“Just tell me what you want me to do.”

In the 1986 film, Heartbreak Ridge, Clint Eastwood played Marine Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway. Highway is a battle hardened veteran who is assigned to mold a group of rookie Marines into an elite fighting unit. Each morning Eastwood leads his men on a run and instructs them that they are all to wear the same tee-shirt as he wears. The challenge for his men is that he never tells them what shirt he will be wearing. In the film, this is played for comic relief and his men have to work together to try to find out what the “Gunny” will be wearing. 

While amusing in the film, this practice is all too common in the business world. I know a manager of a digital sales team who is very personable and quite intelligent. She is technically proficient, but a poor communicator. She does not clearly describe her expectations to her team or properly explain what she wants them to accomplish. This has resulted in poor sales, low team morale and a very high employee turnover rate. She gives her employees vague instructions and is impatient with them when they ask questions for clarification. Her people try to do their best, try to do what they believe she wanted done and usually are rewarded for their initiative with a chewing out from their boss. In very short order, this manager’s reps learn that the best way to avoid her wrath is to do as little as possible while looking for another job. Her company lost a number of promising employees and untold revenue from her lack of clarity. 

Unless they intend to hire a team of psychics and mind readers fully equipped with Ouija boards and crystal balls, leaders need to learn how to communicate their wishes to their teams and how to give clear instructions. One of the most important rules of management I have ever learned is, “Nothing is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood!” Here is an example of this, former FBI director J. Edgar Hoover had a dictatorial management style. His staff feared him so much that they seldom dared to ask him any questions. On one occasion, while reviewing a document, Hoover made the following notation on it, “Good report, but watch the borders.” His assistant instantly dispatched hundreds of FBI agents to the Canadian and Mexican borders, where they remained until it was discovered that J. Edgar was referring to the typed margins on the document which he felt were too wide. Explaining yourself clearly, confirming that your subordinates fully understand what you want, may take a few minutes, but in the long run this practice greatly enhances the effectiveness of any organization. 

This commitment to clear communication should begin before an employee even joins the team. When interviewing candidates for employment, a manager should avoid the temptation to “sell the job.” Sometimes an applicant seems like such a perfect fit for an open position, that the hiring manager will do whatever is necessary to get them to accept the job. They sometimes paint an inaccurate picture of the challenges and responsibilities of the position. This is seldom a good practice. It generally gets the relationship with a new employee off on a poor footing. I find it is better to be bluntly honest about both the opportunities and challenges of the position you are trying to fill. Whenever possible, I like to have the candidate meet my sales team and do a ride along to get a clear picture of what the job entails. 

When I did make a new hire or when I took over a new sales team, I made a point of clearly explaining my expectations to those reporting to me. I did this in the form of a written set of “Expectations.” This was a numbered list of what I expected from anyone on my team. This was separate from their revenue goals. The items on the list described behaviors that I expected from my people. This included items like punctuality, number of weekly calls, reports required etc. I also included things like, “I expect my reps to let me know if any account is in jeopardy as soon as they become aware of the situation so that we can work together to remedy it.” This kept me in the loop and made reps feel more comfortable coming to me with problems. I also set an expectation that my reps would not demonstrate a negative attitude in the office. I was careful not to mandate that “reps maintain a positive attitude,” which was unenforceable, I simply asked that they share these thoughts with me rather than bringing down the team. I had my reps each sign a copy of the “Expectations,” and I posted these prominently in the sales room. I updated this document whenever the situation dictated and reviewed it with my team at least once a quarter. 

Since I believe leadership is a two-way street, along with the “Expectations” I gave my team a copy of my “Commitments” to them. This was a numbered list of what they could expect (at a minimum) from me. This list included a dozen points starting with, “I will treat every member of this team with respect as professional business people and as human beings.” I went on to items like, “I will help you resolve any customer service problem…so you will never need to face problems alone,” and “I will listen to your concerns, remedy them when I can, and if appropriate, communicate them to upper management.” My list concluded, “I will make this job fun,” which I strongly believe is a prerequisite for long-term success. I had these “Commitments” blown up to poster size and posted a copy above my desk and in the sales room. I instructed my team to point to this signed document, whenever I failed to live up to the items on the list. These two documents clearly define my responsibilities as well as those of my team. I believe they fostered a positive work environment where everyone understood where they stood and what they were to do. 

