Last January, “we felt we weren’t communicating enough [as a staff],” recalled Mike Grebb, executive editor of Access Intelligence’s CableFAX. “So we had a retreat with all the editors and writers, marketing people, ad sales and subscriptions, and laid it all on the table.”
Grebb was speaking at a session at SIPA’s recent marketing conference in Las Vegas titled Your New Best Friend, the Editorial-Marketing Relationship. “One thing that came out is [that we should] have a daily meeting. When it came up, everyone groaned and rolled their eyes, but it was the best thing we’ve ever done.
“We keep it to 15-20 minutes,” Grebb (pictured here) continued. “When we started, it was just about social media, who’s posting what, etc. But it has evolved into a general planning meeting. Now every day I can check with marketing, how we are doing on that webinar, how many registrations do we have? Is there anything editorial can be doing? Can we do a Q&A with one of the speakers to help promote that?”
Ten or 15 years ago, the idea of editorial and marketing singing Kumbaya by the campfire would have felt quite far-fetched. But today, silos are mostly disappearing—the SIPA Annual Conference June 4-6 will focus on this in greater detail—and most departments in publishers big and small must work together to prosper. New products can’t be developed without IT; customer service has to know the products as well as those who created them. And so on.
It’s called economic reality. Advertisers are not beating doors down anymore; they’re opening them slightly and seeing what might fit their plan. For Grebb it means being open to doing a sponsored report or survey, listening to marketing advise him what subjects are popping on social media, writing descriptions of webinars and coming up with panel topics for conferences. “We’re more in the trenches; we’ll have an easier time writing that stuff.”
Of course, there still has to be some church/state-like lines, Grebb said. Integrity matters. You can’t sacrifice short-term gains for long-term credibility. “How I would put it? While the line is blurred, we haven’t sold our souls yet.” So you might see him agreeing to an advertiser’s request to do a special report on lifestyle programming. But he will approach it like editorial does for any story, talking to many competitors to present a balanced view. “[Marketing is] not asking to see it or making edits…As long as it’s my decision to do it…that’s the key.”
Grebb also knows that from the outside, the company is one entity—so employees needs to think holistically. If editorial doesn’t help marketing write a great email blast, it’s CableFAX that looks bad. Because of that, “everyone has to buy into the idea on the editorial side.” That means being clear to reporters about where their paychecks come from. In addition, he realizes that they “have to listen more than any time in the past about what people want us to cover,” he said.
Oh and about those daily meetings—Grebb said they have made people respect each other more and even become friends. A lot easier to help each other that way and harder to fly off the handle.
The marketing, advertising and editorial staff of CableFAX now collaborate on several initiatives:
- General engagement through marketing copy, email and session descriptions.
- Promotions for Webinars.
- Awards programs. “If we’re inducting a bunch of people into the Hall of Fame like we do each year, we can do Q&As with those guys or write an article about something they’re working on”—with a registration teaser at the end and a link to sign up, Grebb said.
- Sponsored surveys. They just started these. If a sponsor needs to find out something from the client base, CableFAX will work with them on questions and use the results to write an article.
- Social media. This “has really helped to bring us together,” said Grebb. Editorial has access to all branded accounts, one for each social media channel. Facebook and Twitter are the two biggest, while LinkedIn mostly helps them find speakers for events. But marketing also has access to these accounts for promotion purposes. “One reason we all have access to that is we want a mix, not all editorial and not all constant promotion,” Grebb said.
- New initiatives. They will soon be starting a Diversions page on the website where executives will be featured doing fun things like skiing and playing guitar or recommending their favorite restaurant. “This kind of thing really plays well on social media,” Grebb said.
- Conferences. A huge amount of coordination is required.
- Brand promotion.
- Tracking the competition. “Marketing will hear things and tell us,” Grebb said. Maybe someone’s doing something innovative that they can adapt.
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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 diversity, Newspaper in Education, marketing and leadership before joining SIPA in 2009 as managing editor. Follow Ronn on Twitter at @SIPAOnline