Matters,” Naughton explored how these two facets of customer service and company culture are not mutually exclusive, and that in reality, one is necessary for the other to exist. She broke down her presentation into the various aspects of the company’s vision that have helped Zappos.com achieve a defined and recognizable brand as well as customer and employee happiness.

As day one of the 2012 WCAA Conference in Las Vegas comes to a close, attendees have already received lots of great ideas and information that will certainly be valuable to take back to the office. Current President Bill Cummings opened the first day of the conference with his keynote speech, “Leading Through Change: Leadership, Product Mix, Promotion, Pricing and Salespersons.” As we all know, the newspaper industry is changing, and Cummings’ speech emphasized that it’s time to make a commitment to adapting with it. 

In the spirit of our active lifestyle demographic, we want to focus on the importance of not only physical health, but mental health as well. Since most U.S. workers spend at least 40 hours at work every week, both physical and mental health play a large role in office life and well-being. Therefore, it’s crucial that, as manager, you stay vigilant in regards to bad attitudes and daily work frustrations within the office. What may seem like a small office conflict or one bad day could potentially reach a boiling point, and consequently have a negative impact on the mental health of you and your employees. Make sure you build an office environment that supports your staff and aids their happiness, and if problems do arise — and they are bound to — make sure you offer constructive outlets for employees to vent frustrations and resolve issues. If you ignore building negativity in your department, it will directly contribute to the dissatisfaction of your employees, and subsequently, their work performances. The implication of this is that office negativity impacts the work being done in your ad department and is actually preventing it from reaching its potential. Simply put, unhappy employees likely means you have some unhappy clients, and as a manager, you know that cannot stand. 

You may read them and think that they are a bit extreme, and that you would never say something so brash and blatant. While that may be true, it’s important to keep in mind that Alain’s four statements are really representative of attitudes you might be bringing to the office. You might not be saying these sentences verbatim, but you may be implying their meaning in other things you say or do. So, that brings us back to rule number one: Always think before you speak (and act, for that matter). Is what you’re saying or doing giving off the meaning of the below statements?

The articles we have brought you about social media and youthful hires may have sounded like we were giving you conflicting evidence. Although I recommend using a committed employee for your social media strategy instead of an intern, I also suggest that searching for youth is a possible way to get fresh ideas. I stand by both sets of advice, however, it was not until I came across an article from Inc.com  that gave explicit advice not to hire a 23 year old, did I realize that my advice might have been somewhat confusing. This article outlined a set of stereotypes about today’s youth that are both non-factual and could be possibly discriminatory.