While staffing structures will vary from station to station depending on the sophistication and nature of a station’s online sponsorship opportunities, defining the appropriate staff roles and responsibilities is a critical piece of any station’s online sponsorship strategy. Consider the following guiding philosophy when determining the appropriate roles and responsibilities.
Sales = Brand Ambassador
For on-air underwriting, your sales team best represents your station and your brand in the local market, articulating your station’s marketing value in terms of benefits to local businesses. The sales team packages your station’s features and products in line with internal guidelines and priorities and in ways that fulfill the marketing objectives of prospective sponsors. The same should be true for online sales, with the Sales team just working with additional assets to offer local companies looking to reach and engage with a quality local audience. While every Sales person should be familiar with and knowledgeable about online sponsorship terms and trends, it should not be up to the Sales person to master ad serving software, or other specialized technical skills required to traffic, measure and implement online ad units on your website or online assets. Allow the Sales team to do what they do best: articulate the value of your station’s brand across platforms and cultivate the relationship with the sponsor for future growth. ^top
To ensure integrated trafficking and reporting to sponsors, and to best position your station for online sponsorship growth, the online ad serving function should ideally be overseen by your station’s Traffic department, with cooperation –or even a liaison staff person-- from your station’s Sales and Online teams. While the tools are different, the model is (or should be) in essence the same as it for on-air underwriting. That said, it can be easy to, and many stations do, delegate ad serving to the Online team, as the function relates to the website, and the process and terminology are seemingly different enough from broadcast traffic that it can be daunting for those not already familiar or comfortable with the online medium. The truth is that online ad serving management is not difficult, and requires little more than some online data entry experience to successfully use the various ad serving software tools available in the marketplace. So, online ad serving does not necessarily have to be expensive. Indeed, several stations use interns to enter data, with this intern reporting to Traffic and working with Sales and Online respectively, on issues relating to the underwriter relationship, editorial/creative approval and site tagging. Some stations with more robust digital sales operations -- streaming, rich media, online video etc. -- employ a Systems Specialist dedicated to working with third-party vendors to implement and maintain the operation of the respective ad serving software in use by the station. The System Specialist is vendor-facing and handles the systems specifically, while a Digital Specialist or Traffic Manager is client-facing, and manages the details of the station's online ad campaigns. ^top
Whatever ad serving or online measurement tool(s) your stations uses, you will most likely need a point person in your station who understands and can synthesize all the data you’re getting from your online traffic management tool and respective ad serving solution(s) so you can get a sense of how your web site is being used and how you’re performing for sponsors. This is especially true if you are using more than one solution to serve and measure your online ad units, and may require a separate calendar program to help keep track of your overall inventory, campaign start and stop dates and deadlines for sponsor deliverables. You’ll also want to be sure to sync up your online sponsorship reporting and measurement with your on-air reporting. Sponsors are interested in multi-platform opportunities and expect integrated reporting. This specialist may be part of the Sales team, or part of the Online team, but should have good working relationships with both, and act as a liaison with Traffic. Indeed, you may want to consider making one salesperson your online “guru.” That person immerses themselves in the online opportunities, consults on sales calls to position the online assets, and “trains” legacy salespeople so they can become more effective at selling online themselves. This person can also serve as the primary liaison with the web team to brainstorm new ideas and work closely with any systems operations staff dedicated to the implementation and maintenance of ad server software. ^top
Your station’s Online team should be the experts you rely on when incorporating or adding ad units into your station’s website design and across related online assets: streaming, mobile etc. The Web team can help with the technical aspects of tagging your site and online assets in preparation for ad serving. The Online content team is also key to involve for input on editorial and creative guidelines, and for indentifying and enforcing processes for preserving the editorial integrity of your online content. That said, the Sales team should not be afraid to act on the best interests of their advertisers by making sure that ad units are standard and prominent. If left entirely to the Web or Editorial teams, they may choose to place ads in less desirable (valuable) locations, so this really should be a team effort across all departments. Finally, in some cases, the Online team may also be involved in creating or designing ad units for selected sponsors, or house ads promoting your station’s programs and services. ^top
Even with roles and responsibilities assigned, initial and ongoing training is critical for all involved. Empower staff with knowledge about the online sponsorship space in general (dollars, ad formats, common terms, etc.), familiarize them with the benefits of the Internet as a sponsorship medium (direct marketing vs. branding), and highlight how online sponsorship both compares to and complements radio and television sponsorship (incremental audience, etc.):
Sample Value Proposition:
- Online = Direct Marketing. Bundle together an online banner, search and other products to make a package easy for Sales reps to sell and for Small and Medium-sized Businesses (SMB’s) to buy. A typical online bundle would include a banner with an offer, a search optimized landing page on a directory, and “some” Google Adwords that also link to that page.
- On-air = Branding. Use the unique quality public media environment on-air to build brand loyalty and equity, and to complement direct marketing offers your station can support online. Public media is a one-stop-shop.
Develop FAQs and role plays to anticipate the types of questions your sponsors might ask. Go through pricing exercises so your Sales team can get a feel for the size of their online proposals. Make sure they are familiar with your site’s traffic and usage patterns, and can talk intelligently about your online audience. The Sales team should understand the depth of involvement that visitors have with the site, usually measured in pages per visitor, or pages per session. The higher the engagement, the better sales opportunity for the site since engaged visitors are more likely to respond to ads, and also because traffic will be higher. ^top
The goal of training is to enable your reps to become familiar with the basics of online advertising. At the very least, your reps should understand the basics. They should:
- know web business models: terms, definitions, and pricing, packaging, and selling models
- be familiar with the online advertising space, as well as the basic features and benefits of the station website
- understand how your viewers visit and use the website; which areas and content topics are most popular; the platforms where can your content be viewed
- have regular custom training geared latest trends, updates on your platforms, collaborate with the web and online editorial department, etc
- be passionate about some of the benefits of online advertising: wider coverage, more targeted audiences, affordable, measurability and analytics, speed, and better branding.
While radio and television have not been as negatively directly impacted by the Internet as the print and newspaper industry, the rise of mobile platforms, the falling cost of broadband internet, and the growing popularity of internet radio stations like Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and services such as Hulu and Netflix all point towards an internet-based future ripe with underwriting opportunities. Stations will not do themselves any favors by dismissing internet revenue so easily.
The point is to get sales and management to view online advertising as an opportunity, as opposed to a distraction from your core business, and begin to develop and execute the revenue plan required to become innovators in the digital space. It’s better to begin and set the tone of the conversation rather than disregard digital and fall behind, as happened to the print and newspaper industry when they ignored the threat posed by services like Craigslist and Monster.com.
If your sales team believes that web revenue is so small that it’s not worth their time or energy, you need to evaluate whether having a digital initiative even matters. The fact is that advertisers are moving more ad dollars to online. While online revenue is relatively small, it is the fastest growing revenue stream. At a minimum, sales teams need to be aware of the need to improve sales by seeing digital revenue as a complementary and fast growing source of overall revenue. ^top
Industry meetings like PMDMC and iMA Digital Day, and Webinars from Greater Public and PBS impart some of this information. Website and newsletters like the following also provide good and updated information on emerging trends: