Ad-libs: The challenge of client engagement

Ad-libs: The challenge of client engagement

By John Foust
Raleigh, NC

These days, there’s a lot of talk about employee engagement. According to Gallup research, approximately 30 percent of employees in the US and Canada are fully engaged in their jobs; their organizations have won their heads and their hearts, and they are passionate about their work. On the other hand, roughly 50 percent of employees are not engaged; they are essentially going through the motions in jobs they see as unfulfilling and not using their talents. Even worse, about 20 percent are actively disengaged; they hate their jobs and spread their bitterness by complaining to coworkers, and along the way, they may even try to undermine the operation.

Although there are a number of reasons for these abysmal engagement numbers, the number one cause is an employee’s relationship with his or her manager. And the number one symptom of disengagement is turnover. Wise organizations – and wise managers – are working hard to create engaging environments and reduce employee dissatisfaction.

In the media industry, smart advertising managers are looking at another kind of engagement – customer engagement. They are asking, “What do our advertisers think of the way we manage our relationships with them? How many of them are excited about running with us? How many are running by rote? And how many are advertising with us, but resent it?”

How does this impact the churn – or the advertiser turnover – rate? Look at it from the advertisers’ point of view. If a paper’s contact with them is always about selling something or asking for money, the relationship is on thin ice. If you were to measure your accounts’ engagement rate, would you find similar numbers? Out of every ten advertisers, do you have three big fans, five passive participants and two vocal complainers?

While this is not a problem that can be solved overnight, here are some thoughts which may be springboards for ideas you can use at your paper:

1. Make advertisers part of the creative process. Too many sales people forget this important principle. Listen to their ideas, before you present yours.

2. Attend special events hosted or promoted by your advertisers. Show them that you’re engaged in their activities and interests.

3. Host special events for advertisers. Use these occasions to express appreciation for their business and provide them with networking opportunities.

4. Host a focus group of key advertisers. This is a good way to explore how your paper can better serve your business community. You can also include discussions on possible changes in your products and services. Give them a voice in the decision process.

5. Speak at service clubs in your area. Take promotional material, but don’t make sales pitches. Talk about the role of journalism in your community.

6. Host career days for high school and college students. Don’t say, “Sit in the corner and watch us do our jobs.” Make it a worthwhile experience.

7. Adopt a local nonprofit agency each year. Solicit ideas from your advertisers, regarding which agency to select. Run articles to promote the organization’s fundraising and volunteer efforts.


John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information:

(c) Copyright 2014 by John Foust. All rights reserved.