July 31, 2017

Some of the best-positioned people to help grow news media revenue may be sitting nearby.

They are journalists.

Journalists are creative, learn fast, consume a lot of information, interact with a variety of people, keep good notes and understand to be good they must keep learning and growing.

And yet, they don’t necessarily see themselves in advertising or media sales positions when they start looking for a new challenge. They often skip over sales positions, which can be lucrative, engaging, rewarding and financially support the very institutions they have spent time working for in other capacities. Some don’t see how their skills can transfer to media sales even with proper training and opportunity.

Taking the time to recruit, train and retain former journalists may provide an additional pipeline of knowledgeable media sales professionals that many organizations need as news companies seek to improve and create more revenue streams.

Related Training: Entrepreneurial Journalism Training Package

A recent review of media sales and advertising openings on LinkedIn and Indeed found more than 25,000 job postings this summer. The same search on Journalismjobs.com, a site more narrowly focused on media jobs, found more than 300 sales and advertising open positions posted (Editor’s note: Poynter is also hiring a sales contractor). If you’re a journalist or media worker seeking a new direction or want to transition into media sales, here are some steps you can take to increase your chances of success:

Learn to sell. You will be providing a product or service that helps a business. Read books on the sales cycle and understand you may need to knock on 100 doors to get one yes. Can you ask consultative, probing questions to get to the heart of how your solution might be able to help solve a problem?

Learn the company’s products. Make sure you understand their features, operations and can briefly explain to someone else how they work. If you are creating those products in a production or journalism role, you may already know those products. This will be key if you are selling sponsorship or advertising on those products; it’s also key if you sell media products.

Learn key industry terms and trends. Check out the IAB media sales information, even if you don’t decide to sit for the certification test. The information is valuable and helpful.

Get a sales mentor. It’s never too late to get a mentor – even someone with less industry experience. Tell them what you are trying to do and ask if they’d talk with you once a week on Facetime or some video conference platform or you could go ‘old school’ and grab weekly coffee. And remember mentorship is a two-way relationship. What might you be able to help the person with who you are asking to invest in you?

Network. This is something most journalists can do in their sleep. Joining a group of sales professionals can help you connect with others in the industry and those doing sales for other businesses. Meetups are among the various places a potential media sales person can go and meet other sales professionals to strengthen one’s skills and network.

Understand your communication strengths and weaknesses. Do you have strong writing and social media skills that you can leverage to help you in a potential new position? Think about your positioning in social media and how you can smartly use those tools to help you connect with others as you network, prepare for the transition and ultimately begin to prospect for sales once you are in a sales role.

Evaluate your business image. Are you presenting yourself in person and online in a way that will make financial decision makers want to trust you and spend money with you? Make needed changes.

Be fearless. Don’t be afraid of failure. People will say ‘no’ often when you are selling services, but the successful salespeople push through that. And you may even hear “No,” as you look for this new sales opportunity. Being fearless can lead to new skills and a new direction in your overall career.

Ask for a chance. If you are working in a traditional media role, the easiest way to try out for a sales position is to ask your employer for a job swap for a few weeks or months in another department. That can give you the chance to see sales work up-close and your employer can see whether you’d be a good fit. And honestly, what do either of you have to lose?

Ebony Reed, director of innovation and futures lab at the Reynolds Journalism Institute, is also an associate professor at the Missouri School of Journalism. She leads a lab of practical media experts and teaches classes in management and media sales.

Support high-integrity, independent journalism that serves democracy. Make a gift to Poynter today. The Poynter Institute is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, and your gift helps us make good journalism better.

More News

Back to News