Experts Offer Best Practices to Selling Sponsorship and Advertising Packages

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"Highlight people in your sponsorship packages," Ryan Dohrn, founder and CEO of Brain Swell Media, told a group at an excellent Pre-Conference Workshop last week on Selling Integrated Advertising and Sponsorship Packages.

He showed a special advertising section in D Magazine called Faces of Dallas. The photos are vivid and lead to well-written copy about Jason Lenox, The Man Who Redefined Rustic, or sisters Lauren Laughry and Adriane Crosland, The Gallery Girls.

"What are the categories of the industry you serve" that might be ripe for this type of package? Dohrn asked. And to the advertiser: "You do not get access to this alone. You have to be doing something else with the magazine because [this package] is too good."

"Just like on certain cars you can't get [deluxe] options," said Ed Coburn, CEO, Coburn Media, who moderated the workshop.

"Exactly," said Dohrn, who summarized that, "If you're not doing sponsored content, you'd better get on board or you will be left behind."

Here are eight more takeaways from this workshop:

1. Reach a new audience. Co-presenter Terrie Goldstein, publisher of Hudson Valley Parent magazine, said that she rarely had doctors advertising with her. So she created a brand new program called Favorite Docs, built a new logo, and sent promotions that went to every area doctor's office. It was a big success as readers sent in their nominations, and doctors started advertising to support those nominations. "We had a health care directory, you can do reviews, recommendations," Goldstein said. The website now gets 25,000 visits a month. She added sponsored editorial, allowed advertising doctors to use the logo on their sites, and made six months the minimum buy (90% of the doctors bought a year package). "You need to be there when they're making a decision," she said.

2. Start an advertiser advisory board. "Before you roll out a new product, you would take that product to the board," said Dohrn. "'Is this a product that you would pay for?' Advertisers will give you plenty of feedback. The publisher of the magazine is probably not best person to run that advisory meeting. She might get upset when advertisers shoot something down."

3. Create competitive reports. "When you go to advertisers or agencies with reports, you can say, 'Mr. Advertiser, let me show you what your competition is doing in the marketplace.'" Dohrn said. "I like my salespeople armed with competitive intelligence."

4. Keep your website customer-friendly. "People want information when they want," said Goldstein. "They need to know now, [particularly if] there's a change in a law or a suit taking place. If I can have the information in one concise place, not all over, then you're doing me a favor."

5. Create digital supplements and e-books, perhaps a collection of articles from archives. Serve it digital only – lay it out like an actual magazine. Use Facebook posts to promote. "We emailed it to our database and promoted it in the magazine," Dohrn said. "You want to follow a standard size because advertisers ask for prints. Make sure your offer is special. The shorter the e-book has been, the better the response."

6. Promote within your webinar, said Dohrn. "You can sell it as a sponsorship. It can be a coffee break in the middle if integrated well. Or you can promote an event or the next issue of a publication." Dohrn was also the first of many at the conference to talk about the success of Ask the Expert features.

7. Repackage. Make it an editorial goal that after you run a good article, you do something else with it 10 times, said Dohrn. "White paper, online ebook, webinar, guest blog, report, quiz, award entry, etc....

8. Create products for a changing marketplace, Goldstein advised. "Of the products I've already developed, what can I reuse in a practical way? They have cycles." She created a following of moms 27-45 "who trust me and my company as a resource." This allowed her to survey that group and find out what products they wanted. "This philosophy only works for businesses who consider my audience critical to the business growth," she said.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…