In our business, if an instruction is misunderstood, we may lose a sale or, worst case scenario, an account. In the military, lives or a battle, may be lost if an order is not followed precisely. This is why over the centuries the military has developed a simple yet effective protocol for delivering commands. Though the stakes in the publishing world are not as high as they are on the battlefield, this mode of communication provides a good model to follow. 

An officer giving a command will describe exactly what they want the person to do and give them a timeline for accomplishing the assigned task. “I need you to take a position on this particular hill and be dug in with your men by 08 hundred hours. You are then to observe the valley below and report back on any enemy activity you see until relieved.” They will then ask their subordinate if they have any questions. If they do, the officer will answer their queries until both the commander and the subordinate are clear on what needs to be done. The officer will then ask, “Understood?” The subordinate will then say, “Yes Sir, I am to take my men to the top of the hill, dig in and observe the valley below looking for enemy activity there until relieved. If any activity is observed, we will report it to you immediately.” If the command is fully understood, they will salute and part. In just a few minutes the officer communicated what he wanted done, when he wanted it done SM Link & Learn is brought to you every month as part of PaperChain’s® mission to provide educational material to the free paper publishers. If you have an issue you would like to see covered please email janderson@wisad.com, put “Link & Learn” in subject line. Be sure to check out www.paperchain.org for past issues, electronic ready promotional ads and much more to help you remain competitive. and why he wanted it done. He also made sure his subordinate had no unanswered questions and had him repeat the order to confirm that he fully understood his instructions. 

Following this practice, command, asking for questions, and having the person repeat back the order not only makes sure there is no misunderstandings, but also drives a stake into the heart of the, “I didn’t understand what you wanted” excuse for not doing something. Because the person giving the order fully accepts responsibility for communicating what they want accomplished, responsibility for getting the job done is placed fully on the shoulders of the subordinate. They may fail to accomplish what they’ve been assigned to do, but they cannot honestly say, “They didn’t understand that they were supposed to do it.” 

A good definition of a team, or of a business is, “working together toward a common goal.” To do this some people are appointed to leadership roles, ideally because they have the talent and the experience to know how to best achieve the group’s objectives. Their effectiveness is increased by allowing them to use this expertise to direct their team to accomplish more than they ever could on their own. If they are unable to communicate their expertise to those reporting to them, then their effectiveness is negated by their inability to share it with their team. This is why the ability to clearly communicate what you expect of people is the most critical skill in a manager’s toolbox. Your people may have great people skills, they may know your products inside and out, they may be great sales people, but it is unlikely that they are much good at mind reading. When you are “the boss,” your job is not only to tell people what to do…it’s also your job to be sure they understand what you want them to do!

This article was written by Jim Busch.

Link & Learn is brought to you every month as part of PaperChain’s® mission to provide educational material to the free paper publishers. If you have an issue you would like to see covered please email janderson@wisad.com, put “Link & Learn” in subject line. Be sure to check out www.paperchain.org for past issues, electronic ready promotional ads and much more to help you remain competitive.

Free paper industry stronger than ever

by Tim Bingaman
President & CEO Circulation Verification Council

When I was asked to give a “state of the industry” presentation to the IFPA conference, I was a little apprehensive how to address this topic coming off the announcement of nine million circulation just lost in California. As we have seen with the recent announcement of startups in the wake of the closure, the loss of circulation had far more to do with negative money manager influence than problems with the publications themselves. The fact is, the free community paper industry is stronger than ever. 

