Advertising and Sales Tips

Tips put together at the 2001 ASNE High School Journalism Institute

Just as in the real world, a student newspaper operates as a business. The following are tips to help get copy into print without sinking into the red.

  • Build a budget. It can be something as simple as determining how much copy paper you will need to print and eight-page paper four times a year. Or it can be as complicated as expenses per issue (printing, supplies, postage) and annual expenses (equipment costs, training, press memberships, contests/critiques). Those final costs-per-issue will help determine how much funding you need, either through school contributions or advertising sales.
  • Conduct a student/reader survey. The information can be a source of potential stories and a marketing tool to promote the paper to advertisers. Questions could include:
    • What do you like to read about?
    • Where do you eat?
    • How much do you spend?
  • Set ad rates before making sales calls and stick to those rates. Use rates of competing student newspapers as a guide. If an advertiser uses a coupon, consider offering a discount if he or she keeps track of how many students respond with the coupons. That information can be used in sales calls to other advertisers.
  • Create a business card listing the publication, school, address, adviser and school phone number. It gives current and potential advertisers a way to reach you (and an address to send the ad payment). Sources can use the cards to call with story ideas.
  • Create press passes for the newspaper staff. Not only will they be a legitimate form of press identification to the school staff and advertisers, they can be used as motivators.
  • Send ad bills in a timely manner. Send the bill and a copy of the newspaper to the advertiser and follow up with a phone call to ensure the material was received. Be aware that a few advertisers “forget” to pay — be prepared to politely, but consistently, make follow-up calls.
  • Maintain accurate accounting. Failure to do so could cause problems for the newspaper, adviser and school.
  • Create a brochure highlighting the journalism program. Use it as a recruitment tool. Set up “news tip” boxes around school and reward tipsters with small prizes, such as pizza coupons.
  • Sell subscriptions to parents during open house. They may not get a chance to see the paper. Maybe they will want to send it to grandma or to a recent graduate. Remind them that the subscription is also a donation to support the paper’s operation. Once you’ve sold subscriptions, mail the newspaper in a timely manner. Don’t ignore the people who are supporting you in good faith.