Making The Most Of Celebrations

January 2, 2013

Increase your paper’s profits promoting
community celebrations

By Peter Wagner | Creative House Print Media Consultants
Get Real! There’s a fantastic future for community newspapers that think outside the box and own their market. The days of selling only traditional run-of-paper advertising are over. Today’s smart publisher stays ahead of the competition with creative ideas: retail, tourism and sports promotions—sections that report on the community’s progress and historic moments; changing trends in government, education, business, agriculture and promoting community celebrations.
There are an ever-growing number of celebrations taking place in every community sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, local Kiwanis Club or the high school band boosters. These celebrations are produced to increase the sponsor’s visibility, create new and improved relationships and raise additional dollars.
But here is the good news. Every local celebration provides a fresh opportunity for exceptional income for the newspaper. No other medium can guarantee the subscriber-based local connection, customer loyalty or handy printed format available only in the community newspaper.
Community papers not partnering with local or nearby celebrations—perhaps publishing a program; a series of weekly pages promoting the event; a retail sales promotion for the same dates or special section covering the event—are missing a major sales opportunity.
But being part of any celebration requires connecting with the decision makers to explain how the paper’s involvement will increase awareness, attendance and a broader community support.
Sometimes the offer will be embraced with enthusiasm. Sometimes the sponsors will say they need to maintain total control. But like my Uncle Bill often said, “There is more than one way to skin a cat.”

Connecting with the celebration
There are at least three ways a newspaper can connect with a local celebration and create additional exceptional revenue.
The first and best way is to produce a Web-printed book or tabloid program in process color for the sponsor, using the sponsor’s materials and newspaper-prepared content, and retaining all the advertising profits for the publishing company.
Such a professionally produced program, distributed through the newspaper or in some situations just at the event, can increase public awareness, attendance and the sponsor’s credibility. In this ideal situation the newspaper would write, design and sell all of the advertising in the project.
The second approach is to produce an official program for the event with the approval of the sponsor and with a percentage of the advertising profits (and sometimes the cover price) going to the sponsoring group. Partnering in this way can often provide access to photos and editorial material otherwise unavailable to the general media. But it can also result in problems such as printing exceptional numbers of copies, sponsor control over who can be sold into the publication and a list of the businesses the organizer wants included free as participating co-sponsors.
The third and final way—and my personal preference—is to publish a newspaper salute to the event, independent of the sponsoring organization and using your own material. In such cases the newspaper retains all the profits. This works especially well when the event is already aligned with another media such as the radio or TV station or with some other publication.

Determining size, design,
content and distribution
Traditionally, special event and celebration salutes and programs are published in tabloid or book format. Part of the reason for this is that the smaller sizes are easier to carry and reference during the event. Another is they result in more finished pages, which make them look more official. A third is they are easier to fill out with available material.
But don’t overlook your broadsheet format. Traditional newspaper pages are more often read than are special sections. Subscribers often set special sections aside until later and never get back to them. At The N’West Iowa REVIEW we’ve also had luck spreading our support for a celebration over a number of issues, dedicating three or four pages, or a double-truck to the upcoming celebration beginning four to six weeks before it takes place.
Be creative in your graphic design. In this age of small shop, home-based designers, quality design is one way your newspaper can really stand out from many independently produced programs. Use standard textbook layout one time, a layout filled with newspaper archive photos another and a wild, off-the-wall approach like might be found in Wired magazine another. Let your creative team build a reputation for fresh, interesting and consistently evolving design in every new special project.
You can also be creative in your choice and presentation of content. If there is another source doing a traditional program, take yourself to a higher level with unexpected content presented in an unexpected design.
“Your town’s Summer Fest from A to Z,” for example. This easy-to-create section is built around the alphabet with each letter representing something unique about the celebration. “A is for Anderson, the family that founded the community. B is for Baker’s County Bridge, which brought the first railroad to the community.” And so on.
Other ideas include a special section featuring interviews with all the living past queens, chairpeople or annual winners. Or, perhaps a reader’s guide approach, featuring a detailed listing of every event during the celebration and what makes it unique. There are lots of ways to skin a cat—or in this case, make money from local or nearby celebrations.

Developing ownership of your share of the celebration
As the community newspaper located in or serving the nearby town where the celebration is located you’re expected to promote and report on the celebration. Therefore, I suggest, you have every right and obligation to make a profit doing just that. There are a number of ways you can take ownership of your annual share of the event.
The first, of course, is through traditional advertising revenue. That list might include promotional ads from the sponsor, large support ads from associated local businesses like the principle local financial institution and local suppliers. It should also include ads from state or national associations associated with the celebration such as the Dairy Association, Corn Growers Association, national union organizations and the various local, county and state government organizations connected to the event.
Add any and all local retailers, insurance and financial planning services, medical centers, automotive sales and service centers and other organizations that want to be considered “community minded.”
Complete the process with a page or two of $35 to $50 support listings for firms too small to justify a larger display position but are still interested in being part of the excitement.
There are some additional things a newspaper can do to attract quantity and quality advertising. One is to offer special pricing and favored ad positioning to buyers investing in half- and full-page ads.
Another is including two or more pages of valuable coupons at no charge to retail businesses, restaurants and bars advertising in the program.
A third, and I admit sometimes difficult to arrange, option is to promote that you are going to hand out the newspaper section to the crowds waiting along the parade route for the parade to start.
And don’t think the program can only be sold to firms desiring to advertise discount specials. It is a perfect opportunity for the unique business to include an image ad promoting its special values or services.

Special sections create
special revenue
Remember, all well-done special sections will result in revenue previously not harvested by your newspaper.
Take time to train your sales representatives to sell the extra readership, warmth of relationship and long lasting value of being in any special section—especially one promoting an important community celebration.
And never forget the importance of special sections to your newspaper. They increase reader interest and circulation. They offer an opportunity to open new doors and to experience immediate sales. And best of all, they force both management and the sales team to think outside the box to prospect and sell new advertising customers into the newspaper. © Peter Wagner 2013

Peter W. Wagner is a regular presenter at both association and group newspaper meetings. A firm believer in the value of printed advertising in local community newspapers, he will be sharing two of his new 2013 program—“Get Real: Building Circulation requires great content, good design and lots of subscriber contact” and “Get Real: the five steps to selling newspaper advertising” at the Kentucky Press Association convention Jan. 25.

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