Not an oxymoron: Journalists as sales superstars

Ebony Reed of the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism gave a rapid-fire presentation Friday at the

October 28, 2017 by Chris Krewson


Ebony Reed of the Reynolds Journalism Institute at the Missouri School of Journalism gave a rapid-fire presentation Friday at the LION Summit about “why, rather than being intimidated, journalists should feel uniquely suited to sell advertising.” She emphasized that she wasn’t advocating that journalists become sales only, but that they embrace their experience, knowledge and drive to not only get the story, but also get the sale.

She asked those in the audience to think of three businesses that haven’t yet advertised with their online news publications.

“Salespeople and newspeople should collaborate within their organizations to set up those three meetings before year-end to learn the companies’ marketing priorities for 2018,” Reed said. “Then educate those companies on what their site does, the audience it reaches, etc. Both departments should work together and go on those visits together. It will benefit everyone!”

In her LION presentation, she also referenced an article she wrote for Poynter: “Is your company short on start salespeople? Look to your newsroom.”

“Journalists are creative, learn fast, consume a lot of information, interact with a variety of people, keep good notes and understand to be good they must keep learning and growing,” she wrote.

Reed knows journalists so well because she used to be one. She kept advancing her career with great journalism gigs, but it was when she got to The Associated Press that she was tapped for sales to better utilize her strengths.

She embraced that role in a variety of ways, including even signing up for an online real estate class because she knew she would learn sales techniques. She also learned to write shorter emails when interacting with busy business professionals and to pay attention to business and technology forecasts.

Here are some of her points to help journalists gear up and double up as sales superstars and journalists:

• Learn to sell. Read about it. Take a class. Be a shadow on sales calls. Train.

• Learn the company’s products. We know our news product, but do we think through how what we write could help an advertiser? What’s in it for them? Think about it and tell them.  

• Learn key industry terms and trends. Salespeople speak a different language — CPMs and all of that.

• Get a sale mentor. Chances are they will be nicer than your first news director.

• Network. Go to a business group lunch, carve an hour for that stop at a business you’ve been avoiding, get in on meetups (or start your own).

• Know your strengths and weaknesses. Journalists know how to interview and write. They can learn how to cold call or keep a list of prospects and then work through that list.

• Evaluate your business image. Dress the part. Journalists are great at hauling a camera, computer, notebook, pencils, questions and research. Some even haul around a spare pair of boots or a raincoat to cover an accident in the rain, or a manhunt in the woods. What’s your business image? Probably not rainboots and a pencil behind your ear.

• Be fearless and be tenacious. You will fail. But getting a "no" doesn’t mean never.

Reach Ebony on Twitter @ebonyreed and by email.

Dawn Shelton is Publisher of the Luther Register.

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