Preparing people for 'transformation'

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The theme of American Business Media's Spring Meeting, "Transformation now," was on the minds of attendees not only during the official programming but also in question-and-answer interchanges and during breaks. One question often arose: How can management help people working in the b-to-b media today develop the skills and the will to transform themselves to fit tomorrow's requirements?

Tad Smith, CEO of Reed Business Information, suggested that not every employee needs to be able to work in print, in digital media and in events. "We want a mix of skills within a team that can execute," he said, likening b-to-b media to a sports team, where players have different areas of expertise individually but can work together for a common goal.

Ty Bobit, president-CEO of Bobit Business Media, said, "I believe the people we have can tackle a lot of the Web, but we're just going to need more people." He added that with the Internet, he thinks good content is more important than ever before. So this past spring, he brought all the company's editors together for off-site training dedicated to the Web.

"This was the first time we dedicated a day to this," Bobit said. "We brought Steve Ennen in from ABM to give a presentation, and we had roundtables so editors could share best practices. The editors came away feeling really important."

Bob Carrigan, president of IDG Communications, said his company has employed many tactics to help salespeople whose background is in print transfer their selling skills to multiple media.

"One key is that we've built huge account service organizations," he said. In print, the signing of a contract signals the end of the hard work for the salesperson, but in online media, "The work begins when you make the sale," Carrigan said. Therefore, it is critical to provide salespeople with service teams able to track metrics and consult with clients to optimize the advertising programs the salespeople have sold.

At IEEE Media, sales are handled by outside firms. Nonetheless, the electrical engineering organization is investing in training its existing reps to sell online media. James Vick, staff director and publisher at IEEE Media, explained that outside reps are no different than staff salespeople when it comes to their ability to sell online advertising. In either case, they need more training than ever before to keep up with constantly changing digital technology, he said. Vick is working with the Laredo Group, which specializes in interactive selling, to provide ongoing training for IEEE's rep force.

Alex DeBarrr, president-CEO of Naylor, said that people recently graduated from school "are all fired up about digital media. So what we've done is pair these enthusiasts with our senior people, who are experts in sales, editorial and so forth."

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