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Getting Started on the Right Foot with Advertisers by Trevor Battye

By Trevor Battye, Partner, Clevers Media

Getting started with advertisers is often more about asking the right questions than it is about presenting the information. Once you have the answers from advertisers you will be better able to present the information about your publication that is most relevant to those advertisers.

New Relationships

Leads from advertising can come from anywhere. You can see an ad on a billboard or in a competitor publication. You can see something on TV, or see a business that might be a good fit as you walk down the street.

Member-Based Organizations

An important question to ask is what are the major member-based associations in your magazine vertical? Could you offer them a volume based advertising discount?

Some examples:

  • The Directors Guild of Canada
  • The Association of BC Book Publishers
  • Calgary Chamber of Commerce
  • Real Estate Board of Vancouver
  • Alliance for Arts and Culture
  • Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals

Could members pool resources and buy an ad together? Here’s an example. Note the cost of this full page ad is $525 divided by 12 publishers is $43.75 per title.

Sources for New Leads / Relationships

Your Board: Many publications have some form of board of directors. Whether an editorial board or a formal non-profit board, boards can often provide a great resource for new leads/introductions to new relationships. Remember these are people who have already expressed an interest in your organization.

Competitor Publications: You should keep a regular eye on competitors, both those who are in the same vertical as you, as well as those publications that provide similar editorial coverage. Don’t be worried if a competitor publication has a larger circulation, as there may be reasons an advertiser wants to advertise in both!

Suppliers to your organization: Many publications have never asked their suppliers if they would consider purchasing advertising or sponsoring the publication. If you can prove to your supplier that advertising in your publication could bring them additional business they are open to listening. This works particularly well with suppliers you have long-standing relationships with or if your publication is celebrating an anniversary. Once you’ve identified the organization you want to pitch, the next important step is to identify who you should be pitching.

Identifying the Right Contact in a Potential Advertiser

Start at the top of the organization you want to advertise, like the CEO or VP/Director of Marketing. There is a unique opportunity when approaching a new organization to start as high up in the company as possible. More often than not, this leads to the CEO or Director of Marketing passing word down that they would like to move forward to those who are in charge of execution.

Gauge familiarity with your magazine brand—has the client/lead seen a copy of the publication and your e-newsletter? Advertising sales is about selling a physical product. People need to see the magazine before they buy it. This is as important in print as it is on the web.

Communication Schedule and Preferences

When starting a new relationship you want to clearly establish what the advertiser’s preferred communication style is. Do they prefer email, phone, text, Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn Message? What is the preferred style of the industry that advertiser operates in? For example, construction does a significant amount of communication, whereas other industries do not.

Equally if not more so, it’s important to create a schedule with advertisers. While this may begin with an email or mailed media kit, you need to determine the best way to follow up.

Once you identify the advertisers that you are ready to pitch, you need a good pitch letter to get them interested in your publication. This, combined with making sure they see a copy of the publication, is important to get any new relationship off on the right foot.

Elements of a good pitch letter—Here’s an example

  1. Specifics related to that particular advertiser and vertical
  2. Other advertisers from the same vertical who advertise with the publication
  3. Relevant reader survey data / editorial info
  4. A schedule of when you will follow up

What are the key marketing periods for the advertiser?

For some that’s fairly obvious as many businesses have a key season (i.e. Fall Books) or Holiday Giving. But for others it’s less so. Have you ever celebrated Fluevog Day?

What are their existing key marketing tools? Enews? Product catalogue? Samples? Social media posts? How can you deliver these to your audience of readers?

Who is their product for? Your publication probably has a fairly wide audience or perhaps a number of segments. Which one is of the most benefit to the advertiser, despite being focused on your magazine’s editorial themes?

What value can the advertiser provide to your reader? Sometimes it’s sampling a new product or new content. What can your publication do for the advertiser that they can’t do for themselves? Consider that as a publication brand your strength is bringing people together around your editorial environment and you can deliver that in ways that a brand cannot, as you deliver the audience and the editorial arena for the advertiser to join. Consider if you are already doing or could provide the following: Events? Podcasts? Sponsored social media?

NOTE: All of the above require significant resources including time to develop, so before building any of the above you should check with your existing and potential advertisers to gauge their interest before launching.

How to Handle Common Objections

Ask why not?
This will often give you additional information about what might be a better fit for the advertiser. Here’s a sample of how to ask why the advertiser is not advertising by email. Depending on the relationship, sometimes the best way to ask why an advertiser is passing is to do this by phone as quite often people don’t want to put the reason in writing.

“No budget”
When do they plan their budget? How much do they typically spend on ads? Where do they spend most of their budget?

“Not the right time”
What are their key marketing times? What is the most important time of year for their brand / organization?

“Not sure it’s going to be a fit for your magazine’s audience”
This is a common objection particularly when starting a new relationship. Consider a contest and use the results to prove your audience’s interest in the product/service/advertiser brand.

How to Improve Existing Relationships

Advertiser Surveys: Create an opportunity to listen to advertisers. Too often in the media business we find ourselves pitching. The key to a relationship is to listen, and the best way to listen is to ask specific questions about how the client is interacting with your advertising. Note these questions should be questions that you are able to act on. Here’s a sample of an advertiser survey. Note that unlike a reader survey you don’t need to offer a prize, as you are trying to make the advertising experience better for advertisers.

