‘Once Digital Gets Its Hands on Things, It Never Lets Go’; Media Executives Talk Transformation

“I think there’s an incredible future path for us to do what we do,” Industry Dive CEO Sean Griffey said today in an excellent discussion on digital transformation. “There’s still a place for good journalism in the world. And a place for us to leverage our role as connectors and make a lot of money for it.”

Listening intently to that discussion yesterday took me back to a Zoom call I had in May with Krystle Kopacz, CEO of Revmade. “The biggest challenge is, ‘How do you lead your company through a massive transformation when your work hours are not what you’re used to, you can’t connect in the office, and you can’t separate professional and personal problems?’” she told me.

Kopacz said she had been up early—probably around 5 am given her schedule with a 9-month-old daughter—thinking about her SIPA keynote in June. “Publishers can provide information and research, but what do they need from me? How can I help them navigate this? I work with brand clients. And they’re calling me saying, ‘We’re not doing trade shows, so how do I find qualified buyers?'”

Her first question, she said, is, “Have you thought about working with a publisher?” But  “publishers are up against a lot in this new environment. What they need to do is to align their products better with marketing pain points. ‘How do I call up some of the clients’ pain points? How do I create a lead gen replacement package?’

“This is where your media sales team can play the biggest role, helping clients understand and being relevant to your target audience,” Kopacz continued. “They’re also wondering, ‘How do I navigate this?’ So there’s some advice-giving that needs to happen.”

From a business standpoint, as Griffey said, good things can come of this. The other SIPA 2020 keynote, Don Harkey, told the story of his 75 year-old mother-in-law teaching piano lessons on Skype now. “If you would have told me that at Christmas time, I would’ve said no way. But she’s doing it and liking it and said she will be offering it to her students in the future. It’s things like that that are fundamentally changing.”

What [Customer] Problems Are We Solving Day-to-Day?”

Harkey’s mother-in-law had figured out a way to solve her audience’s pain points. It’s kind of the same for some members. In the discussion yesterday, Elizabeth Green, CEO of Brief Media, said that their “transformation started in 2013 [when] we realized that if we wanted to connect with our audience, we needed to provide information they needed every day. We acquired a workflow product that’s now the fastest growing part of our business.”

Their foundation is still their database, she said, but “our media product gets us to the table. It has built this broader audience for us [so we can] go deeper [with the] workflow product. Some days I wake up and wish I was a big company, but then I’m glad we’re small,” Green added with a smile.

Green said they actually had their best year ever in 2020—their niche is the veterinary field—partly because they had thought about transformation well before the pandemic. “What problems are we solving day-to-day for our audience?” Green asked. “As an organization, we had to change our structure from a media organization to one that is product focused. That allowed us to get much greater cross-collaboration with our teams, because they’re now focused on product and not departments. We also are able to make decisions much faster.”

Industry Dive’s Griffey added that over the last 12 months, he has seen “upticks in brand advertising and other different [digital] components. People had relied on events to do these things. They used events to get executives on panels and as keynotes. And now we see [the resurgence of] brand. Will that go away when events come back? It’s kind of a [reminder] that once digital gets its hands on things, it never lets go. We got tailwinds because we didn’t have events. Marketers come to us looking to use digital in ways that wouldn’t be expected.”

“How does the lack of live events across the industry affect us?” Kopacz asked back on that May morning. “What does that do to lead generation efforts? And how are you refilling that pipeline? Publishers still have a key role to play between buyers and sellers. There are many ways you can mimic what live events do.”

For now, that journey continues.

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‘You Can’t Rely on Too Few Products’: SIPA 2020 Speakers Offer Crisis Path

