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Mark Poss | Red Wing Publishing
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Christian Hendricks | The McClatchy Company
Kevin Kampman | Winston-Salem Journal
Terry Kukle | Metroland Media Group Ltd.
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AN OFFICIAL PUBLICATION OF
Susan Azzopardi was named by LMA as its 2014 Digital Sales Man-
ager of the Year. We caught up with her to get some insight into
how she’s racking up such impressive revenue gains and getting all
of her multi-media reps in on the action.
Q Congrats on your recent recognition from LMA as its 2014 Digi-
tal Sales Manager! You had a lot of people from your company
pulling for you and I’d like to dig into some of the secrets of your
success but first, can you give us a quick thumbnail of your media
career to date? And some insight into your market characteristics and
your company’s print/digital footprint?
A My background is print. I started my career at my hometown
daily, working in a few different departments before landing in
sales. I spent some time at the National Post in Toronto and the
London Free Press before coming to The Hamilton Spectator as the
Retail Advertising Manager. Metroland Media Group took over shortly
after and their style of management really allowed me to flourish.
Metroland encourages creativity and outside the box thinking. I feel
like I have grown more in these past few years than at any other time
in my career.
Hamilton is a large urban market and certainly the size of the
market allows for different opportunities. We are a daily paper, well
respected in the community with an incredibly robust website.
Q I think it’s fair to say that, at least on the surface, you appear to
be a bit of an anomaly. Conventional wisdom these days is that
legacy print ad experts such as yourself may not be the best candi-
dates for digital sales and management yet you’ve clearly disproved
the theory with significant digital revenue gains and widespread
respect among your co-workers. Tell me about your learning curve
when you took over the reins as Digital Director in 2012.
A When I was first approached about the role as Digital Director
it was as much a surprise to me as it was to members of the
senior management team. I was asked to present a digital strategy
plan for the Advertising department to our Senior Management team.
I recall feeling apprehensive initially as I didn’t feel as though I
had enough digital knowledge or experience to effectively develop the
plan. While I had the passion and desire I didn’t really understand
some of the basic fundamentals.
I spent the next several days searching the web for information and
googling industry reports to teach myself about digital. I tapped
into the knowledge of a former colleague who gave me a crash
course in digital 101.
What I realized the day of the presentation was that while I
still knew very little about digital, it was evident that the team
likely knew even less. I think they were surprised at some of the
content in my presentation, enough so that very shortly afterward
the Director opportunity was presented to me. What I didn’t re-
alize at the time was that the team had been discussing the need
for such a role and had been considering outside candidates....
someone with a digital background... safe to say that I was not
likely on the short list.
The position was the first in our company. No other division
had a “digital asset” so it was mine to evolve. There was no real
structure to the position and I feel that was one of the benefits. I
think a common mistake, that we sometimes repeat, has been to
build a huge structure and then the sales have not been there to
support it. In this situation, we started with few expectations, just
the knowledge that we needed to get into the digital game as this
was the way the industry was transitioning.
Q After your self-immersion in all things digital, I under-
stand you began intense staff training and continue
ongoing education with your staff. Can you share some particu-
lars about your approach initially and how you continue to
reinforce and grow knowledge?
We had a couple of major obstacles to success in digital.
One was a general lack of confidence in selling digital products.
Another was that our “digital products” were really just banner
inventory on our site and our reps didn’t really understand the
value of this space in a way they could comfortably articulate to
their clients. It was really more of a “did you want some digital”
with that print order approach.
A nother obstacle was that our clients were also not
comfortable with digital conversations. They were being
approached by many businesses promising to increase their SEO
or build websites and they were feeling overwhelmed and
Two things needed to happen. We needed to enhance our
product suite to effectively compete in this space. (We had great
relationships with our clients and were confident that given the
opportunity they would prefer to buy from a trusted partner).
And, we needed to offer support to our Reps and clients; work
with them to develop their knowledge and skills.
We partnered with Metroland Experts, an outside resource
supplying digital solution products to us such as websites, SEO,
Social Media management etc. and hosted a series of Client In-
formation meetings. Metroland Experts facilitated the meetings.
They reviewed each of these solutions in a format that was more
about sharing information then selling the product. We wanted
our clients to see that we were in the digital game and that edu-
cating them was an important part of the relationship
At the same time we held numerous training sessions with
our reps to upgrade their skills. We continue to host client ses-
sions regularly, likely over 30 this year focusing particularly on
new advertising executions that we have implemented. We also
continue to coach and support our reps through four-legged calls
to their clients.
CONTINUED ON PAGE 14
The Hamilton Spectator Director, Digital Operations
Print was threatened and there were
many dollars at risk in this vertical. We met
with every builder to determine their goals
and objectives and positioned multi-product
bundles to secure our dollars.
Susan with Mark Krueger, Multi-Media Consultant at
The Hamilton Spectator.
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