A while back, members of TheMediaBriefing’s LinkedIn group engaged in an interesting discussion about why editors must become more engaged in marketing activities. While I completely agree with this position, there also are ways in which sales people can make life easier for their editorial team mates.
At a recent ethics workshop held earlier this month at the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE) National Conference, attendees addressed pressing concerns pertaining to the editorial/sales relationship. Afterwards, in my role as ASBPE ethics committee chairman, I pursued the topic further with seminar attendees.
Topping the discussion list: a fear that making the case to B2B publishers for support in upholding ethical standards may be pushing more editors into an employment danger zone. Here’s how one seminar participant made the case: “Something that’s warranted discussion is the ethics vs employment quandary: to what extent do you speak up about ethics while also not coming across as an employee who is trying to keep revenue away from the company?”
Several sources I interviewed affirmed that a business’s marketing side is less likely to be sympathetic to an ethics cause. “Publishers are under real pressure to deliver ad revenue,” noted one committee member. “If a publisher must make a choice between acceding to an ethics concern vs landing additional business, the path eventually chosen is hardly surprising.”
Quality is king
The best approach recommended for making an ethics case is to play the quality card. According to one group editorial director, ethics “should not be discussed in philosophical terms. As editors, we need to make the business case for ethics. In my opinion, ethics are so fundamentally interwoven with editorial quality that I wish disputes were framed in terms of ‘quality’ and we didn’t even refer to ‘ethics.’ Even the most short-sighted salesperson understands the importance of editorial quality and that the lack thereof can impair his/her sales efforts.”
This source also told me that he is considering a program that would see editors meeting quarterly or monthly with the sales team to pitch high-value content projects that could have revenue-building potential.
All well and good. But for a moment, let’s consider the other side of the coin: how salespeople can ease the pressures brought about via added editorial workload involving digital content. For example, please immediately kill or modify projects involving content generation (like e-newsletters) once it becomes clear such activities are non-productive. The practice of “channel mania” also should be revisited.
A tailored channel line-up obviously has merit . .. but it can become overdeveloped. Certain channels rarely generate noteworthy news; as a result, the pipelines in question must be filled with junk.
From a committee standpoint, my group needs to restate some portions of our ethics code pertaining to the editorial/sales relationship. Equally important, noted one committee member, a need exists “to help editors develop win-win scenarios, as we’re set up to do with our ethics advisory program.”
Finally, this comment from an ethics seminar panelist: “Editors are in a dramatically different position in terms of responding to demands to bend coverage rules. Today, if pursuing a B2B editorial career, you must decide: do you want to be a journalist or a marketing-oriented editor?”
For this discussion to go forward, your recommendations really count. Should you wish to reply privately rather than to the group, feel free to e-mail me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Howard Rauch is Chairman, ASBPE Ethics Committee, and President of Editorial Solutions, Inc.
This article was originally posted at our LinkedIn group