Over the past 18 months, the Florida Media Association (FMA) has been slowly transitioning from an organization centered around network classified ads to a more membership-focused organization. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic three months ago has, ironically, made the association more active than ever.
Weekly Zoom Publishers Summits began in mid-March as the Coronavirus ramped up and businesses shut down. The initial calls shared a flurry of ideas about how to keep our businesses viable, such as voluntary subscriptions, sponsoring local restaurants, and “We Are Open” campaigns.
In April, the word was out about a lifeline from the government in the form of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Small Business Administration Economic Impact Disaster Loan (EIDL). As we all worked to apply for this aid, we were simultaneously brainstorming even more new ideas to keep our businesses afloat, such as “Real Heroes” sponsored pages, “Essential Business” pages honoring the length of time local businesses had been advertising with us, sponsored puzzle pages, and expanded “We Are Open” ideas.
As we all settled into this “new normal” way of doing business, we realized our regular weekly Publishers Summits could easily pivot into training and educational calls with various industry experts to help guide us through specific aspects of the pandemic, as well as training programs to replace the pandemic-canceled annual conference. Throughout this learning period, we began enthusiastically supporting the initial goal to become a “Media” organization, with training and problem solving assistance at the core of our value proposition.
We invited Circulation Verification Council (CVC) President Tim Bingaman to join our Publishers Summit in mid-April. He assured us that our 2020 average circulation would not be affected by any suspended issues during the crisis. He also shared information about the online studies CVC offers as part of your standard CVC audit, an important FMA member benefit.
David Rausch of Value Direct joined our Publishers Summit one week to talk about Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), which had been identified as a possible solution to the problem of how to deliver rack publications to customers who were sheltering at home.
Two other calls were held for our front-line employees, sales reps, to learn what they’re hearing out in the field as they talk with their customers. We were excited about the level of participation, with over 60 ad sales professionals joining in. Their input as to customer concerns, buying patterns, and the techniques that have proven effective in reaching new customers has been invaluable as we rebuild and reopen our businesses.
Throughout this process, we have learned a lot about what’s working and what’s not. We are currently talking with reputable trainers both within and outside of the print industry, working on organizing a series of webinars and training calls to offer you, our valued members, additional value.
We are also proactively reaching out to other trade organizations and non-print advertising solutions to broaden the perspective and provide more voices to learn from, with new and expanded relationships.
We are excited about the future of the Florida Media Association! Even though we took a blow from the pandemic, it has reenergized the organization in a strange new way. Our weekly Wednesday meetings have kept us more connected now than ever before, and the expectation is that the association will be more viable coming out of this pandemic than we were going into it. Our future is bright and more diverse. The objective has now become blend and expand!
Blend new and “old” tactics & approaches. Blend sales professionals from different advertising and promotional sales. In addition, expand our collective network of industry professionals to lean on and learn from each other.
I personally want to invite you to give us 45-60 minutes of your time every Wednesday afternoon at 4:00, and see what gems you can take away from our weekly meetings. I have found several useful ideas that I’ve already put into practice at our business that are already bringing in both customers and cash. I’m sure you can get something out of the meetings too.
Finally, if you know any sales professionals in ANY kind of advertising sales in Florida – whether direct mail, newspapers, magazines, TV, commercial print, radio, digital or specialty advertising products – please invite them to join us on the weekly Wednesday calls. There’s something in them for everyone.