Earlier this year I attended a convention and heard Allen Kupertz from kpartners give a speech on technology. I immediately thought of the free paper industry when he presented this quote: “The Mayans lost to the Aztecs, the Romans lost to the Barbarians, and the French lost to the Vietnamese. In each case the losers had superior technology, but the victors had more troops.” In the case of the free paper industry, your “troops” are your readers or audience. In the last decade, we have all read the self-written obituaries highlighting circulation declines within certain segments of print. Unfortunately, many have taken that to mean that all of print is in decline when in reality, many segments of print, including the free paper industry, are reaching a larger audience than ever before. In addition to stable circulation and readership numbers, some of the free paper industry has expanded their audience with websites, digital editions, social media, mobile & text media, apps, e-newsletters, and video and podcast audiences.
During the same presentation by Allen Kupertz, another item that applied to the free paper industry was a Douglas Adams quote: “Everything that’s already in the world when you’re born is just normal. Anything that gets invented between then and before you turn 30 is incredibly exciting and creative and with any luck, you can make a career out of it. Anything that gets invented after you’re 30 is against the natural order of things and the beginning of the end of civilization as we know it until it’s been around for about 10 years, when it gradually turns out to be alright really.” You have all seen the challenge of new media in your markets. Websites, text & mobile, and social media have all been a part of our lives for over a decade now, yet your industry continues to thrive. Your “troops”, or your audience, must continue to expand in order to continue to be relevant in the years ahead. The message of today is embrace them all. Make sure you are reporting your website, digital edition, social media, mobile & text media, apps, e-newsletters, and video and podcast audiences to CVC to show media buyers your true reach within your communities. New CVC survey technology allows you to report unduplicated audience numbers that in most markets show remarkable increases. Plus one in audience, whether that individual comes in the form of a print reader or from new technology, needs to be tracked and reported to advertisers.
When Brian Gay from MFCP approached CVC in 1999 about performing the first comprehensive circulation audits for the free paper industry, we began tracking key data points that to this day show an industry with solid delivery systems, readership, and purchase influence. Receivership scoring is the measure of the publications’ delivery system. In 1999 the average receivership score was 97.1%. That score is virtually unchanged today, with the national average receivership score being 96.6%. As a free paper, one of the most important measurements is what percentage of the papers distributed are read. Readership scoring is another category that has had remarkable stability. In 1999 the average readership score was 77.1%. That score today is 76.9%. The third, and arguably most important, score is the purchase influence a publication has over an audience. Purchase scoring in 1999 was 74.4% and has increased to 76.9% today, showing that more of your readers are relying on local publications than ever before when making purchase decisions for their households.
As many of you know, phone studies were the staple of research in the past. That is changing and has created a new mix of multi-source studies that allow publishers to measure not only their print audience, but all of their reach across multimedia platforms. I encourage you to participate in these new survey methodologies. Online studies, coupled with traditional phone surveys, allow CVC to gather more information about your audience than ever before. Publishers can have up to two studies performed each year, and each publication can add two questions of their choice at no additional charge. You can view the online study template at https://www.research.net/r/2015CVC.

How Did Your Publication Celebrate Free Community Paper Month?

PaperChain is Sharing $500 in Prizes for Publisher Feedback!

We are seeking publisher feedback regarding the recently completed Free Paper Month celebration during July 2015. Members of the internal marketing committee of PaperChain spent a considerable amount of time in an attempt to make the month-long celebration of Free Community Papers a valuable marketing opportunity.

In order to determine our effectiveness, and in an attempt to constantly improve the celebration, we have developed a short (7 question) survey that we would ask you to take. Your input, whether you participated in Free Paper Month OR NOT, will help us to strengthen Free Paper Month in the future.

The survey will take you LESS than 5 minutes, and we will be conducting a random drawing from all of the responses to give away $500 in cash prizes. There will be (1) $200 winner, (2) $100 winners and (2) $50 winners. If you would like to be in the drawing simply provide your contact information found at the end of the survey. If you prefer to remain anonymous that is fine, just leave the contact information blank and we will leave you out of the drawing.

You opinions are most important to us, thank you in advance for helping us to improve our annual Free Paper Month celebration.

To take the survey click on this link:


July is Free Community Paper Month

By: Ed Coats, event chairperson
All too often these days we hear “print is dead.” In reality, however, print is far from perishing. Nowhere is this more evident than in the free community paper industry.

In our busy everyday world, we sometimes forget to boast about how important and relevant our community papers are. They are significant not only in aiding advertisers to share their message with potential customers but also in delivering local community news of interest to readers in homes across the country.