“Two months ago, we asked, ‘Where do we go from here?'” said Caysey Welton, content director, Folio:, Access Intelligence. “The pandemic will have long-lasting impact. It will be important to have conversations with your audience. Those who have diverse portfolios, have managed cash well, have good digital DNA and are nimble and creative with product offerings will do well. You can’t rely on too few products. Legacy products will go on but we should probably lessen our dependence on them. Look at your data.”
One common theme during SIPA 2020 this week was the increased need for products. “Continue realigning your product portfolio with the client input that you get,” suggested Krystle Kopacz, CEO of Revmade. Because many publishers relied on events, the need for products and the revenue they can bring is crucial now. As Welton said, data could be the new buzzword.
Elizabeth Petersen of Simplify Compliance stressed the need for a diverse revenue stream. “We would like to get as much subscription revenue in now as we can. Try taking products that may be subscription in nature and bundle them to get a higher priced product.”
Here are more highlights from SIPA 2020. The two days of exceptional content are now available for purchase on demand here.
Experiment. “It’s important that the team is much more open to experimenting now,” said Diane Schwartz, CEO, Ragan Communications. “There should be a voracious appetite for trial and error, and being open to producing products that may not have a long life span. We put out a Crisis Communication plan back in March that’s been very popular. We’ll make that a subscription product. We’ve also gone to more daily subscriptions where we can repackage and monetize.”
Check your data. “[Data] value is in the eye of the beholder,” said Michael Marrale, CEO, M Science, in an informative Alternative Data 101 session with Meg Hargreaves, COO, Industry Dive. “You’ll find value in surprising places. Typically, we’ve partnered with companies that don’t fully realize the value of their data. They can be surprised” when told their data has value and content licensing potential. “Don’t think that size of the company is the main factor. It’s really about the data. You can have relatively small revenue but big data capabilities.”
Find hidden gems. “Look to see if there is someone in your organization who is being underutilized,” said Kopacz. “Maybe a younger person who is bored and wants to learn and do something new. Also look for sales people now on an independent basis. They may be good ones who are jobless and looking for something.”
Stand out. “Your [LinkedIn] brand has to be unique; you have to find the key differentiator that makes you different from your competitor,” said Steve Kearns, marketing leader, social media, LinkedIn. “That’s the foundation from where you start.” Michelle Peña, senior editor, Business Management Daily, urged people to “cultivate relationships” on LinkedIn. “When they comment on your post, take a moment to respond to them. It will show that you’re an energized member of the community.”
Be realistic. “Tailor your virtual event execution to the customer service and technological skills you have available, not what you wish you had,” said Matthew Cibellis, director of programming, live & virtual events, Education Week. He added that Zoom works best when content is linear and there are no concurrent sessions. Companies have been having success breaking out in small discussion groups.
Train and share. “We focus on training sales reps who aren’t used to selling [things like virtual events],” said Chris Ferrell, CEO of Endeavor Media. “We have 17 on the calendar so far, and we’re launching more to fill gaps in the market. Webinars are also up dramatically for us… We believe in sharing successes. You’ll hear enough about all the bad stuff.”
Seek clarity. “The offer is the distillation of your message,” said Jeson Jackson, audience development manager for Education Week. “Make sure you’re asking the customer to do what you want them to do… Listen to your customers. By listening we can [act accordingly] rather than assume. You want to uncover what your customers want, which may be less intuitive than you think. You want well informed customers making well informed decisions. Your company’s future is secured by innovation not persuasion. And clarity alone should be the only persuasion you need.”
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‘Echoes for the Long Term’: Day Two of SIPA 2020 Offers Ideas to Last

“People don’t want to be marketed to; they want to be communicated with.” As I look over my notes for the again-excellent SIPA 2020 Day 2 sessions, that quote from Jeson Jackson, audience development manager, Education Week, stands out. Because even though so much of what we are doing now is in response to the pandemic, there will be a carry over of successful ideas and methods.
And that will be one of them. If a theater I like simply asks me to buy a 2021 subscription, I might hesitate. But if they communicate with me and engage me in a conversation between four or five of their diverse actors and directors for next year, I’m probably in.
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Day 2 keynote speaker, Krystle Kopacz, CEO of Revmade, talked about “echoes for the long term” that she is hearing now. “Overall what I’m seeing is we’re heading to some type of reordering. How can we be more important to buyers so we’re not cut off? In my mind we should think like this all the time. We talk about products but not outcomes… We shy away from the end result.”

