Publishers Finding Success Connecting Readers and Editorial Staff

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A Digiday story on Friday had this as a headline: Publishers Dangle Access to Editorial Staffers in a Bid for Subscriptions. The strategy makes sense. Camilla Cho, New York Media's gm of e-commerce and the person who oversees one of their big events NYxNY, said that readers responded very positively—meaning paid to attend—for the opportunity of interacting with popular staffers.

But deciding whom to choose for this role is not always obvious. I worked with ABC's Michael Wilbon early on and could not have predicted his TV fame. "Some editors are game, and some are not. It takes work figuring out who's good, who can communicate clearly, who can gauge a room," Cho said

I recall Tish Drake, VP and group publisher, aerospace, for Access Intelligence, talking about a "shy, introverted" editor who surprised her by showing up on an event sales floor with a video camera more than ready to interview their audience.

Here are more examples from that article and from SIPA on connecting with your audience:

Look for speakers in your own backyard. Your editors and writers are most likely experts in the field and may have a good speaking style or can be coached, said Adam Goldstein, publisher of Business Management Daily. At this September's Radwaste Summit, a conference put on by Access Intelligence's ExchangeMonitor, a prominent speaker is Chris Schneidmiller, editor in chief of ExchangeMonitor Publications & Forums.

Give your audience special access. From the Digiday article: "New York magazine's membership program is focusing on exclusive events, which are often hosted or guided by editorial staffers like food critic Adam Platt. The Atlantic's membership program, The Masthead, offers weekly conference calls with reporters and editors. The Information—and Digiday—give subscribers access to private Slack channels where they can connect with editorial staffers."

Encourage your editorial staff to expand their horizons. "Editorial roles have had to evolve," Drake said. She puts a lot on her editors. They write news, dailies and e-letters, assist on video blogs and webinars. She also wants them knowing the big picture and understanding the business side. "As much as you can be transparent with the business in numbers, do it. They need to understand the challenges."

Look for new hires with presence. From Digiday: Jim Brady, the CEO of Spirited Media, said the reporters he hires at Spirited Media knows in-person events are valued. "We have the massive advantage of telling people upfront," Brady said. "It's different from telling someone who's been covering city hall for 20 years that he has to start hosting events."

Seek out new speakers, from your company and others. "We have a specific way of putting together our events, a branding way we do it," Anne Holland, co-founder of Anne Holland Ventures Inc., said. "We turn down people if they have [spoken] at our show [or] have been speaking in other places. Why would somebody come to my show if a speaker's been everywhere? We also work very hard to have women highlighted, and diversity."

Involve editorial. From Digiday: "It's important for the editorial side to collaborate," said Christina Shih, chief operations officer of the News Revenue Hub, an initiative that helps publishers set up reader-revenue programs. "...Benefits that connect your members with your core product, your editorial content, deepen the relationship you have with them and will increase their propensity to give again."

Provide value for attendees. "We do two smaller conferences with about 200 people," said Pat DiDomenico, editorial director, Business Management Daily. "Why come to us and not them? We focus on interaction with speakers. We stole an idea from SIPA roundtables, where attendees get to sit with lawyers. That type of consultation can pay for registration."

Up the value proposition at your events. Customers are going to want guaranteed networking experiences at events. Andrew Mullins, CEO, Knowledge & Networking Division, Informa, said that event experiences will have to go beyond speed dating for people to come back time after time. "People want to meet the right people in the right way in the right environment," he said. If you can guarantee that kind of engagement, you'll succeed.

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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…