Paper Chain is the common link between all free community papers across the country. For that reason, we feel it is the responsibility of Paper Chain to be the leader in expanding awareness of the free community paper industry and letting people know print is not dead but very much alive and well.

This July we again celebrate Free Community Paper Month. During this time, we ask that all the state, regional and local free community paper organizations get together and celebrate. 

To do this, Paper Chain will be providing materials to help you promote this event.
Here is the agenda for the 2015 celebration roll out:
1. Shown below is the Free Community Paper Month Logo. Please use this logo often on your masthead, folios, promotional ads, articles and as fillers throughout your paper leading up to and during the month of July. For original artwork and PDF’s visit http://paperchain.org/
2. Also shown is a sample ad from the 2014 Free Community Paper Month celebration.  They will also be available on the website noted above on or about the first of June and will also be distributed by your state, regional and national associations.
3. Publishers are asked to not alter the logo, but to use it often.  We encourage you to localize the ad and draw your reader’s attention to the important role your paper and staff play in this industry and how this industry stimulates the local and national economy.
4. We are all so very busy these days but we also encourage you to brainstorm with your staff and find ways to use the month of July to highlight your organization’s accomplishments and the many ways your publications help drive and support the local economy.
5. The 2015 celebration is a national event but you can provide the local flavor. Ask your town fathers, city council and county government to consider taking action on a local proclamation formally recognizing Free Community Paper Month. Suggested proclamations can also be found athttp://paperchain.org/freepapermonth.html.

Your paper has made a great investment in your community and this industry. Only you and your staff can help us bring that story to your readers in this consolidated industry-wide effort. Please consider active participation in the July 2015 Free Community Paper Month. Visit us on Facebook and let us know your plans for Free Community Paper Month.  Thank you in advance for all you do to enhance the industry with every issue you publish and your support with this project.

PaperChain 2014 Media Buyer Survey Brings Smiles to Free Paper Publishers

PaperChain – the association-driven marke ing effort for the free paper industry – has recently released results of a survey aimed at measuring free paper appeal to major media buyers. The results are very promising.

Accompanying this article is a summary report of the survey along with some commentary from Tim Bingaman of Circulation Verification Council. Tim and CVC have long worked hard to sell major ad buyers on the strengths and advantages of utilizing free papers; his comments on the survey and the comparisons provided to the 2008 poll are especially insightful and based on years of working closely with publishers and advertisers.

From Tim:
“With 90% now saying they have experience placing ads in free papers it looks like your FPI (ed.- free paper industry) may have turned the corner on general acceptance. It’s pretty rare that we hear the, “my client prefers to buy paid publications” statement anymore. When reviewing some old data I think it’s interesting to note that between 2002 (the first study) and 2008 (the second study) the score remained flat at 65%. It appears that attitudes have been changed recently as the score has increased 25 percentage points in that time. It correlates well with what we have heard from the media panels at the association meetings and with the increased media searches we see on the free papers.”

“It appears that there were a few more major buyers in this survey as evidenced by an 8% jump in those that reported they made national buys in radio, TV and outdoor. There was a 20% jump in those that reported they purchase print nationally. Regional print buyers remained un- changed for media other than print. There was an increase of 13% more reporting they make regional print buys. There were big increases (about 19% weighted) in those that reported they purchase state & local media.”

“The 2014 study had far more active “media buyers” than previous surveys. Media directors remained pretty much unchanged at 26% vs. 21%, but active media buyers increased from 18% to 41%. Media coordinators remained unchanged at 8% while media planners saw a big jump at 12% to 30%. The 2014 study had more media buyers with longer tenure in the industry. Both 5-10 years and 10+ years increased while those reporting less than 5 years fell from 24% to 12%.”

“I do think there are some tremendous opportunities for free papers that share the same city (not necessarily market) to work together. A couple of well-trained reps working the majors for 5-10 publications in a market could have some impact.”

SMALL BUSINESS SATURDAY: Shop Small on November 29!

What will you be doing on November 29, 2014, the Saturday after Thanksgiving?

Participating in Small Business Saturday of course!  Heading into its fifth year, Small Business Saturday, which falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, is a day dedicated to local, independently-owned small businesses that create jobs, boost the economy and preserve neighborhoods across the country.