Again, just another day in (SIPA’s virtual) paradise produced a litany of strategies and ideas.And you can get them all on demand here. The 41st annual SIPAwards were also given out. See those winners here.
Kopacz gave five sales tips:
1. Executives should make it a priority to talk to 10 advertisers a month. It’s not about selling, it’s about listening
2. Start doing audience poll surveys at least two times a year. How hopeful are they, what are their pain points and budgets? It will keep you relevant.
3. Convene weekly sales and product team meetings. What are sales hearing? How should the product team respond? Do we need a new price point?
4. Continue realigning your product portfolio with the client input that you get. You’re not selling a webinar but a sales funnel.
5. Make sure your sales team has what they need to meet those pain points and make more sales. Get new products into sales team hands.
Education Week’s Jackson spoke more to the marketing bent. “The offer is the distillation of your message. Make sure you’re asking the customer to do what you want them to do,” he emphasized. How often have we read an email, agree with what it is saying and move on because it isn’t specific in what action we should take? Where’s the big red button?
Listen to your customers, Jackson urged. “By listening we can [act accordingly] rather than assume. You want to uncover what your customers want, which may be less intuitive than you think.” He said that attractiveness is amplified by relevance, importance and urgency.
“You want well informed customers making well informed decisions. Your company’s future is secured by innovation not persuasion. And clarity alone should be the only persuasion you need… Your unique benefit is how you transform your customers. What problems did you solve for them? Be specific. Value propositions need to establish your unique value.
“Take some time and make sure your value prop is still relevant to the moment,” Jackson said
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Later in the afternoon, Heather Farley, COO of Access Intelligence, amplified some of these themes, speaking about learning the pain points of your customers.
In the case of virtual events, she said to make sure that both your clients and your sales team are comfortable with the platform you use. “My biggest advice is to send the sales team to somebody else’s event on that platform where they can get comfortable [enough to sell it well]. Because if they’re not comfortable…”
Farley added that sales may also need to have conversations with one of your brand leaders or editors because as packages become more integrated and bundled—that was a common theme today—they may know best what a client needs.
“We’re also seeing a pushback on pricing,” she said. “There had been, at least back in March, a sense that virtual should be cheaper. But people are starting to appreciate the value of what we bring [virtually]. It still has the value of live, and [brings] the experience to connect buyers and sellers. The connections that you’re bringing aren’t all of a sudden cheaper. And the same amount of time that goes into [putting together] live events goes into virtual events. We have to make sure we don’t give deep discounts.”
Joining Farley, Tom Gale, CEO of Gale Media, spoke about a live Zoom call that they hosted where 500 people signed up. Remember how this article began? People want to be communicated with. “Engagement with community,” Gale said. “We’ve gotten intelligence for what our customers are looking for [from that].”
As I said yesterday, these are only snippets from two days of really sharp and exceptional content. I will report some more but even better, you can also get it all on demand here to review at any time.
Much thanks to BeaconLive and ePublishing for being sponsors for SIPA 2020!
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With the Right Touches, Virtual Events Can Be Very Sponsor-Friendly

You’ve converted one of your premier events to a virtual event. How do you keep your sponsors? Do you adjust their pricing? Change the time period? Give more guarantees?
The Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University had their Collaborative Journalism Summit set for Charlotte, N.C. on May 14–15. Then, of course, they had to go virtual. “We let our sponsors know that several of their packages would have to change since we weren’t hosting in person,” they wrote on NiemanLab. “Every confirmed sponsor stuck with us, even our North Carolina-based sponsors—a testament to their commitment to collaborative journalism and knowledge sharing. The new sponsorship package included showing on-screen sponsor slides and messaging during the conference, and sharing links in the chat.”
But in the end, they said that if they do another virtual conference, they would do some things differently. “[We would] completely recreate sponsor packages. We mostly focused on converting the in-person components of our sponsor packages into virtual components this year. Next time, we’ll focus on fundamentally reimagining what sponsorship looks like in a 100-percent-virtual setting.”
Other ideas:
Position your sponsors differently. An ASAE article last month said that Instead of refunding conference sponsorship fees or transferring this year’s sponsorship to next year, organizations can benefit by finding new ways to position sponsors as supporting your audience. For example, sponsors could provide information to help your audience/members with challenges identified in recent surveys, issues related to changes in the marketplace, or new pain points as a result of the coronavirus.
Continue to connect buyers and sellers. “Why does someone buy into an event?” SIPA 2020 June 2 keynote speaker Krystle Kopacz asked last week. “I’ve been working with a couple clients—why does someone spend a ton of money to host a booth? They want to have face-to-face conversations with possible clients. So how does the lack of live events across the industry affect us? What does that do to lead generation efforts? And how are you refilling that pipeline? Publishers still have a key role to play between buyers and sellers. There are many ways you can mimic what live events do.”
Forfeit some revenue now for goodwill. “…There are brands that’ve done a good job of sticking up their hand to say, ‘We understand you, we’re with you, and we’re not trying to sell you anything right now, we just want to engage,'” said Steve Stoute, founder and CEO of Translation in a Fast Company article. “I think that’s the work that’s resonated the most for me. Brands with good intentions. They’re selling something at a discount that you need. They’re speaking to you in a way that seems empathetic to what you’re going through.”
Rebrand the sponsorship for a longer period. Identify the various ways to provide your conference sponsors with “replacement value” throughout the year. This could include podcast mentions, dissemination of thought leadership content, webinars, social media campaigns, outreach to a specific demographic of your members, promotion of each company’s webinars or seminars, and so forth.
Give more gravitas to the virtual event. The Center for Cooperative Media said that they were so successful in their conversion to the virtual event that they will keep an in-place component for future conferences. “We were able to include so many more people this year by hosting in place that we’re now thinking about making a live, interactive virtual conference a permanent part of the Summit for as long as the Summit exists.” They actually made their tickets free, but registration increased so much that more sponsors signed on.
Keep everything as is because these virtual events may be the future. Companies are actually starting to take advantage of the way we’re doing things now. Margaret Johnson, a partner and chief creative officer at Goodby Silverstein + Partners, said that for a Panera commercial, “We’re getting drivers to shoot themselves with their phones on their delivery routes, texting us the takes, then we’re texting back notes and direction on how to do it again differently. It all seems so foreign at first, but you quickly adapt. I believe the people who haven’t really embraced this new world will be in big trouble.”
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‘Are You Refilling That Pipeline?’ Kopacz Is Here to Help Publishers.

