12/30/2019 | 6 MINUTE READ

Your Media Representative – Feel the Love

Lynn Gorman, Founder
Gorman Communications LLC

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Early in my career (1980-ish) as I was getting involved in advertising and PR organizations and mingling with other agency professionals, I noticed a fairly common sentiment: Many had an inherent disdain for media representatives, or what we commonly called “space reps”, as they sold pages or “space” in print publications. The Internet was still in its infancy, and mostly used in academic communities.

Thank goodness I was taught to have a different attitude about space reps at my very first agency job out of college. The agency owner believed, and rightfully so, that the media rep was a tremendous resource for not only what he or she knew about his or her own publication, but also the companies that were advertisers and prospective advertisers. In other words, that person knew all the competitors of the agency’s clients and potential new clients for the agency. “Why in the world would anyone choose to be rude to these people?” he would ask rhetorically. “They know everyone in the industry!”

That same boss could also drive a hard bargain with those reps, but he was always respectful. He encouraged me as a young copy writer and account executive – a job function often referred to as a “copy/contact” back then – to take our space reps to lunch, establish business-friendly relationships with them, listen, and learn.

Here are just some of the many things I’ve learned – and am still learning – from media representatives during my career in manufacturing marketing communications:

1. Pushy Versus Professional – I’ve only known a few representatives over the last 40 years in this sector who are annoyingly abrasive and brash, and likely it’s that type who are the cause of many an agency’s general disdain and alienation that unfortunately cuts them off from the good ones. I wish the “overly ambitious” ones – to put it kindly – could know that approach doesn’t work. In fact, it backfires. Who would want to return that sort of person’s phone call?

I’ve learned that the real professionals ask questions, get to know the agency and its clients’ businesses, follow through on requests, are respectful of my time, listen, and are a joy to befriend and support with business if it makes sense for the client. And if it doesn’t, the true pro understands respectfully, and if she feels you are a pro, too, may refer you to a client who would be a good fit if the opportunity surfaces. Interesting, too, the aggressive ones don’t seem to last long in their jobs.

2. The BPA Audit Statement – The first time I looked at one of those mysterious pea-green forms at 22 years-old, I needed a translator. An experienced media representative spent an hour with me one day, going over the audit section by section, line by line, so that I could understand it and review it critically. “See how just last month they removed this number and added this number to the circ, just in time for this audit? That’s a tad fishy,” he said. I learned about SIC codes (now known as NAICS) and the nuances of job functions as they related to our clients’ products and the influencer hierarchies in the purchase decision. I also learned that one of the most important areas to look at are the renewals and the methods by which those renewals are requested, because that said something about the editorial and value the person put on the information presented in the publication.

Modern Machine Shop Brand Report

If you haven’t looked at a BPA audit statement or brand report in a while, take a peek. They include numbers from all of the organization’s media channels. For instance, on the June 2019 BPA Brand Report from Modern Machine Shop, note how many views videos got. Wow!

A trade publication invests significantly to provide proof and detailed analysis of its print circulation and its various digital channel actions. With all the talk about data today, here is a data-driven way to compare publications, providing confidence that you are getting the optimal reach with your budget dollars. Also, be a bit wary of those publications that aren’t audited. And, if you don’t understand the BPA statement, I bet your rep would be pleased to take you through it.

3. The Digital Terrain – as a person in what I call the “Bridge” generation (analog to digital), I needed – and still do – handholding to navigate the digital landscape and all the ways our clients can now engage effectively with their audiences. In addition to attending conferences and conducting research myself, I rely on my media rep for this information relevant to his or her offerings. The challenge to me is that the channels are compounding, but budgets are not.

In my opinion, the lament surrounding the “demise of print” is more about advertisers having to stretch budget dollars so they can be found where their customers and prospects are spending their time. Most of the BPA reports in our sector show tens of thousands of people are still requesting the print versions, and yet they are also interacting with social media, skimming and clicking on e-newsletters, typing in search phrases, browsing websites, and watching videos. It’s impossible to be everywhere and keep to a budget at the same time. Your media rep understands this, knows the tools that are working the best for other advertisers, and can propose (with your input) the most effective plan within your means.

Most of us on the media side are creative types – does your brain ever really shut down? – and you may have a proposal of your own to make. Go ahead. The publisher just might say, “Yes, let’s try it!”

4. Industry Networking – Good and bad news travels quickly in our small market sector. Frequently I get these updates from a media contact. Some of it might be construed as gossip or rumor, but it’s harmless and usually stems from concern or celebration. I learn who might be looking for agency help leading up to IMTS, who is seriously ill and where I can send a card, which editor just quit, where I can get the name of a good freelance writer, what the best restaurants in Tampa are, whether the last trade show was well attended, and so on. Media reps are constantly on the move in their territories and talk with everyone on their customer and prospect list. I’ve learned to never discount who and what they know, and to honor anything shared with discretion.

Oh, there’s more I could list, but those are the highlights. So, cheers and a warm thank you to all of the professional media reps I’ve known over the years and currently work with now. You’ve taught me so much, and it’s a knowledge spectrum spanning everything from confident technical media analysis and decision-making to the joy that trustworthy, sincere business friendships can spark and flourish over time.

Need more information?
Lynn Gorman, Founder
Gorman Communications, LLC
P.O. Box 1781
Dunnellon, FL 34430

About the Author

Lynn Gorman, Founder, Gorman Communications LLC

Lynn Gorman

Lynn Gorman established her B-to-B marketing communications firm in 1990 and has served and specialized in the manufacturing sector for the last 30 years.

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