There are many organizations, national and local, that have done a great job organizing and getting the word out about the outsized contributions that small businesses make to our communities. One of those is the Small Business Saturday Coalition which PaperChain and several of our industry's associations have joined to help spread the word about Small Business Saturday. Visit http://smallbusinesssaturday.com for more information.

Almost universally, Americans say they support and value small businesses in their communities. How could you not? They provide products and services you can’t get elsewhere, customer service is generally more personal, and they contribute enormously to the fabric of our neighborhoods and cities.

As hometown publishers, we know the the value and unrivaled service of our merchants on Main Street. We're dedicated to promoting their success all year long! Last year, millions of Americans, shopped at independently-owned small businesses on Small Business Saturday. This year, we invite you to help make the day even bigger for small business. Here are ways your publication and your local businesses can get involved and help support Small Business Saturdayhttps://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/rally?linknav=us-open-shopsmall-subnav-rally

Shop Small on November 29, 2014:
By shopping small, you are showing your support for small businesses and creating goodwill within the communities where you work and live.  Make a day of it by shopping with friends and dining out at your favorite small restaurants.

Community papers and independent business owners should make the day your own:
Small businesses are known for having outstanding customer service and offering unique products.  Think about having special pages and promotions and lead neighboring small businesses to join forces to create a block party or holiday event.  Don’t forget to leverage Small Business Saturday marketing tools found here:  https://www.americanexpress.com/us/small-business/shop-small/marketing-materials-signup?linknav=us-amex-loy-open-shopsmall-sbo-login-sbostart

And check the interactive map here  http://shopsmallnow.americanexpress.com/?linknav=us-loy-open-shopsmall-subnavmap  to find your local businesses that are planning to participate.

Spread the word:
Sign up for email updates at www.shopsmall.com and make sure to ‘Like’ the Facebook page (www.facebook.com/shopsmall). Tell your family, friends and loyal customers about Small Business Saturday on your social networks. And of course, publish special sections for the big day.

PaperChain and our industry is excited to be part of the Small Business Saturday Coalition.  We encourage all of you to shop small on November 29, 2014 and help spread the word.  Let’s make Small Business Saturday, the biggest shopping day of them all - we’ll see you on Main Street!

Visit http://smallbusinesssaturday.com for more information.

SEO is important for your website……

Here is why, and how that relates to your SRDS Listing

You know that improved Search Engine Optimization will help your website rank higher on the search engines when someone is looking for something you offer. Everyone correctly wants to be on the first page of Google listings as an example. Being on later pages most of the time means people will never find you. Doing things to improve SEO creates “lift” in your position on search engines.

Well, that same concept works as well inside the SRDS database. When an agency is researching a market for an ad buy, they will often not go much deeper than the first few listings. You will be happy to know that as a member of PaperChain you get “lifted” in the listing to the top of those that did not purchase that position. That is a big advantage for your paper.

Both CVC and PaperChain invest in SRDS database promotions including this “Lift” for MFCP members.  This is a significant investment for CVC and PaperChain that would cost individual publishers $400 to $800 each month if purchased alone.

We occasionally hear of ad buys as a result of positioning in the SRDS database. Here are a couple of recent examples:

Fillmore County Journal, in Preston, MN received a big grand opening ad program from the nation’s largest beauty supply retailer because of their SRDS listing.  The Fillmore County Journal is listed fourth in the Rochester, MN DMA because of their elevated listing.  Without the PaperChain upgraded listing the buy probably would have gone to a daily newspaper listed above them.  The Fillmore County Journal would have been the tenth paper listed without the PaperChain upgrade.

Big Green Umbrella Media, Inc. in Des Moines, IA publishes 26 publications and received a significant double truck retail display ad series from a national retailer.  Their publications are listed third in the Des Moines DMA because of their elevated listing.  They would have been listed significantly lower in the list of 66 publications the media buyer had to choose from.

Please be aware and reminded that keeping your listing in SRDS up to date can make a big difference in  terms of your receiving insertion orders from ad agencies searching for media in your area. You can see your SRDS information and make updates by emailing June Levy at june.levy@kantarmedia.com.