There is something really good to these virtual conferences. I just watched the director of strategic initiatives for The Washington Post and he was great. (I will report on it here next week.) He even told a funny Jeff Bezos story.) It doesn’t work for everything. Theaters have tried to put some productions online and it’s tough.
Sitting at home, we can focus on speakers online—even with the occasional pets, kids and laundry disruption. SIPA 2020 June 1 motivational keynote Don Harkey told me that he likes the idea that he can mention an article and people can bring it up, or they can comment as he goes along, and he can play off that energy
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“The more that we can mimic the one-to-one conversations at these events, that’s going to be key,” SIPA 2020 June 2 keynote speaker Krystle Kopacz, CEO of Revmade, told me this week. In a way, watching a speaker on our computer is pretty much one-to-one. It really is just you and him or her. And you can ask questions—actually that’s easier online than in person.

Kopacz is a brilliant speaker, and I hope many of you will register to hear her. For six years prior to starting Revmade, she led Atlantic Media’s B2B sales enablement efforts, which have become known as best-in-business examples of how to achieve digital success.
Between running her company and caring with her husband for their 9-month-old daughter, Kopacz sees a tunnel at the end of this blight. In that tunnel—or let’s say pipeline—is the need to give your customers the lead generation they need.
“Why does someone buy into an event?” she asked. “I’ve been working with a couple clients—why does someone spend a ton of money to host a booth? They want to have face-to-face conversations with possible clients. So how does the lack of live events across the industry affect us? What does that do to lead generation efforts? And how are you refilling that pipeline? Publishers still have a key role to play between buyers and sellers. There are many ways you can mimic what live events do.”
Kopacz said she had been thinking about her upcoming SIPA presentation that early morning. “Publishers can provide information and research, but what do they need from me? How can I help them navigate this? I work with brand clients. And they’re calling me saying, ‘we’re not doing trade shows, so how do I find qualified buyers?’
“‘Have you thought about working with a publisher?’ I suggest. But publishers are up against a lot in this new environment. What publishers need to do is to align their products better with marketing pain points. ‘How do I call up some of the clients’ pain points? How do I create a lead gen replacement package?’
“This is where your media sales team can play the biggest role, helping clients understand and being relevant to your target audience,” Kopacz continued. “They’re also wondering, ‘How do I navigate this?’ So there’s some advice-giving that needs to happen.”
From a business standpoint, good things can come of this, but it will not be easy. Harkey told that story of his 75 year-old mother-in-law teaching piano lessons on Skype now. “If you would have told me that at Christmas time, I would’ve said no way. But she’s doing it and liking it and said she will be offering it to her students in the future. It’s things like that that are fundamentally changing.”
Kopacz agrees. “The biggest challenge is, how do you lead your company through a massive transformation when your work hours are not what you’re used to”—tell me about it!—”you can’t connect in the office, and you can’t separate professional and personal problems?”
If anyone can advise us on this, it will be Krystle Kopacz. Stay tuned. Register here.