Keys to Success

  1. Ask about things you can deliver on.
  2. Follow up—Likely two emails and a phone call to get an answer.
  3. You can’t please everybody! Look for commonalities.
  4. Share the results with your advertisers! They spoke, you listened: now here’s what is coming!

If you have any further questions, feel free to contact Trevor Battye at or 647.376.8090 (Toronto) and 778.773.9397 (Vancouver).

Magazines Canada Hotsheets deliver current information on a single topic, each written by an expert in the field. Return to Magazines Canada Hotsheets.

Canada Council for the Arts / Conseil des arts du Canada Department of Canadian Heritage  Ontario Arts Council / Conseil des arts de l'Ontario Ontario Creates / Ontario Créatif


Diversifying your Contributors in Seven Steps by Chelene Knight

By Chelene Knight, Managing Editor/Executive Director of Room magazine, and Festival Director of the Growing Room Literary Festival

Photograph of Chelene Knight
Chelene Knight

When thinking about diversifying your contributors, you must first think about what this means to you and your team. What does diversifying really mean? It should go above and beyond race and gender, and consider all the various intersections and the ways in which they meld into one another. Wherever possible have an in-person meeting with your team and make sure that “diversifying our contributors” is the one and only topic. You should recognize that there is no end result, but instead a system of established accountability practices put in place to consistently reevaluate the magazine’s efforts while still adhering to your mandate, mission, values, and long-term goals. Ask yourself questions about what diversifying really means. These questions can include: Who are we not reaching, and why? How can we let folks know that we want their voices included? How do we include as many voices as possible, but in a respectful way?

Most often, folks submit to magazines, purchase issues and attend events by word of mouth, or because they have a longstanding history/relationship with the magazine and its values. Find a magazine that mirrors and reflects what you hope to be doing and reach out to them and ask about their procedures. Make friends and have conversations. We shouldn’t ever be operating in a silo.

Step One: Define what your inclusion goals are

Start by embracing the Three T’s: Transparency, Trust, Truth—your bridge to success.

  • Truth
    Being open and honest about your magazine’s intentions, as well as being forthcoming about mistakes you’ve made along the way, will lead into building trust with your current readers. Be honest about who is missing from your pages. Share (perhaps in a weekly newsletter) that you WANT To include these folks, but need a little help.
  • Trust
    Trust is earned when a magazine delivers on their promises and trust is solidified by creating quick and concise solutions if things do not go as planned. Did you miss mailing an issue? Did you spell a contributor’s name wrong? Do you reply to all emails? It’s all in the details. Replying to emails sent from the very folks you hope to reach out to is imperative. Listen to their rants and raves and in your reply, ask them what their ideas are. Take their ideas and present them to your team.
  • Transparency
    No one should expect everything to happen overnight. And because of this, it’s super important to make sure you communicate your journey with your writers, subscribers, supporters and followers. Are you working on creating an accessible space, but hitting a lot of road blocks along the way? Let people know! The journey is just as important as the destination.

Step Two: Identify the barriers and then remove them

Barriers are obstacles that stand in the way of not only certain people submitting to your magazine, but they can also stand in the way of even accessing it. The only real way to find out what these barriers are is to ask. Send out reader surveys, weekly newsletters (and in these newsletters ask your current subscribers to forward it to someone who may not know your magazine exists).

Step Three: Take a look in the mirror: Does your staff and governing body reflect who you are trying to reach? If not, rectify this

The majority of folks submitting to magazines will look to that masthead to check the diversity of who is on the editorial and governing boards:

  • people of colour
  • folks with varying education levels
  • women, non-binary, trans folks
  • Indigenous folks
  • Folks with various abilities and disabilities

The list goes on and on. What’s that old saying? Be the change you hope to make. Reflect it every day. Although the above is not an exhaustive list, I know that as a writer and as an editor that these are things that are very important to me.

Step Four: Community engagement

Hosting your own events is a fantastic way to attract attention and build a larger audience for your magazine, but attending other events aside from your own, meeting people, networking and supporting other local organizations is a fantastic way to build and strengthen community.

Step Five: Relationship building

It’s one thing to establish strong relationships with the community, but also consider doing the same with organizations outside of publishing. Speak with local shop owners, cafes, restaurants and the like to establish the “three T’s” and check in to see if your goals align with theirs. Do they want to increase food sales? Ask about hosting an event there, or collaborate in another way (discounts can go both ways).

Step Six: Action items you can implement now

  • Transparency via weekly newsletters.
  • Form an equity and inclusion committee and make that committee the core of every decision your organization makes.
  • Perform annual language audits on your website, and other materials to make sure your language is inclusive.

Step Seven: Accountability and constant re-evaluation

Again, diversifying isn’t a matter of checking boxes. The work you do to make your organization as inclusive as possible, inside and out, should become daily practice, a part of your mandate. Check in with yourselves frequently to make sure you are on the right track and to look for ways to continually do better. A great way to make sure that this never falls off your to-do list is to write it into your daily operations. Ask yourself if every decision you make is as inclusive as possible. If the answer is no, go back and try again. This is work. Magazines Canada

Magazines Canada Hotsheets deliver current information on a single topic, each written by an expert in the field. Return to Magazines Canada Hotsheets.

Feature photo: The Jopwell Collection

Canada Council for the Arts / Conseil des arts du Canada Department of Canadian Heritage  Ontario Arts Council / Conseil des arts de l'Ontario Ontario Creates / Ontario Créatif